March 2013 Archives

Hello Antweb,
I've been doing some research on ant species richness and was wondering what locality is considered to have the highest species richness and if there is any literature to back up this information, thanks!

Hi Alejandro,

Ant diversity is highest at low latitudes (the tropics) and drops off towards the poles. This is a common phenomenon among many groups of organisms and Terry McGlynn has a relatively accessible piece about it here. This website is also a great way to explore the distribution of ant genera across the world. There is quite a bit of literature on the subject including, but certainly not limited to, the references listed below and the citations therein. The book "Ant Ecology", listed first in the below references, is a great overview of many ant related subjects, including their geographic distribution.

Thanks for your question,
Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

Dunn RR, Guénard, B, Weiser, MD & Sanders, NJ. 2010. Geographic gradients. In Ant Ecology (eds. L. Lach, C.L. Parr & K.L. Abbott) pp. 38-58. Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Guénard B, Weiser MD & Dunn RR. 2012. Global mode ls of ant diversity suggest regions where new discoveries are most likely are under disproportionate deforestation threat. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109: 7368-7373.

Kaspari M, Ward PS & Yuan M. 2004. Energy gradients and the geographic distribution of local ant diversity. Oecologia 140: 407-413.

Kusnezov N. 1957. Numbers of species of ants in faunae of different latitudes. Evolution 11: 298-299.

Jeanne RL. 1979. A latitudinal gradient in rates of ant predation. Ecology 60: 1211-1224.

Jenkins CN, Sanders NJ, Andersen AN, Arnan X, Brühl CA, Cerda X, Ellison AM, Fisher BL, Fitzpatrick MC, Gotelli NJ, Gove AD, Guénard B, Lattke JE, Lessard J-P, Mcglynn TP, Menke SB, Parr CL, Philpott SM, Vasconcelos HL, Weiser MD & Dunn RR. 2011. Global diversity in light of climate change: the case of ants. Diversity and Distributions 17: 652-662.

Trophic eggs (Mark)

Hey, AntAnswerers!

So, I've been thinking a bit about the situation with trophic eggs in ants. It apparently seems a pretty common practice among ant queens to eat some of their unembryonated eggs. Fair enough.
What I don't understand is the energetics of this practice- calorie for calorie, wouldn't it be costing a queen more to produce these trophic eggs than she is gaining from eating them?
I could understand making the best of a bad situation (i.e., for other arthropods that overshoot the optimal number of offspring, cannibalism retrieves some of the calories from a previous, poor decision), but I'm not sure that kind of argument applies for ants. Any thoughts from you guys?

I am similarly confused about the energetics of dracula ants, for similar reasons (i.e., the food comes from within the "extended phenotype").

Many thanks!

Dear Mark,

Typically, trophic eggs are unfertilized eggs laid by workers and used predominantly to feed larvae and queens but can also be fed to other workers. This type of resource sharing is similar to the regurgitation (trophallaxis) that occurs frequently between ants that you may be more familiar with.

Queens can also produce trophic eggs and new foundresses often use these to feed their young larvae. They certainly could eat these themselves and they may be useful as a way of storing food until it is needed, but most are fed to their offspring.

Also, larvae do sometimes cannibilize other larvae as you mention. This system of feeding larvae may or may not be optimal for the colony but it undoubtedly benefits the larval aggressors.

Dracula ants are incapable of consuming solid foods because their mouthparts are not built for chewing. The larvae, however, can consume and digest these foods, producing a resource rich hemolymph. Many ant colonies operate in this way, indirectly feeding on the digestive capabilities of the larvae. Dracula ants are special because the larvae do not have the ability to regurgitate nutrients and must, therefore, be bitten open by the workers. Larvae of most other species are perfectly capable of regurgitation so this complicated method of sharing resources is not necessary.

Great question!
Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

How difficult, if possible, is it to transfer an ant colony from a small easy maintenance starter farm to a much larger farm. Also how big would my farm have to be to have a full colony of pavement without 'controlling' population size? I can build one as big as I need. And what are the chances that my pavement ant colony will have more than one queen producing, I read that they will sometimes have more than one producing queen per colony. I think it would be very interesting to watch a multi queen colony.

Thank you so much,

Dear Justin,

It should not be too difficult to transfer your colony to a new farm, though you will probably lost some individuals in the process. Take a look at our previous post here.

I doubt that there will be any need to "control" the population size. The colony will grow until it is mature or runs out of resources so keep it well fed and it should be fine. Pavement ant colonies can grow to tens of thousands of workers so if you want your colony to reach its maximum possible size, you should probably make the farm rather large. Be sure to take a look at this previous post for tips on building a habitat.

Steiner et al. (2003) found multiple queens in five of 35 pavement ant colonies collected, so it is certainly possible that your colony contains multiple queens. Although you may need to do some more whole colony collecting if you are determined to find this type of colony.

Good luck with the farm!
Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

Steiner FM, Schlick-Steiner BC, Buschinger A. 2003. First record of unicolonial polygyny in Tetramorium cf. caespitum (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Insectes Sociaux 50: 98-99.

How do I get my ant farm to produce more queens and how do I collect them?

Dear Anthony,

This can be a very difficult goal to accomplish. Ant colonies need to be very well established before they will begin producing reproductives. Depending on the species, this can take up to a few years. Also, if your ant farm doesn't have its own queen, it can't possibly produce new ants because, with a few exceptions, worker ants cannot produce fertile eggs.

