Lasius neoniger

Labour Day Ant
Lasius neoniger

 

Labour Day Ant Lasius neoniger workers and males. August 22, 2007, Wheatley, Ontario.
Labour Day Ant Lasius neoniger workers and males. August 22, 2007, Wheatley, Ontario.

Identification:
Head: Medium brown, hairy. Eyes large, but not as large as L. alienus.
Antenna: Dull yellowish-brown.
Thorax: Dull yellowish-brown to slightly reddish, lighter than head and abdomen.
Wings: Both male and female have slightly tinted wings, veins and stigma yellowish-brown. No pattern or dark shading.

Labour Day Ant Lasius neoniger queen and workers. August 22, 2007, Wheatley, Ontario.
Labour Day Ant Lasius neoniger queen and workers. August 22, 2007, Wheatley, Ontario.

Legs: Light to medium brown. Four erect hairs on hind shin (tibia).
Abdomen: Medium brown. Top of abdomen hairy.
Queen similar, but has darker thorax. Male is entirely black.

Similar Species: Easily confused with Lasius alienus workers which have larger eyes and much darker brown to black color. L. alienus live in damp, shady parts of a forest. Lasius neoniger live in open, dry areas like lawns.

Labour Day Ant Lasius neoniger queen. August 22, 2007, Wheatley, Ontario.
Labour Day Ant Lasius neoniger queen. August 22, 2007, Wheatley, Ontario.

Size: Workers 2.5 to 3 mm. Males 4 mm, Queens 7 to 8 mm

Habitat: Meadows, grass, prairies, sand dunes; well-drained soil in cultivated fields. Usually the dominant species in lawns and golf courses with dense populations creating craters above the soil.

Food: Mealybugs and aphid honeydew; other insects, dead or alive, and flower nectar.

Flight Time: Mid Aug to mid Sept. but usually around Labour Day. Late afternoon, just before rain.

Labour Day Ant Lasius neoniger queen. August 26, 2011, Wheatley, Ontario.
Labour Day Ant Lasius neoniger queen. August 26, 2011, Wheatley, Ontario.

Life Cycle: Nests in soil, forming volcanic-like mounds above ground level. Colony hibernates in winter with 1st instar larvae. Nocturnal, foraging at night for dead insects. Farms root aphids by storing aphid eggs in nest during the winter. When hatched, the ants carry them to plant roots to feed. If using the Corn Root Aphid Anuraphis maidiradicis the ants will transport them to the corn roots. They also tend honeydew from other insects like late-instar butterfly larvae of the Frosted Elfin Callophrys irus.

After the late-season nuptial flight, queens shed their wings, hibernate in small cavities in the soil and start a new colony the next spring. Queens will sometimes invade other Lasius species colonies. Often mixed colonies are found. Lasius in general and particularly  neoniger do not sting or use formic acid. Mature nests usually contain from 1,000 to 10,000 individuals, and queens can live 15-20 years.

Predators: Yellow Jacket Wasps Vespula maculifrons prey on Lasius neoniger nuptial flights.

Cuckoo Wasp (Eucharitidae) Pseudometagea schwarzii lays eggs on plant flower buds, when hatched the larvae hitch a ride on the L. neoniger ant to the nest, where it feeds on the ant larvae.

Nest Mates: Short-winged Mold Beetle Adranes species are allowed in L. neoniger nests to live.

Comments: Essex County – Point Pelee National Park per BOLD in 2012. Wheeler recorded it from Sudbury.

For information on synonyms, references and type specimens see next page

Lasius claviger

Smaller Yellow Ant
Lasius claviger

 

Smaller Yellow Ant Lasius claviger workers Oct. 26, 2004, Wheatley, Ontario.
Smaller Yellow Ant Lasius claviger workers Oct. 26, 2004, Wheatley, Ontario.

