I recently traveled to Florida, I observed these ants. Could you please tell me which species are they?

Thanks for your time, Greetings

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*****
Dear Annie & Jose,

The ants you found are likely the following:

Photo 1 (reddish ants on sand): Dorymyrmex bureni
Photo 2 (black ants): Paratrechina longicornis
Photo 3 (black ants attaching large ant): Paratrechina longicornis attaching Camponotus floridanus

If you are interested in the ants of Florida, the following websites may helpful:
http://www.antweb.org/florida.jsp
http://www.antweb.org/floridakeys.jsp

Best of luck,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Hi Antweb,

I am a PhD student in Synthetic Biology and I've read that you talked about artificial insemination trials in ants, which have not be very successful. Would you mind giving me the references of the papers talking about that?

Best,
Xavier


Hi Xavier,

Thanks for your question! As you have read in this post on "How to breed ants", artificial insemination in ants has not been very successful and only been tested on very few species. Cupp et al. (1973) conducted an experiment in which the authors decapitated males. Queens were anesthetized with CO2, and stroked against the males to induce ejaculation. This experiment was done using fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). Read here to find out more about the red imported fire ant.

In a study by Bell et al. (1983) instrumental insemination was conducted, also using the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. Virgin queens were induced to fly, anesthetized with CO2 and inseminated with either a mixture of sperm extracted from the male seminal vesicles and accessory gland contents or sperm alone. Of the females we artificially inseminated 65% produced workers. Artificial insemination techniques have also been carried out using Atta leaf-cutter ants (den Boer et al. 2010).

A recent review article on the copulation biology of ants has been published by Boris Baer (2011) in the journal Myrmecological News. Here is a link to the pdf. In this paper, some more references to studies conducting artificial insemination in honey bees and bumble bees are given.

All the best,
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team


References

Ball DE, Mirenda JT, Sorensen AA & Vinson SB (1983) Instrumental insemination of the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 33: 195-202.

Baer, B (2011) The copulation biology of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 14: 55-68.

Cupp EW, O'Neal J, Kearney G, Markin GP, (1973) Forced copulation of imported fire ant reproductives. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 66:743-745.

den Boer SPA, Baer B, Boomsma JJ (2010) Seminal fluid mediates ejaculate competition in social insects. Science 327: 1506-1509.

Hi,
We live in Puerto Rico, where ants are varied, plentiful, painful (lots of fire ants...) and often like to move into our (concrete block) house.

We've been having frequent infestations of these little (2mm or so) ants. At first I thought they were pharaoh ants but now I'm thinking the coloration is wrong (these guys have light colored abdomens and dark heads, not the other way around). We have been trying to get rid of them using Maxforce and more recently Advion. They swarm the bait and then wander around like they are dazed and confused, sometimes seem to dwindle a bit but they don't die out. They seem to like to make nests in small openings in our walls (e.g., breaks in the grout lines but they also like our kitchen cabinets (but don't seem to bother getting into the food, just collect crumbs etc.) and have even once moved into our clothing chest of drawers (we don't notice their new trail quickly enough).

Seems I need to know exactly what they are to get rid of 'em effectively so would very much appreciate your thoughts.

Best,
Miri
ants1.jpg

*****
Dear Miri,

We are sorry to hear you are having problems with ants in your home. The ants you are finding are the ghost ant, Tapinoma melanocephalum. This species is a pest in many places in the world.

You can read more about this species of ant here, here, and here.

In addition, you may try some of our suggestions for other pest ants in homes from this previous post here.

Best regards,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Hi Antweb Team,

I am Dai, in Viet Nam. These are some pictures of Polyrhachis species that I found in a wet land, Sai Gon outskirts.

I kept them for a while. They ate only sweet things like sugar, watermellon... I did put some fish pellet but they took and threw away from the nest.

They also use larva to "weave" like P. dives but I am not sure it is. I am not specialist, maybe other species in the genus also do "weave"...

From these pictures, could you please tell me what species it could be?

Many thanks
Dai
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*****
Dear Dai,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog! We have asked an expert on Polyrhachis ants, Rudy Kohout, from the Queensland Museum, Australia to help with the identification. Here is what Rudy had to say:

"The photographs do not show all the characters necessary to identify them, but it is clear that the specimen represents a member of the Polyrhachis dives species-group and most likely P. dives itself. This is a very widespread species, ranging from south-east Asia (including Vietnam) south to northern Australia."DSC06148.jpg

Many species of arboreal Polyrhachis use their larvae to weave or sew leaves together to build their nests, much like Oecophylla ants.

