I was wondering if you could identify this "ant" for me?




Hi Peter,

This is not an ant but a member of a hemipteran group. Ants have chewing mouthparts (mandibles), and if you look closely, these have sucking mouthparts (proboscis), shown in the close-up below.


My best guess is that it is a juvenile wheel bug .

Thanks for your question,
Gracen Brilmyer & the AntAsk Team

I am attaching two pictures. The first one titled corgi and ant is to give you the size relation of this 'bug' (ant?) to the size of an average Pembroke Welsh Corgi. The second picture is a close up of the insect. Is it an ant? If so, what kind. This was in California. My friend's dogs found it in their backyard. She killed it shortly after discovering what the dogs had. She didn't know what kind of insect it is either.

corgi and ant.jpg ant.jpg


Dear Patricia,

This is not an ant, but a Jerusalem Cricket. These are large, flightless insects in the genus Stenopelmatus. They are common in the western United States. Cute corgis, by the way!

Thanks for your question,

Gracen Brilmyer & the AntAsk Team

Science fair students,

Here at AntBlog we get many emails with questions about how to include ants in science fair projects. We are always glad to hear that people are interested in including ants in their science experiments. Depending on what kind of project you are thinking of doing, we have compiled a summary of the most commonly asked questions about including ants in your school science fair project.

Diet experiments:
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2011/12/can-you-help-me-with-my-ant-diet-experiment-stephanie-6th-grade.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2010/11/what-are-the-taste-preferences-of-ants-and-how-can-we-desing-a-project-to-test-them-tiffany.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2011/12/salt-craving-ants-christina-united-kingdom.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2012/02/hi-antask-i-am-in.html

Repellents and toxin effects on ants:

- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2012/10/ant-science-fair-project-natalie-chicago-usa.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2012/02/science-experiment-with-natural-ant-repellents-luke-new-york-usa.html

Ant biology, evolution, and behavior:

- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2012/02/a-7th-graders-questions-about-ants-answered.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2010/10/do-ants-really-have-the-largest-biomass-of-all-species-on-earth-laurie-usa.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2013/02/whats-up-with-ant-evolution.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2012/11/ant-intelligence-decline-with-size-alan-usa.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2012/07/questions-about-ant-ancestry-pamela-new-york-usa.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/ask-an-ant-expert/ant-behavior/

Building your own ant farm:
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2010/04/how-to-make-an-ant-farm-john-leeds-uk-moving-to-us-soon.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2012/09/im-thinking-about-doing-a.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/ask-an-ant-expert/ant-farms/

How to get rid of pest ants in your home or yard:
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2010/07/help-i-have-ants-in-my-home-and-want-them-out-oscar-oakland-ca-usa.html
- ttp://www.antweb.org/antblog/2011/11/what-are-these-ants-and-how-do-i-get-rid-of-them.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/2010/08/what-are-these-yellow-ants-and-how-do-i-get-rid-of-them-karen-alpine-texas-usa.html
- http://www.antweb.org/antblog/ask-an-ant-expert/ants-in-your-house-or-yard/

Good luck and have fun! There is nothing more fun than ants and science.

Best regards,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Dear askantweb,

I found what seems to be an undocumented army ant while camping in San Diego County.

Doing my best to remember, I recall these characteristics of the species:


  • Completely black
  • Worker, major worker, and soldier classes
  • 5 cm to 10 cm long
  • Soldier mandibles appear to be able to make an audible snapping sound

  • Behavior:

    • Forms columns at night moving in one direction
    • What seems to be scattered scouts mostly of the worker class preceding the main column mainly observed just after sunset
    • Invades the local termite colonies
    • A number of ants were found to be dedicated to what appears to be guarding an entrance of apparently a subterranean nest at the base of a tree. This was observed during the day and the only instance of observing this specie during the day except when excavating a known local termite colony which was being attacked or occupied by these ants.

    Though it could simply be a carpenter ant, please advise or forward to anyone who may be interested. Thank you.