Identification: Our only entirely orange-yellow ant.
Head: Body color pale yellowish to yellowish-red. Eyes very small, nearer top of head. Whiskers (palpi) short, 3-segmented. Male is all black.
Antenna: Yellowish. Base (scape) or segment 1 extends to top of the head, but not beyond.
Thorax: Workers and queen considered yellowish-orange, but queen is darker. Male is black. Thorax has a single horn just before abdomen, very narrow and sharp at tip.
Wings: Dark, smoky in both queen and male.
Legs: Pale yellowish to yellowish-red.
Abdomen: Wide, shiny. Pale yellowish to yellowish-red; slightly lighter than rest of body. Many erect hairs on top side. No stinger.

Smaller Yellow Ant Lasius claviger male came to moth lights, Sept. 10, 2011, Wheatley, Ontario.
Smaller Yellow Ant Lasius claviger male came to moth lights, Sept. 10, 2011, Wheatley, Ontario.

Size: Workers 3 to 4 mm long.
Male 4 to 5 mm long, entirely black.
Queens 7 to 8 mm long. 

Similar Species: The Larger Yellow Ant Lasius (Acanthomyops) interjectus is present in Michigan, but not Ontario. Workers and Queen are a couple of mm larger. The antenna are longer and narrower. Nuptial flights are in June, rather than in the fall like the Smaller Yellow ant.

Habitat: Forest edges (prefer pine, oak and hickory), meadows and fields. 

Smaller Yellow Ant Lasius claviger queen on grass stem, Sept. 18, 2010, Wheatley, Ontario.
Smaller Yellow Ant Lasius claviger queen on grass stem, Sept. 18, 2010, Wheatley, Ontario.

Food: Honeydew from subterranean aphids, plant lice and mealybugs, farmed by the ants on plant roots. The workers are also generalist scavengers.

Flight Time: Late August to end of October. Flights usually occur in the late afternoon, just before rain.

Life Cycle: Nests vary greatly, found in rotting wood, under stones, and mounded in clay to sandy soils. Mealybugs and root-aphids are cared for, and the ants will move them away if disturbed. Ants also emit a lemon or citronella odor if alarmed, formerly called Citronella Ant. Males and queens overwinter, and may fly on warm winter days. Queens invade other Lasius colonies, killing their queen and taking over the nest.

Smaller Yellow Ants Lasius claviger swarm, Sept. 07, 2004, Wheatley, Ontario.
Smaller Yellow Ants Lasius claviger swarm, Sept. 07, 2004, Wheatley, Ontario.

The Smaller Yellow Ant preys on Square-headed Crabro Wasp Anacrabro ocellatus nests which are stocked with plant bugs.
Nest Mates: Round Fungus Beetle Nemadus parasitus, larvae of the Orange-spotted Ladybug Brachiacantha ursina which feeds on root-aphids Pemphigus, Cuckoo Wasps (Bethylidae) Pseudisobrachium ashmeadi and P. elongatum, Short-winged Mold Beetles Batrisodes montrosus and B. ferox, Ground Beetle Panagaeus crucigerus, Rove Beetles Quedius molochinus and Homoeusa expansa.
Note: On May 22, 2014 the Brown Fruit Chafer Euphoria inda was laying eggs in a Smaller Yellow Ant nest. She made two holes about 3 inches apart.
Bird Anting: Blue Jays and Flickers will catch winged males and females, rubbing them on their feathers and then eating them.

Comments: Essex County – Ojibway species list, 2008.

For information on synonyms, references and type specimens see next page

Formica ulkei

Acid Ant
Formica ulkei

Acid Ant Formica ulkei workers covering nest
Acid Ant Formica ulkei workers covering nest with leaves. Aug 25, 2004 Wheatley, Ontario.
Acid Ant Formica ulkei workers covering nest with leaves
Acid Ant Formica ulkei workers covering nest with leaves. Aug 25, 2004 Wheatley, Ontario.
Acid Ant Formica ulkei worker side nest entrance
Acid Ant Formica ulkei worker at side nest entrance. Aug 23, 2005 Wheatley Provincial Park, Wheatley, Ontario.