Good luck with your spiny ants!
Rudy Kohout (guest expert), Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Hi,

I live in mid west Indiana I found this ant queen under a rock. I found her in my yard in town under a rock behind my house. There is an old oak tree in my neighbor yard but I examined the tree and found no ants. However, oaks are common in the town. I live in a small town 20 min south of Terre haute Indiana, near the Wabash river so not far from Illinois. Can you tell me what species she belongs to? I think she may be of the genus Camponotus. I have included pictures. She has already started to lay eggs.

Thanks,
Kris

camponotus castanaeus.jpg

Camponotus castaneus dealate queen


Hi Kris,

We have deferred your question to James Trager, who has been of invaluable help with ant identifications for this blog. He thinks this is Camponotus castaneus, so you were correct with your assumption that it belongs to the genus Camponotus. James is Antweb's curator for Illinois and Missouri. In his experience, this ant species "is a denizen of upland forests, with a variety of dominant tree species, almost always with lots of oaks." Thanks very much for providing such detailed macrohabitat information.

Thanks for your question,
James Trager (guest expert), Steffi Kautz and the AntAsk Team

Hello,

My name is Jeremy and I live in Saskatchewan. A few weeks back we found an ant, like the one in the picture, throwing sawdust-like material by our backdoor entrance in our kitchen area. I ripped the nearest board up off our outdoor deck (this turned out to be unnecessary), sprayed some kind of powdery anti-ant stuff outside the door and I caulked all possible entries into the house. The powder washed away with rain and the caulking was of little use because the ant just burrowed right through it. Then we called an exterminator. He came out and couldn't identify the ant on sight. The exterminator went back to his office with the ant, called us back and said it isn't a carpenter ant.

I sprayed the powder again and we bleached our floors. Over the next 2 weeks, we saw no sign of ant activity and we breathed a collective sigh of relief.

However, the past 2 days, the ant has returned and he brought his friends. Two nights ago, we found and killed 2 or 3 ants. Yesterday, during the day, about 4 or 5 ants. Then last night, probably about 15-20 ants. I killed 1 or 2 soldiers who were markedly larger than more common guys (the more common guys are in the picture).

In response, we pulled out the appliances, cleaned and bleached behind the floors, bleached the entire floor to hopefully rid any phermone trails, since the caulking was previously useless, I put petroleum jelly in the spots on the base-board and at the door entrance where these ants appeared to be emerging from the wall. I read somewhere that this stuff will dissuade ants.

So my question, is this indeed a Carpenter Ant? I don't want to spend another $75 to have a guy come out and tell me that it's not a carpenter ant.

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Carpenter ant in home.


Hi Jeremy,

Thanks for contacting us! We have contacted ant expert James Trager, who regularly helps us out with ant identifications. Here is what he had to say:

"It is a carpenter ant ... and that exterminator was in error.

Even though the pictures are a bit fuzzy, the structure of the dorsal mesosoma is visible and corresponds perfectly to that of many Camponotus. The red meosoma and the black head and gaster indicate C. novaeboracensis, a common carpenter ant across southern Canada. Another possibility is C. vicinus, but it is far less likely to excavate rotten wood. In Jeremy's case, I suspect he needs a carpenter to replace dry-rotted wood more than he needs an (incompetent) exterminator. Pulling out the infested wood would kill both birds with one stone, if you will."

Here is a bit more info on carpenter ants and for some general advice on how to get rid of ants in your house, check out this post here.

All the best,
James Trager (guest expert), Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

Hi,

We live in the northeast corner of Vermont - close to the 45th parallel. My husband was logging dead trees just inside the woods. He cut down a two-part cottonwood that was large. It was like two cottonwoods had grown together or one had been cut long ago and shoots grew up onto the old tree. But where the V of this tree was, there was soil and that is where the ants lived. When the tree fell, the ants began moving the pupae into the forest floor. Right down under the earth. I did the best I could with the photos and have collected them into a Flickr set. Could you please ID them, if possible? The photos were taken on July 9, 2011.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/meeyauw/sets/72157627234873339/

Thank you very much for any help,
Andree
Barton, VT

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Lasius umbratus with pupae in rotten log.

