Dear AntAsk,

I was wondering if the species Prenolepis imparis is up north in Ontario, Canada? I live about a half an hour away from London. And is this ant a queen and what is the species? Because if she's a queen it would be good to know if she was semi-claustral. So I can start feeding her and studying her species. And if she isn't a queen what are ants doing out early. Or is it common for ants up north to be out in March besides Prenolepis imparis? And thanks!

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Dear Jacob,

According to this website, Prenolepis imparis is present in southern Ontario but the ant you found is a major worker of Camponotus pennsylvanicus. It is not unusual to see ants out in March if the weather has been mild. Check out this post and this post on what ants do in the winter and this post for a brief discussion of ant castes.

Thanks for your question,
James Trager, Ben Rubin, & the AntAsk Team


I live in Canada I was just wondering is there an ant species that
evolved just in Canada. Like just native here that would be pretty cool
like a Canadian ant that just evolved here then moved south? And what
is the most rare ant species in Canada? And are there ants in Antartica?
Thanks in advance - Jacob

Thanks for an excellent question, Jacob. There are a number of ant
species that were first discovered in Canada, and even some which have
the species name canadensis, the Latin word for Canadian. But
apparently, there are none found only in Canada. All Canadian species
may be found in American states on the Canadian border, or even farther
south, especially in the Rocky Mountains.

There are no ants in either the high Arctic (north of 67 deg. N), nor in
Antarctica. By contrast, in equatorial countries of South America,
Africa, or Asia, there are thousands of species. In non-Arctic North
America, the number is in between, about 900 species.

James Trager & the AntAsk Team

I live in Santa Fe, NM, and am trying to cope with an ant infestation. I've attached photos including a millimeter ruler so you can see what they look like. They go after food mostly. They loved the inside of the dishwasher when there were dirty dishes there - until I put ant powder under the dishwasher behind the toe kick plate. We've been fighting them for months. We started with ant traps, but they don't seem very interested in them any more. Ant powder is very effective, but as we have a little dog we must be very careful where we use it. We recently found a nest behind a radiant heating panel at the bottom of a paneled wall (indoors). I'm pretty sure there are multiple colonies by now. Any suggestions will be most welcome.

-Steve

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Hi Steve,

These ants are Tapinoma sessile, ID courtesy of Dr. James Trager. Commonly known as "odorous house ants" or simply "stink ants", this species is widespread across North America and frequently invades homes and other buildings for easy access to both food and favorable nesting sites. They actively colonize near heat sources or in insulation for effective brood-rearing, which explains their affinity for electrical appliances like dishwashers and radiant heat panels in your own home. They are largely harmless as house pests go, but if they become too much of a nuisance, there are a number of comprehensive steps to follow beyond laying traps and applying commercial ant killers. The following post addresses domestic ant control measures in fairly exhaustive detail, but you can also refer to other tips for containing ant infestations here and here. If you want to learn more about this species and see some stunning up-close photographs, check out this post by insect blogger and fellow myrmecologist Alex Wild.

Hope this helps,

Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team

I have lived in my present house, in Cupertino, CA (a suburb of San Jose) for 20 years. For the first ten of that, ants were very invasive (into the house), and hard to control. A scientist at Stanford University, D.M. Gordon, published an article in the local paper, saying that the ants in the area were argentine ants. However, for the last couple of years, there are almost no ants at all---not only in my yard, but in the whole neighborhood. I have had a couple of instances of ants showing up in my "no ant" zone (about 3 feet around the walls of my house), but they were much smaller than the argentine ants, and when I invited them to leave, using black pepper by the entryways and on any apparent nests in that zone, they politely did. Leave. When I look around the yard, and the neighborhood, for ants, usually I don't see any. This seems like a bad thing to me, I thought ants were supposed to be very good for the soil. Any thoughts?