Identification:
Head: Shiny brown to black; red on lower half of face. Back of head has a concave shape. Male all black.
Antenna: Yellowish-red. Male black.
Thorax: Dull yellowish-red. Base of thorax has a darker patch across. A few golden hairs. Queen more shiny, thorax sides dark brown.
Wings: Tinted brown with pale brown veins and stigma.
Legs: Darker yellowish-red than the thorax. Golden hairs.
Abdomen: Shiny black. Golden hairs. Queen has longer, lighter-colored hairs.  Male abdomen black with reddish-brown tip with grayish hair.

Size: Worker 3.5 to 6 mm. Queen 7.5 to 9 mm. – considered small. Male 7 to 8 mm.

Habitat: Near water – edges of swamps, marshes, fens, sedge meadows and wet prairie.

Food: Varied – honeydew from aphids, treehoppers. Tussock Moth Halysidota species larvae.

Flight Time: Late June to early July, mornings at 60 degrees F.

Life Cycle: Nests are constructed deep underground with the excavated material forming a flat mound above the nest.  A number of entrance holes are located around the mound near the base or slightly up the sides.  Mounds may be covered with a thin layer of plant debris.  Mound size ranges up to 122 cm in diameter by 45 cm in height. Usually near water, the lower tunnels are always moist, and attract many other nest mates requiring moisture. Nest mates include Ladybugs, Lacewings, Flower Fly Microdon; Beetles, especially Rove Beetles Megastilicus and Atheta, but also Click Beetle Melanotus and Scarab Flower Chafer Phyllophaga.

Will temporarily take in Formica fusca queens. Nests have also been found with F. subsericea present in equal numbers. Also, F. ulkei nests have been found to contain Solenopsis molesta (thief-ant) colonies in the upper portions. Their tunnels are much smaller and F. ulkei workers cannot get into them.

Comments: Listed for Ontario by Natural Heritage Information Centre. Not on any lists for Essex or Kent county, but present.

For information on synonyms, references and type specimens see next page

Formica pallidefulva

Acid Ant
Formica pallidefulva

Acid Ant Formica pallidefulva worker on Dogwood
Acid Ant Formica pallidefulva worker on Dogwood flowers Jun 08, 2010. Wheatley, Ontario.
Acid Ant Formica pallidefulva workers Golden Alexanders
Acid Ant Formica pallidefulva workers on Golden Alexanders June 30, 2004. Wheatley, Ontario.
Acid Ant Formica pallidefulva worker on Dogwood flowers
Acid Ant Formica pallidefulva worker on Dogwood flowers Jun 08, 2010. Wheatley, Ontario.

Identification: Least hairy and shiniest, especially the male. Colour is highly variable, generally uniform dark brown in Canada.
Head: Dark brown. Head is smaller than F. incerta. Large eyes.
Antenna: Very long base (scape) extending past head. Scape length longer than F. incerta.
Thorax: Shiny, more reddish-brown. Hair, if any, very short and only at base of thorax. Queen does not have the three dark spots present in F. incerta. Male is more uniform in various colours of dark brown.
Wings: Clear (hyaline) to amber on both male and queen.
Legs: Brown. Hind thigh longer than F. incerta and as long as gaster.
Abdomen: Large, shiny, dark brown. Hair very short, sparse. Queen has less hair.

Similar Species: The very long antenna base (scape), lack of hair on thorax and shiny abdomen distinguish F. pallidefulva from F. incerta.

Size: Workers 5 to 6 mm. Queens 8 to 10 mm.

Habitat: Open or closed canopy forests, prairies; dry grasslands, lawns and parks.

Food: Insects, flower nectar, honeydew left on leaves.

