September 2011 Archives


I was wondering if you could help in identifying the attached ant image.

The ant was pictured in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania at about 15-20mm of length.



Ant from Tanzania

Dear Muhammad,

Thank you for your question! The picture you provided is great, which helps for identification! Since you are in Tanzania, we have contacted an expert on insects in the area, Peter Hawkes, for help. Here is what he said:

"The photo is of a major worker of a Camponotus species, in the subgenus Tanaemyrmex . The taxonomy of the genus Camponotus in Africa is simply not well enough resolved for me to attempt a more definite identification than this."

The genus Camponotus is very large with about 1,058 extant species ( and the identification to the species level is often challenging. Click here to see all Camponotus on antweb.

All the best,
Peter Hawkes (guest expert), Steffi Kautz & the AntAsk Team

I took pictures of 2 Guardian Ants working Woolly Aphids. I am trying to find the name of the ant species that is acting as guardian to this mass of Woolly Aphids, Prociphilus tessellatus, on a growing Alder shrub next to a lake.

The area this Speckled Alder is growing in is very sparse during the winter with snow and ice licking at its branches. Where would these ants keep these aphids over the winter? Do aphids, and ants have sort of anti-freeze in there system that kicks in during the winter?

Since this was on a lake shore, and at the end of a wooded hill to the lake, do I need to be concerned relative to my plants about 500 feet away? If so what do you suggest?

Thank you,
Richard and Meghan
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Dear Richard and Meghan,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog and send such nice photographs. This certainly helps with identifications. Since you are in New England, we reached out to an expert in the area, Stefan Cover, for help. Here is what he said:

"Those ants are Camponotus noveboracensis. The Camponotus are frequent aphid tenders but we know nothing about the relationship between these ants and that particular aphid. No need to worry about plants 500 feet away, though."

In addition, if you would like to read more about what ants do in the winter, please see our previous post here.

Best regards,
Stefan Cover (guest expert), Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

Dear AntAsk team,

I've been rearing a colony of North American Odontomachus for about three years now. Recently I separated about 200 workers from the main colony for the purposes of another project which has since been completed. Reluctant to return them to the original colony for fear of contamination, I have been keeping these workers separate and supplying them with sandy soil, some dried wood, a cotton ball of water, a cotton ball of sugar water and biweekly termites or pinhead crickets. However, I was startled to find that over three months later I still have about 85 or so of the separated workers left perfectly alive and well. I was wondering, what is the average longevity of most Odontomachus workers? Is this common for them to live this long?

Thanks for your help,

Dear Kaitlin,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog. Your experiments with Odontomachus trap-jaw ants sound interesting. To address your question, we contacted an expert, Andrew Suarez, who has lots of experience rearing Odontomachus colonies in the lab. Here is what Andy had to say:

"We have maintained a number of Odontomachus species in the lab, and have found workers to be quite long lived under lab conditions. For a few of the larger species, we have had workers live for over a year. Six months, however, is definitely not unusual."

Good luck with your trap-jaw ant colonies!
Andrew Suarez (guest expert), Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

I am trying to identify these ants, taken in a palm oil plantation near Bintulu, Sarawak, Borneo.

I have made the pictures very small, so hope there is enough detail.




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Hi Sue,

You don't need much more detail to identify these ants! The species in your photographs is Oecophylla smaragdina, variously known as green ants, weaver ants or tailor ants. They are widely distributed across Southeast Asia and tropical Australia. These arboreal ants have a peculiar nest building behavior that involves weaving the leaves of living trees together using silk produced by their larvae.

It's not surprising that you encountered this species in an oil palm plantation. Weaver ants are both aggressively territorial and fiercely predatory and have been used as a biocontrol agent in various agricultural settings to minimize pest damage. This centuries-old practice extends to a broad range of crops, including coconut, cacao, coffee, citrus, eucalyptus, mango, timber and of course oil palm, whose beetle, bug and caterpillar invaders provide ready food for the resident weaver ant colony.

Thanks for your interest!

Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team

Hi Ant People,

I'm planning on starting an ant colony. It's my first one but I'd love to have some red or bright yellow ants. I live in an apartment in New York City.

Is this possible? Can you give me some tips to get started?

Thanks you so much!


Dear James,

Glad to hear you are interested in keeping ants in your NYC apartment! Since you are interested in having some red or yellow ants, I would suggest ordering your standard "ant farm" ants. These are usually a large, red species of Pogonomyrmex. You can order them from many online sources such as:

- Ward's Scientific (you can order live ants and a gel ant farm)
- Uncle Milton's Ant Farms
- Ant Farm Central
- Or you can usually find an ant farm for sale at a local toy store (or natural history gift shop), which includes a certificate to receive live ants.