    Dear Spencer,

    If the insects in question are really 5-10cm long, it's pretty unlikely that they're ants. We have a blog post on how big ants tend to get, and California I can't think of any ants that would be much bigger than 2cm, even if they were a queen.

    There are actually quite a few documented species of army ants from California. The genus Neivamyrmex has workers of different sizes, but they're kind of continuously polymorphic, so you'd be unlikely to think of them as "worker" "major worker" and "soldier." I have a little bit of experience with army ants from the tropics, and I've never heard them really snap.

    The only genus I've heard make an audible snapping noise is Odontomachus, seen here closing its jaws. This genus hasn't been recorded from California as far as I know, but it's possible that the species found in Arizona could make it in SoCal. However, these ants are all the same size as each other, so you wouldn't have noticed distinct castes.

    Carpenter ants, (genus Camponotus) are also large and polymorphic. If you were close to a lot of them, you might have noticed a vinegary smell (formic acid). None of the other ants I've just mentioned would have made that smell.

    Ultimately, I guess I'm stumped. If you go camping again, be sure to take some pictures!

    Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

    I'm sure you get a lot of questions phrased like my subject heading. But I'm stumped here! I've linked to two pictures I took in the woods in Atlanta, GA.



    From the far shot, it looks like the ants are "herding" the insects into a big clump. in the closer shot, you can see that some ants have actually dived into the fray.

    Were these ants really herding the other insects or had the insects been swarming beforehand and the ants are just there to pick some off as food?

    Also, I can't seem to identify the insects in the pictures that the ants are interacting with. They look like some kind of insect in the nymph stage.

    If it matters, the tree in the picture is a beech, I think.

    Thanks for your help! I'm so glad I found this blog!


    Dear Becky,

    Thanks for the great pictures! Yes! Many ant species have facultative mutualisms with aphids (seen here) and other herbivorous insects. The ants guard the aphids from predators, and, in exchange, the aphids essentially poop sugar water into the ants mouths. This "honeydew" as it is euphemistically called, has to be voided from the aphids, because they have to go through a lot of plant sap to get enough minerals and amino acids. To the ants, it's gatorade.

    The ants are most likely the common carpenter ant, Camponotus pennsylvanicus. I don't know much about aphids, but those are really big, and they seem to be on the bark of a deciduous tree, so they might be the giant bark aphids, Longistigma caryae. There're probably some other big aphids out there, but this seems to be a pretty widespread, conspicuous species, and they have been reported to associate with C. pennsylvanicus elsewhere in the Southeastern United States.

    There have been a few posts about this relationship in other blogs (such as here and here ) and there's a rich scientific literature of ant-aphid mutualisms you should check out if you'd like to know more! There are also some pretty great photos that have been posted by others!

    Thanks again for your great pictures!


    Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. I was recently traveling in Costa Rica and happened to take a camera shot of some interesting ant behavior. I have no idea what is going on here, but would sure like to find out. Have you ever seen this kind of behavior before? (see attached image)

    Please let me know.





    Great image! What you have documented here, quite beautifully, is a number of Azteca workers "spread-eagling" a Pachycondyla gyne (future queen). This is an interesting and well-known behavior of the genus Azteca (Dejean et al., 2009), which is well known for its mutualistic associations with plant species (Cordia, Cecropia). The mutualism between the plants and the ants relies on the plants providing food and shelter to the ants, and the ants fervently defending the plants from herbivores and other competitive plants. This behavior, known as "spread-eagling", is usually employed by the workers to protect the plants from insect herbivores or intruders, and is not restricted to the plant alone.

    Because the Pachycondyla gyne has not started her colony yet and become a queen (you can tell because she has not dropped her wings yet), it is likely that the Azteca ants are showing this aggression to defend their territory before she can start a colony and get a foothold in their area. Although the pictures don't show it, I'm guessing the gyne did not escape alive.

    Hope this answers your question, I've included the reference below.


    Max Winston & the AskAntTeam

    Dejean, A., Grangier, J., Leroy, C., & Orivel, J. (2009) Predation and aggressiveness in host plant protection: a generalization using ants from the genus Azteca. Naturwissenschaften. 96:57-63.