Flight Time: July – morning flights. A few weeks earlier than Formica incerta 

Life Cycle: Colonies are small – 500 workers or less, usually found in or under small, fallen limbs. May also nest in soil usually near a clump of grass. Only males come to lights at night.
These ants do not tend or protect aphids or treehoppers.
A host of the slavemaker ant, Polyergus lucidus and in southern Ontario.
Beewolf Wasp Aphilanthops frigidus preys on F. pallidefulva winged males and queens.

Comments: Essex County – Point Pelee National Park. Lambton County per Trager, 2007. Also in Livingston County, Michigan and in Sandusky, Ohio.

Synonyms: Latrielle, 1802
Formica pallide-fulva, Formica schaufussi, Formica pallidefulva subsp. nitidiventris, Formica nitidiventris, Formica pallidefulva subsp. fuscata, Formica pallidefulva fuscata, Formica pallidefulva var. succinea, Neoformica pallidefulva, Neoformica pallidefulva subsp. delicata, Neoformica pallidefulva subsp. nitidiventris.

References:
Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute, 2007, Vol 80: Revision of the Nearctic Endemic Formica pallidefulva Group by J. Trager, et al., pp. 625 to 628.
Great Lakes Entomologist, 1979, Vol. 12, #2 by Talbot, pg. 87.

 

 

Formica obscuripes

Western Thatching Ant
Formica obscuripes

 

Identification:

Western Thatching Ant Formica obscuripes workers on 5' round nest
Western Thatching Ant Formica obscuripes workers on 5′ round nest. Nest is about 10 inches high. July 01, 2010 Celista, B.C.
Western Thatching Ant Formica obscuripes worker on leaf
Western Thatching Ant Formica obscuripes worker. July 01, 2010 Celista, B.C.
Western Thatching Ant Formica obscuripes workers beetle flipping
Western Thatching Ant Formica obscuripes workers engaged in beetle flipping. No one knows why they do this. June 21, 2010 Celista, B.C.
Western Thatching Ant Formica obscuripes worker
Western Thatching Ant Formica obscuripes worker in nest. July 01, 2010 Celista, B.C.

Workers: Head and thorax light red, smaller workers spotted with brown. Legs and horn (petiole) are reddish-brown. Abdomen deep brown or blackish, covered with slightly long and dense, gray hair. Eyes hairy.

Size: Worker 3.8 to 8 mm long.

Habitat: Prairies, grassy meadows, pine forest edges.

Food: Other insects found dead or alive are carried back to the nest. Also honeydew from aphids and treehoppers. Travel high up in trees and are an important predator of the Western Spruce Budworm and other larvae. Also engage in ‘beetle flipping’, turning beetles on their backs before carrying them to the nest as food.

Flight Time: Late June to early July. Morning flights.

Life Cycle: Nests are found in open areas; large mounds covered by small pieces of plant material to help regulate temperature in the nest. Tunnels are deep.  Colonies are large and can be over 35,000. Newly mated queens will try to take over another Formica species nest, killing or driving off the old queen. The old workers continue to feed the new ‘foreign’ queen and her offspring until they die off, and the nest becomes entirely Formica obscuripes.  Apparently this species takes in guests – Formicoxenus hirticornis.

Synonyms: Forel 1886
Formica aggerans, Formica melanotica


References:
Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, 1953. Vol. 53, #10, pg. 433 by Wheeler

Formica fusca

Silky Ant
Formica fusca

The Silky Ant Formica fusca male
The Silky Ant Formica fusca winged male July 03, 2006 Wheatley, Ontario.
Silky Ant Formica fusca wingless queen
The Silky Ant Formica fusca wingless queen July 07, 2006 Wheatley, Ontario.
Silky Ant Formica fusca winged male
The Silky Ant Formica fusca winged male on Queen Anne’s Lace July 03, 2006 Wheatley, Ontario.