In addition, if you wanted to build your own ant farm, we have a previous post here.

Also, regarding keeping live ants, please see the following AntBlog posts here, here, and here.

Enjoy your ant farm!
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

I imagine every ant species in the world follows the same creed, "There's no 'I' in Team," but I can't help but wonder if there
might exist a species that supports, or promotes, individuality? Would scouts searching for food qualify, if not temporarily,
as individuals on a mission (inevitably for the greater good of the colony)?

Also, if you were to choose two of the nastiest, meanest looking, and most aggressive species of ant which would you choose?
Illustrations, if possible, would be great!

Thank you!

Ralph Glenn Styron, III
East Tennessee


Hi Ralph,

The question of individuality of ants is certainly an interesting one, which has definitely been asked before. Here you can find the most recent answer to this question asked by a Bulgarian sociologist. Additionally, this article recently came out which challenges the idea of worker equivalence and suggests experiential knowledge as an important factor in ant colonies.

In terms of a battle royale, I'd be interested in seeing Acanthognathus go after a Ecitoninae. The New World Ecitoninae are known for being the legionary ants par excellence with the mandibles to prove it, but the Acanthognathus are known as "trap-jaw ants", and can produce incredible amounts of force with their mechanism that controls their mandibles. For more info on trap-jaws, check out some of the current research being done in the Suarez Lab at University of Illinois.

Hope this helps!
Max Winston & the AntAsk Team

I don't know where to start with this critter - ant or wasp? Any info would be greatly appreciated. Eastern Washington state elev. 2900' sage biome, about 1/2" long, solitary foraging (frantically) on ground with short bursts of flight, eventually disappeared down a hole. Thank you much!



Hi Jack,

Thanks for reaching out. Although the picture is a bit blurry for complete identification, your description seems to suggest that the insect is a wasp rather than an ant. Most queens and males have wings, but these are usually used strictly during the mating period. Because male ants are drones and don't forage--they just eat, mate, and die--it isn't likely a male ant from your description. Likewise, as most queens shed their wings after nuptial flight, it is unlikely that this is a queen using her wings to forage around the nest. Additionally, considering there wasn't any mention of others in the vicinity, it is more likely that it is a wasp, which live a more solitary lifestyle than most ants.

Although I am not an expert on wasps, the picture you sent looks remarkably close to a red-tailed spider hunter wasp. A pictoral list of Eastern Washington wasps can be found here.

Happy hunting!
Max Winston & the AntAsk Team


I'm writing from Brazil to as what's the matter with my queen ant. She is an Odontomachus, I'm not sure of what specie, and I have had her for 2 months. She has laid several times but none of the eggs hatched; she keep growing a ball of eggs but no larvae appeared. I gave her some bugs and honey and she has eaten, so I believe she's well-fed. Is this normal? Will the eggs hatch? Is there some problem?

Thank you in advance,

Best regards,

Hi Isabel,

I'm sorry to hear that your Odontomachus queen is not doing so well. Odontomachus are amazing ants and it would be a lot of fun to have a colony of them. It is a good sign that your queen has laid eggs but that does not necessarily mean that they will grow into adult ants. As discussed here, most queens are too weak to start new colonies. I would suggest continuing to feed your queen and be sure to provide her with a moist and protected habitat (you can check out some of these posts on keeping ants). In the end, it may require collecting a lot of queens before you are able to raise a successful colony.

Good luck!
Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

Hi, I would like to know if someone can identify the species of the ant colony I found next to my house. I am planning to build a formicarium and I would like to know how big it should be to hold this colony. What kind of food do they eat? I have noticed that some of them were pretty big... are they queens?

Andreas (Brazil)



Hi Andreas,

Thanks for contacting us. It is a bit difficult to tell what these ants are from just pictures but they may be a species in the extremely diverse genus, Pheidole. Pheidole are common and are usually strongly dimorphic as this species appears to be. Dimorphism means that there are two distinct size classes of workers; major (large) and minor (small). Other types of ants can also be dimorphic or have a more continuous range of sizes (polymorphism). The larger workers are often useful for carrying large food items and are sometimes helpful for defending colonies. So the big individuals that you see are the major workers, not queens. We have a great post on how to build ant farms and take care of ants here and several other posts that discuss keeping ants here. There are around 1,000 species of Pheidole and we don't know what most of them eat exactly but these posts provide guidelines for generalized ant diets that should work well.

Good luck!
Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

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