    Dear Ask Ant Team,

    I was reading about geosmin, produced by bacteria and released when they die and which gives a distinctive smell after rain.
    Geosmin is very strongly aromatic and some researchers believe that humans can smell this compound at low levels of 5-10 parts per trillion. Others believe that geosmin enables camels to find water over distances of up to 50 miles.
    Is there any research which shows that ants in arid dessert environments use geosmin to locate water?
    Many thanks for your help.

    kind regards,

    Dear Ian,

    Thanks for raising this very interesting question! In an article from 2002, researchers discovered that millipedes, not only bacteria, can produce geosmin. They tested the effect of geosmin on ants and found that ants were not affected. However, millipedes of the same species were repelled by geosmin. The researchers concluded that it plays a role for chemical comminication in millipedes. Apart from this paper, I am not aware of any studies that tested the effects of geosmin on ants. This would be interesting, because there are many different ant species which likely show different responses to this chemical. This is indeed an interesting topic!

    This is the paper:

    Omura, H; Kuwahara, Y; Tanabe, T (2002) 1-Octen-3-ol together with geosmin: New secretion compounds from a polydesmid millipede, Niponia nodulosa. Journal of Chemical Ecology 28(12): 2601-2612.

    All the best,
    Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team


    First of all, many compliments for your blog: it's awesome and full of interesting and useful info. Secondly: I'd like to set up a competition experiment of two ant colonies in a formicarium I'd build myself. I'd like to see how the two different ant species will use and exploit the resources and see how competition happens. Could you help me set up the experiment? For example, what two ant species from Europe should I buy and use in the experiment? Can I set up the formicarium so that the food is in a central chamber? Will the ants find their way to the food anyways? What would other interesting things to observe be? Would the "competitive exclusion principle" work? . I live in italy and a local retailer has Camponotus nylanderi, what could i match with this?

    Thank you so so so much!

    Hi Alessandro,

    Thank you very much for your question!

    Antweb has a site on the Ants of Italy that you can check out to find out which species occur in your area. There are many ant species that you could try for your experiment. I would suggest that you collect a local species. Ant queens often swarm in the summer and you could get your formicarium ready for that and then start out a new colony.
    If you do not want to wait for the queen to establish a new colony, here is a post on how to collect an entire colony. We also have this extensive post on how to make an ant farm with suggestions on how to collect queens and establish a new colony.

    You could set up your formicarium with three chambers, which are connected by tubes. The chamber in the middle would have the food and either chamber on the sides could have one of your ant colonies. However, I would assume that in any case, the two different species will kill each other until one colony has been eliminated. For some ant species, fights are one-on-one usually leading to death of both workers involved in a fight. Thus, the colony with more workers wins. Some ant species, particularly invasive species, are often more aggressive than native species and might outcompete them. Small ants sometimes fight in groups. There are so many different ant species, each with their distinct behavior, that it is really hard to predict the outcome. In any case, I assume that such an experimental set-up will lead to fighting ants.

    I hope this helps,
    Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team


    I stumbled across your very interesting blog whilst searching for an answer about ants.

    We live in the sub-tropics (Queensland, Australia) and just over a week ago experienced severe wet weather (flash flooding) due to an ex-cyclone passing over us. This was after an extended period of dry weather in a hot Summer. We have had a steady stream of various ants come in due to the weather, mostly heading for the kitchen. This is quite normal for us and has been managed mainly by keeping minimal accessible crumbs etc.

    The unusual ant activity we've had is in the last couple of days. One night we suddenly realised that there were clumps of tiny black ants all over the house. There were thousands of them in the laundry, on the top of the wall and cornice - not many down near the water sources at all. There were also about 6 big clusters of them located on cornices throughout our living room and hallway - far from any food source and/or water. The next day another cluster appeared on the door frame of our bedroom en suite - these ones were near some artwork and some were feasting on the glue used in it, but most were in clumps on the doorframe. I took some pictures and have attached them.