Hi Andree,

Thanks for your question. We have deferred to James Trager, an ant expert with a lot of experience in ant identifications and a expert naturalist in general. Here is what he had to say:

"Almost certainly Lasius umbratus. This speices is not arboreal, but lives in soil, logs, stumps, or dead hollows of trees. It lines its nest chambers with a mix of wood pulp and a characteristic black fungus, visible in the pictures. They cultivate large numbers of pale reddish tan aphids on roots, probably including those of the tree in which they lived. In winter, the aphids are gathered up and pass the cold period in a large chamber together with the ants, then in spring are dispersed out among the roots to feed. The aphids provide lots of honey dew and some meat."

So, you not only found ants, but an entire little ecosystem when cutting the wood. Very interesting!

All the best,
James Trager (guest expert), Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

I have a Lasius niger queen and she is mated, have had her for around 2 months now and she has laid several times, but each time the lava go black and never hatch. I think this is because they are not being fed. I have put some small dead bugs in the tank with her but she doesn't leave her little tunnel to ever get to them so I am constantly removing them and adding new ones in hope she will get them to sustain the brood. If I were to collect some ants from my garden (making sure they were also Lasius niger) and put them in with her would they kill her because they were from a different colony?

Please advise.

Best regards,
Tom


Hi Tom,

My suggestion is to interfere as little as possible. It is normal that queens do not take up any food during the initial founding phase. They use the energy from the decomposition of wing muscle tissue to feed the first round of larvae and these will always turn into small workers. Sometimes they lay so-called trophic eggs, which serve to feed the larvae. However, it is quite likely that a queen does not have the strength to make it through the initial founding phase of a colony. For this reason, colonies produce thousands of queen. This increases the likelihood that one will eventually make it. And this would be my advice: try to get several queens and hopefully one or a few will make it.

You are right that workers from different colonies will most likely kill the queen.

Hope this helps!
Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team


Hello,
My residence is near Seattle, Washington State, Northwest USA.

We are interested in the Chinese Medicine uses of-
Mountain Ant ( Polyrhachis vicina, Polyrhachis lamellins and other species of nutritional Ant)

Is there a USA variety that might have equivalent nutritional qualities?

Is it possible to buy them, and to raise them?

Thank you,
Michael

Dear Michael,

We're so glad you're interested in ants and the way people use them. I had heard people talking about medicinal uses of ants a few years ago, and the results of one study I was able to find do seem convincing. However, a shortcoming of many studies of traditional medicinals is a lack of replication and long-term, controlled studies.

The genus Polyrhachis does not occur in North or South America. Because the chemicals thought to be responsible for the potentially medicinal properties of Polyrhachis extract are not often studied by ant biologists, it is impossible to say if any ants in North America also possess this quality.

Outside of the US, researchers around the world have been experimenting with medicinal qualities of some of their local ants. For example, researchers in Japan studied another Chinese ant, Formica aquilonia, and published their findings here here. They seem to have found some potential for pharmacological activity, although they didn't study effects in living organisms, just in test tubes.

A group from Saudi Arabia found evidence of anti-inflamitory activity in extracts from the ant Pachycondyla sennaarensis. Both of these studies show promise, and it will be interesting to see what other hymenopterans (the group that includes ants, bees, and wasps) might prove to be medically useful. However, we do not recommend you try any of your own experiments unless you are a professional. Remember: the ants, bees, and wasps also can induce anaphylaxis.

We also strongly discourage you from trying to import and breed any ants (or any type of organism) across national borders. Many of the most damaging invasive species are ants. It would be sad if an innocent attempt to learn more about traditional medicine resulted in unnecessary damage to your local ecosystem. Importing ants from other countries (alive or dead) is illegal without the proper permits.

Sorry that we don't have any more positive recommendations. Polyrhachis are among the most beautiful ants, and they are very common in the forests of Northern Australia, Southeast Asia, and Central Africa. Perhaps you could take a trip to learn more about them and see them in the wild!

Best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the Antask Team

Hi,

My Wife and I bought my Son an ant farm for his birthday and we're enjoying watching the everyday interactions of the ants. We followed the instructions in the guidebook that came with the ant farm and caught approximately 20 ants in our back yard and introduced them to the colony. I believe they are 'pavement ants' (they're fairly small and light brown in color). I also think they are all workers as there is no noticeably larger ant that could really be considered to be a queen.

There are a few questions we'd like to ask.

1. Will our ants ever reproduce? According to the guidebook, sometimes workers without a queen will start producing their own offspring. This doesn't appear to be happening in this case as the number of ants is dwindling. We started with around 20, but now there only seem to be 6 or 7 or so left. (It has also been about 3 weeks now, and according to what I've read on the internet, pavement ants tend to have a lifespan of 3 to 4 weeks, so this is probably natural).. However, I've also read that in most cases the offspring produced (if any) would be male, which wouldn't be any use to sustaining the colony in an ant-farm context.