- Sally
**********
Dear Sally,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog with your observations about Argentine ants in your neighborhood. We contacted Argentine ant expert Dr. Neil Tsutsui and here is what he said:

"The ants that you used to have in your yard were probably introduced Argentine ants (Linepithema humile). These are, by far, the most common ants in the Bay Area. A few native species of ants, such as the odorous house ant (Tapinoma sessile) pop up here and there, but they are generally less abundant and less widespread than Argentine ants in urban coastal California.

I've heard a few anecdotal stories of Argentine ant populations crashing (and disappearing) in locations where they were formerly quite abundant - both here in California and in other parts of their introduced range (like in New Zealand). Nobody really knows the cause, but it's an active area of research.

Overall, I would say that the absence of Argentine ants in your neighborhood is a good thing - less of a pest problem for homeowners, and their absence may present an opportunity for some of the native species to become re-established."

Best wishes,
Neil Tsutsui (Guest Expert), Corrie Moreau, & the AntAsk Team

Dear AntAsk,

My friend found this queen near his place and asked me about her genus and species. I guess it is a Paratrechina longicornis queen because he described her size equal to an Atta sexdens queen, and she has little workers by now.

Thank you

Felipe Lei - Mirmecolismo Brasil

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******

Hi Felipe,

This queen is in fact Solenopsis saevissima, ID courtesy of Dr. James Trager. Coloration within this fire ant species is highly variable, ranging from lighter red to dark brown variations that obey a distinctively north-south clinal distribution across eastern South America. In Dr. Trager's own words, this particular specimen "is one of those really dark S. saevissima from SE Brazil." While the AntWeb page for this species does not have any images (the featured S. macdonaghi belongs to the same subcomplex, however), you can refer to this page on Paraguayan myrmicines to view some photographs of both queen and worker ants of this species for comparison. And just a quick note on relative queen size: P. longicornis queens rarely exceed 5mm, while the much larger Atta queens typically measure upwards of 20mm. Solenopsis queens in the Geminata group (which includes S. saevissima) generally range from 6-9mm.

Thanks for your interest!

Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team

Ants from Bolivia



Dear people of AntWeb:
Recently i have discovered that in my garden are a rare type (¿?)of ant. I have a few pictures of them but i will try to describe them:
They're about half a centimeter long, colored entirely black, but i saw that in the gaster they have four red or intense orange dots.
I've been studying ants for the last two to three weeks but they are so many species... I'm just loosing it. Please, all I need is a little orientation on how can I identify their family or ¿what?
I'm writing you from Sucre, Bolivia in South America.
Thanks a lot.

Jaime R. Flores C.


Dear Jaime

In fact, the ants of Bolivia have not been well studied systematically, but you are absolutely right to say there are so many species. South America has one of the richest ant faunas in the World! Ant Web has pages on Paraguay and Costa Rica - http://www.antweb.org/paraguay.jsp and http://www.antweb.org/cosatarica.jsp - that could be helpful. I would suggest you start first by clicking on the link to the subfamilies, at the right, to get the general idea of ants that look like the ones in your garden, then from that page, click on individual subfamilies ot reach the genera. Take careful note of the scale bar in each image to estimate the size of the ant that is pictured.X

This said, I think your ant might be one of the species of Dolichoderus that is not imaged on those pages. Several species in that genus have the size and coloring you describe.

Have fun exploring Ant Web.

James (also Jaime) C. Trager of the Ask Ant Team.

Bas--

After a couple responses from two of our African ant experts--James Trager & Peter Hawke--we have confirmed that the ants from your picture are the savannah form of the southern African ant Camponotus fulvopilosus. One of our experts believes this could be an example of their known behavior of "tandem running". Unfortunately, there are no pictures on AntWeb currently, but one of our experts mentioned that he has some queued up for imaging, and thus will be up on the site sometime this year.

As an aside, the species is very aggressive, and the majors can inflict a painful bite! Apparently, their sting contains a 45% solution of formic acid, and have a tendency to do so after running up your legs! Beware!