    Ants1 is to give you a reference point for size and the shapes of all the small clusters these ants are forming - these are very small ants compared to most others we get locally.
    Ants2 is a closer shot - when I was later looking at the photos I noticed that the ants appeared to be clustered around some sort of larvae or white-fleshed ant? I suppose this is why they are clumping, but am wondering what the white things are. I am hoping it is not termites! I am also curious as to why these ants all suddenly appeared in such unlikely places (and so many times) particularly given that it had been about a week since the wet weather. I would also like to know what we can do to try and discourage them from invading our house in such a huge and sudden manner.

    I've done some searching on ant identification pages etc. and the closest ant I can come up with that they may be is the "black house ant". Although I am not sure they have the right number of joins in their body.

    Any answers to my questions would be much appreciated!

    I can send a bigger sized picture if you require it, just let me know if you do need it. I just didn't want to unnecessarily overload your inbox with a large sized file.

    Thank you,




    Dear Anna,

    Thanks for the question and the pictures!

    First off, these are definitely not termites. Note the "elbowed" antennae and distinct rear part of the body (called the "gaster" in ant literature).

    These ants probably belong to the genus Technomyrmex. They're very common in forests in tropical Southeast Asia and Australia. I used to work on a small group of islands called Palau, and there were parts of the forest where it seemed like nearly every tree had this density of Technomyrmex on them. Although it's tough to say for certain, it's likely that these ants belong to a group of very similar-looking species that would have all been identified as Technomyrmex albipes a few years ago, but have since been shown to belong to several distinct species, including T. difficilis (guess why it has that name!). Here are some close-up pictures of the ants I think you have (although this this ant is fairly widespread, these pictures were actually taken in Queensland). In your region, many common household ants can be identified using a key developed by Eli Sarnat for the Pacific Invasive Ants program out of New Zealand (assuming you have a good microscope). For more complete information on ants in your area, check out our Queensland section on AntWeb, and Steve Shattuck's Ants Down Under.

    We've written a few posts about getting rid of ants in and around your home (for example: here, here, here, and here), but in your case, one of the more important actions might be keeping vegetation from touching your house. I've actually seen a house in Palau that was entirely on concrete stilts, and each stilt rested on a concrete block that had a small moat of water in it - this is essentially the house-level equivalent to putting the legs of your kitchen table in tuna cans filled with water to prevent ants from climbing up. However, the house got electricity from an above-ground wire, and there was a steady stream of Technomyrmex coming in on that wire all the time! So....I guess there's only so much you can do!

    Hope this helps, and good luck!
    Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

    I am doing a class project on ants and I am just wondering is there anything that ants do not like to build nests near or close to, I know they like to build nests on geopathic stress lines but is there anything that they don't like to build on?
    kind regards,

    Hello Joseph:

    Thanks for your question to the Ant Blog! For the first part of my response, I'd like to say that different sorts of ants, among the almost 14,000 species known, have different nesting preferences. So, for example, one would not find characteristically arboreal ants nesting in soil, nor would soil ants nest under bark of a living tree. Some species prefer particular soil types, such as sandy and well drained, or dark, moist and rich. At larger scales, grassland ant species are unlikely to be found nesting in a forest, nor tropical ants in a region with a winter season.

    But, I'm guessing that your question refers to species of "generic" soil-nesting ants. These often appear not very fussy about where they locate their nests. Such ants may be found nesting in soils with all sorts of textures and moisture levels. Studies have demonstrated that there are ants nesting at nuclear bomb test sites, where toxic metals have been mined, and areas reduced to ash and heat-sterilized soil by wildland fires. I've even found nests of ants in soil so toxic that no plants could grow in it, on military land, created by incineration of "unexploded ordinance".

    On the other hand, one consistent pattern I've noticed over the years is that soil nesting ants do not usually nest in soils that are compact and saturated (covered with water) after rains. For example, the lawn around my house has patches with numerous ant nests, and others where there are none. After heavy rains, it becomes clear that the ant-free zones are slightly lower, and water pools in them for a while before soaking into the ground or evaporating.

    James C. Trager of the Ask Ant Team


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