Allowing your colony to grow and providing it with abundant resources is the best way to ensure that it will attain maturity and will eventually be able to produce new queens.

Good luck!
Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

We have been battling ants for about a month now and I'm just curious if we need to take it to the next level (ie- call in a professional) or if we are on the right track.

First, some background, we live in the Kansas City area, and we've had a fairly mild winter up until about a month ago. We have had 3 snowstorms in the last month, all producing more than 6" of snow (two with more than a foot!). The first two snowstorms were 5 days apart and we first noticed the ants between those two storms.

We have a split-level home, and I first noticed the ants in our dining room area, and as I started looking around more, I realized they were everywhere. In the dining room (which is connected to the kitchen, but they weren't trailing to any food in the kitchen), they were also in our front living room near the window and the fireplace, they were also in our walk-out basement. None were noted in the storage room (where the dogs and their food are), or any of our bedrooms which are on the same level as the kitchen/dining room.

Initially we sprayed indoors which I now realize was foolish. We couldn't spray outside because there was collectively 2 feet of snow after the first two storms. After doing a bit of research I decided that the terro traps were the way to go (because we were still seeing live ants every day). We went out of town on March 1st, and we laid terro traps in the areas we'd been seeing the ants. We were gone for 10 days, and when we returned, there were THOUSANDS of dead ants all over. The most concentrated areas were near our fireplace, the front window, and near the door to the walk-out basement. I vacuumed all of the dead, and continued to see new live and dead ants each day, but the numbers slowly dwindled over the following 2 weeks. I also sprayed the perimeter of the home (outside) once the snow melted. I felt like we were finally getting ahead of the game because it seemed like we weren't seeing any more accumulate.

Then out of the blue this morning (after our third snowstorm happened overnight last night) I noticed a few more near the front window, however they were different. Instead of being small, black (what I think were odorous house ants), there are a fair number of dead, larger, winged ants. They have a good waist to them, so I don't think they are termites, and they are all dead, or almost dead, no swarms.

My question is, is this a good sign? Have we killed enough that the end of the colony is coming out dead? Or is this a bad sign that more breeding ants are coming out and developing new colonies? We continue to have the terro traps in place and have not given up the battle yet. I just need to know if it's time to call in a professional, or are we making progress and just need to keep at it?

Dear Christina,

It is hard to say but it is very possible that you are on the home stretch of ridding yourself of these ants. Oftentimes, when ant colonies are on the verge of death due to depleted resources, disease, or attacks from other ants, they will devote their remaining resources to producing winged reproductives in a last ditch effort to reproduce before dying. Therefore, the colony occupying your house may be teetering on the edge of collapse.

Good luck! Hopefully an exterminator will not be necessary!

Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

Ants from Argentina

Dear Ant Team,

I am currently working on a project studying plant-insect interactions. Particularly indirect defenses against plant predators. In literature there are citations about ants behaving as watchdogs in exchange for a reward, in this case nectar.
In my studies I have found, among others the ants shown in the attached picture visiting extrafloral nectaries and feeding on them.
In the attached picture you can see the ants that had made a nest in the pot, when I watered the pot this morning, thousands of them came out of the nest with larvae. Could you please tell me what species it is?

I appreciate your attention.

Best Regards

Miriam - Facultad de Agronomia, UBA

Dear Miriam,

Thanks for informing us about your interesting research and for inquiring about the identity of your ant study subjects. There are oover 600 species of ants in Argentina, but among all of those, the picture you sent is of the single ant that has come to be known around the world as the "Argentine ant", or to ant experts Linepithema humile. This species is native to Argentina and adjacent countries, but has been transported to other continents, and in many places has become an invasive species and agricultural pest, famous for its interactions with sap-feeding hemipterans, which it may defend, as it does the (extrafloral) nectar sources in your study.

Best regards,

James C. Trager of the Ask Ant Team


We are trying to determine if this is an ant or a beetle:



Hi Lena,

The insect pictured is in fact a beetle in the family Cerambycidae. It appears to belong to the New World genus Euderces, many members of which are known to mimic ants. This particular species is probably Euderces pini, the double-banded ant-mimicking cerambycid.

You can learn more about ant mimicry by checking out this previous post, and more specific examples of ant mimics here, here, here and here. This last link discusses ant mimicry (or perceived ant mimicry) in two other species of cerambycid beetles found in the U.S.

Thanks for your interest!

Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team

Dear Ant Team,

I photograph insects...but I do not know ants. Can you help me identify the following species? Thank you very much.

Best regards,







Beautiful images!

The species pictured are most likely (1) Aphaenogaster simonellii, (2) Messor meridionalis, and (3) Cataglyphis nodus.

These IDs were determined with the assistance of guest experts (and AntWeb's own Ants of Greece curators) Drs. Anastasios Legakis and Chris Georgiadis. Feel free to check out the Greece Ants page (linked above) to learn more about the ant fauna from this region.

Thanks for your interest!

Alexandra Westrich & the AntAsk Team

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:

Repellents and toxin effects on ants:


Ant biology, evolution, and behavior:


Building your own ant farm:

How to get rid of pest ants in your home or yard:
- ttp://

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

Best regards,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team