Thanks for your question!

Max Winston & the AntAsk Team

---------

Last year I was in Namibia and near the Waterberg plateau I've seen these giant ants marching. Can anybody help me with identification? I don't have a clue. If suggestions could be mailed to b.brinkhof@uu.nl I would be very grateful,

Bas Brinkhof
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Hi, I have an Atta sexdens Queen and I wanted to know how can I control her fungus to not overrun the space so early? I heard that this type of leafcutter-ant grows very very fast, and if there is anyway to retard this fast process..

Giving small quantities of plants would solve this problem? Or there is another way to do it? And here I sent some pictures of my colony :)

Thank You
Best Regards,
Felipe

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**********
Dear Felipe,

To answer your question, we contacted Randy Morgan, who is an expert on keeping live ant colonies and Curator of Invertebrates, Reptiles and Amphibians at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, and here is what he had to say:

"Congratulations for successfully collecting a young leaf cutting ant (Atta sexdens) colony! Your little colony (containing a mated queen, perhaps 50-100 workers and small fungus garden) is now about one year old and so far has been growing relatively slowly. You are correct, established colonies can grow very quickly. Your colony is just entering the stage of rapid colony growth and in several years could contain 5-8 million workers and hundreds of melon-sized fungus gardens!

Obviously keeping a fully-grown colony in captivity would be next to impossible. Even so, many universities and insect zoos keep partially-grown colonies for research and/or public educational display, and these colonies are often hardy and long-lived. However, one year old colonies are relatively fragile since fewer workers are available to help maintain an optimal nest environment (100% RH; 25-27º C) for fungal growth. Environmental stress, especially even slightly lower atmospheric humidity, can lead to garden decline and eventual colony collapse. Thus, it would be ideal to grow your colony at least somewhat larger (i.e., minimally several thousand workers and two large fungus gardens) and to do so as quickly as possible. Experience has shown that it is better to keep small colonies growing rapidly and then culling excess workers and fungus from time to time, rather than limiting plant matter (the latter essentially starves the fungus and makes it less productive and poorer food for the ants). Before you drop excess fungus gardens with attendant workers into the freezer, break apart and sort through the gardens to ensure that the queen is not present!

Maintaining observation nests for Atta can provide an endless source of educational fun. To be successful long term, one should become knowledgeable about the ants' sophisticated social organization and intimate association with their fungus gardens and other resident micro-organisms. It can also be helpful to think of yourself as the "Assistant Fungus Gardener" with your primary job to do whatever is necessary to help the ants maintain a nest environment conducive to fungal growth. If the fungus thrives so will its ant colony.

Please find a document summarizing Atta biology and one husbandry system that has proven to be effective here: Leaf cutting ants-IECC 08.pdf. Of course other culturing techniques may also work as long as the needs of the fungus come first. Good luck, thanks for writing and please keep us posted on how your work with Atta is progressing.

Randy Morgan, Corrie Moreau & AskAnt Team



Dear AntAsk:

I have found several of these creatures that sort of look like ants, but I don't believe they are. DSC_0473.jpg
I live in mid Michigan. I do have firewood in the room where they were found. The bugs don't seem to have very big mandibles compared to their size of 1cm. They have distinctive markings on their backs. Do you have any idea what they might be?

Jim
Wacousta, Michigan


Hello Jim:

Sorry to take a few days to get back to you on this. I had to consult with a beetle expert colleague to make sure I was giving you the right information in this reply. Here's what he wrote: "They are cerambycid beetles - the first (0472 and 0473) are Cyrtophorus verrucosus, and the last (0474) is Euderces picipes. Yes, they are both ant-mimics (and a nice example of convergence as they are not particularly closely related to each other)." I would add that both of these beetles mature in dead wood, and no doubt were stimulated to emerge by the warmth inside your house.