2. If they die out, can/should I introduce other ants? Presuming that the probable outcome will be that the ants will die of old age without reproducing, we would like to repopulate the colony. However, I'm concerned that this might be unfair to the new ants, as they might be forever on their guard due to the old ants' pheromones being everywhere. Would this be an issue?

3. What would be a good (locally available) sort of ant to introduce? We're in Manitoba, Canada. I've only seen two species of ant around here (that I can distinguish) - one is the pavement ants, the other is a sort of shiny black ant about 3 times bigger than the pavement ants and seems a lot more aggressive. When I was catching the pavement ants, one of these wandered by and they all got out of its way. I also watched one of the black ants have a furious struggle with a caterpillar and drag it off somewhere. I'm thinking these would be fun to observe, but I also don't want to cultivate something that swarms all over me when I open the food and water holes on the farm. (The pavement ants tend to run away.)

4. Is it 'right' to capture a queen? It would probably be in our best interests to get hold of a queen in order to keep the colony going. However, I don't want to destroy an existing nest in order to get one. Conversely, I don't really want to have to keep 're-booting' the colony every couple of months. What would be a viable (and ethical) way to get hold of a queen?

5. Can/will they overpopulate? The alternative worry to having too few ants is having too many! Do they regulate their population growth according to the space they have or do they just keep reproducing? I'm assuming that in the wild they would just expand their living space to deal with the new population, but in the context of an ant-farm environment, they could get a little squashed. Is this an issue?

Thanks for your help,

Steve - Winnipeg, Manitoba.


Hi Steve,

Great to hear that you are enjoying an ant farm! Here are the answers to your questions:

1. The guidebook is correct in that workers are usually sterile. In rare cases they can start laying unfertilized eggs that will develop into males. Ants (and honey bees) have a so-called "haplodiploid sex-determination system". Fertilized eggs are diploid and will develop into females, while unfertilized eggs will develop into males. Queens usually go on a mating flight, and become inseminated, and this gives them the chance to lay fertilized eggs that will develop into females. Workers, on the other hand, will never mate. In the absence of a queen, they might develop unfertilized eggs, which develop into males. However, I think it is unlikely that this will happen in an ant farm.

2. I would not be too concerned about the pheromones. Just introduce new ants to the ant farm once all the other ants have died. If there are still a few ants left, you could take them out, put them in a little plastic container and freeze them over night. That is an easy way to kill them. Only if the farm gets too messy, I would exchange the substrate.

3. For your third question, I contacted another ant expert, James Trager, and here is what he had to say: "Though some Myrmica species there may sting with perceptible effect, they are smallish and not very likely to sting. There are no large stinging ants in Manitoba. The larger ones the writer mentions are probably a Formica species, which are effective predators, even though they completely lack a sting. Some Formica are rather aggressive and may bite when their nests are invaded, they nevertheless can make rather good captive ant colonies. I must qualify this by mentioning that in general, the bicolored (red and black) species do not thrive in captivity, but the all black ones do. On the other hand, pavement ants (Tetramorium), though smaller and pretty good escape artists (as the writer notes), also make good captive colonies, if properly cared for in a well-sealed apparatus."

4. I would not dig up an ant mount, but if there are some pavement ants and you are not destroying the landscape, I'd say go for it! However, the best way to get hold of a queen would be to capture on right after it's mating flight. The queens will still carry wings, but after they have mated, they will take them off and try to dig into the soil. This would be the perfect time to introduce her into a ant farm. The survival rate of mated queens is not very high, so if you have the chance to find several, I would keep them in little plastic containers with a bit of dirt first. If there is one that starts producing workers, I would take that one with the newly emerged workers and introduce her into the ant farm.

James Trager has some useful advice on how and when to obtain a mated queen for your ant farm: "In fact, there are plenty of mating flights yet to happen across North America (and especially that far north, including some as late as mid-September). These occur in the big genera Formica (now through mid-August), and Lasius & Myrmica (now into September, depending on species). Also, some species may readily be collected as entire colonies under stones on wooded slopes, though, whole colonies can be difficult to handle and their queens difficult to get without some good basic equipment and experience."

5. I would not worry about having too many workers in your ant farm. If you had the luck of obtaining a reproducing queen and had too many workers, you can always take some out and freeze them. Read this post on the best density of workers in an ant farm.

Good luck with your ant farm!
James Trager (guest expert), Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

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