We get quite a few inquiries about other critters that look more or less like ants. Some of these might be considered true ant mimics (other animals that look more definitely ant-like in appearance and outward behavior than other members of their respective taxonomic families), and others are not especially ant-like, but are perceived as such by folks having little experience with insects, generally. Here are a couple of relevant posts:
http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2010/07/if-it-looks-like-an-ant.html

http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2010/09/are-these-ants-torie-charleston-sc-usa.html

James C. Trager of the AntAsk Team


Some great questions about ants were submitted to the AskAnt Team by student Jinho Lee from California. Here they are, with replies:
-------------------------------
If ants were not historically small, at which point in civilization were they larger?

The first thing I would mention is that the "history" of ants is much longer (over a thousand times longer!) than that of humans. In other words, the whole history of human civilization is just a "blink of an eye" relative to ant history, so it doesn't really make sense to ask "at which point in (human) civilization?". The first ants are believed to have originated between 130- to 150-million years ago. The oldest known ant fossils are dated at about 110-million. Ant fossils are generally in the same size range as most modern ants. But, note that modern ants range greatly in size, from barely over 1 millimeter (mm.) to over 30 mm. in length. There are a few fossil ants even bigger than this, but these are relatively recent, and not ancestral, "only" about 30-million years old.

Can ants see shapes and colors?

The visual abilities of ants vary widely. Large-eyed ants such as Gigantiops & Pseudomyrmex perceive movement and shape well, but their color perception has not been carefully investigated. It is generally believed, but not well documented, that ants with good vision probably have about the same spectrum of color sensitivity as honeybees, i.e., they see ultraviolet, but not red. Many ants, such as small Acropyga & Hypoponera species have poorly developed eyes, and do not perceive visual images, only light, dark, and possibly motion.

What type of bug did the ant descend from?

Ants and wasps both belong to the insect order Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, sawflies and relatives) and all are descended from a common wasp-like ancestor. Based on the predominant appearance of fossil and modern Hymenoptera, it seems likely the common ancestor was more like what we would think of as a wasp than an ant.

What age are ants when they first start to contribute to the colony?

Probably the better way to ask this would be "at what stage do they start to contribute?". In one sense, they start young, as larvae, because adult ants have a very narrow esophagus and cannot eat solid food, while larvae have a larger gullet and can swallow and digest chunks of food. Many ant larvae regurgitate predigested or pre-chewed food to the workers (sort of like a mother bird feeding its young, in reverse), thus contributing to colony nutrition. As soon as ants reach the adult (typical ant) stage, they begin colony work - taking care of the young, cleaning and building the nest, and eventually foraging and defending the nest.

In your opinion, do you think that an ant colony that lives in the ground is more likely to survive than ants that live in a tree or ground level?

It depends -- Different species of ants have habits and body adaptations that help them survive in particular habitats. An arboreal ant species survives best up in the trees, but a blind, subterranean ant species would shortly die if it tried to survive up in a tree. A large variety of ant species have been successful in both environments (but different ones in each) .

How can ants tell the difference between intruder ants and ants in their own colony?

Ants have a keen sense of smell, and (like our much better known pets, dogs) can recognize individual and colony (family) odors that help them distinguish nestmates from outsiders.

Explain "aphid" and "myrmecophilous".

Aphids are plant-sap-feeding insects that have a peculiar problem; They have so much sugar in their diet that they excrete sugar water as a waste product. Many ants like sugar as an energy source, so they gather and drink this aphid "sugar-urine" (properly called honeydew) from the aphids (or from related insects with similar secretions, such as scale insects and mealy bugs). Some aphids, etc. even live inside ant nests under ground, and are moved around by the ants to fresh roots, to drink sap and make the sugary waste product for the host ants. The ants even take care of the aphids' eggs. These kinds of aphids are described as "myrmecophilous" (Greek for ant-loving).
Many other sorts of insects, mites, spiders and millipedes may be found in ant nests. When the ants' nests are the are primary habitat of these other insects, these ant "house guests" are called myrmecophiles.

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