Identification: Silky Ant – introduced from Europe. Formica fusca is a dark-bodied species.
Workers have slender black bodies with whitish hairs on top of head, thorax and abdomen. Eyes are hairless. Antenna slender, the base (scape) is red, slightly wider at tip. Antenna segments 1 and 2 also red. Large eyes. Mandibles red, with 8 teeth. Thorax narrow. Abdomen small, whitish hairs longer with a frosted (pruinose) appearance. Legs slender, red to brownish-red. Workers are extremely timid, and subject to enslavement by other species of Formica.
Queen is black. Thorax wider than the head. Wings long, nearly colorless, stigma brown. Abdomen very smooth and shining, less hairs than worker abdomen.
Male is black, slender. Head wide across top, lower face very narrow. Eyes large, hairless. Antenna base (scape) dark brown. Mandibles narrow, pointed and toothed. Wings slightly more tinted than female. Legs yellow, feet black.  Abdomen more brownish, very shiny, long and narrow, without hair. Abdomen tip yellow.

Size: Worker 4 to 6.5 mm. Male 8 to 10 mm. Queen 7 to 10 mm.

Flight Time: July to August.

Habitat: Uncultivated land, nesting under stones and in tree stumps under loose bark.

Food: Feed on small insects, aphid honeydew and flower nectar.

Life Cycle: Nests are usually small 500 to 2,000 workers. Colonies stop producing eggs in late summer, and only adults over-winter in the nest. Winged males and females are not produced until the colony is 3 years old. The winged ants mate on the ground and the newly mated queens start a new nest, feeding their first brood alone.  Colonies can last 10 or more years.

F. fusca group ants are often the hosts of socially parasitic ants, including Polyergus and Formica slave-raiders, and the Little Black Ant Monomorium minimum. To counter these attacks, the Silky Ant has workers who monitor the larva for foreigners, and will remove them from the nest.

Comments: Essex County – not listed; listed for Ontario per NHIC (Natural Heritage Information Centre). Wheeler found it in Guelph. Also in Michigan.

Synonyms: Linnaeus 1758
Formica fusca var. glacialis

References: Wheeler, G. and J. 1986 Ants of Nevada. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles Co.

Camponotus pennsylvanicus

Black Carpenter Ant
Camponotus pennsylvanicus

 

Black Carpenter Ant Campanotus pennsylvanicus worker and major worker
Black Carpenter Ant Campanotus pennsylvanicus worker, taking dead major worker to garbage heap. April 22, 2006 Wheatley, Ontario.
Black Carpenter Ant Campanotus pennsylvanicus major worker
Black Carpenter Ant Campanotus pennsylvanicus major worker. April 21, 2006 Wheatley, Ontario.
Black Carpenter Ant Campanotus pennsylvanicus worker prey sawfly larva
Black Carpenter Ant Campanotus pennsylvanicus worker feeding on sawfly larva. May 25, 2005 Wheatley, Ontario.
Black Carpenter Ant Campanotus pennsylvanicus major worker
Black Carpenter Ant Campanotus pennsylvanicus major worker. May 25, 2005. Rondeau Provincial Park, Blenheim, Ontario.

Identification: A black ant, with one brown horn (pedicle) between the thorax and abdomen. Antenna has no club; the base (scape) is thicker at tip. First segment of antennae is longer than the head. The lower abdomen has long, silvery-white hairs. Major workers have large heads and are usually over 10 mm long. Sometimes the horn and top of the legs can be slightly reddish. Queens and males are black with reddish wings. Males have small heads.

Size: 6 to 13 mm. Major worker 12 to 14 mm. Queen 14 to 18 mm.

Flight Time: Mating flights occur from April to June.

Habitat: Any dead or rotting wood including logs, trees and houses.

Food: Favours sweets, such as decaying fruit, insects, treehopper and aphid honeydew.

Life Cycle: Nests are excavated in dead wood. Newly mated queens start colonies on their own, and feed their young for almost 2 months before they are ready to take over feeding the larvae. It will be many years before the colony produces winged ants capable of mating. Adult males and females over-winter in nest before their late spring flight. As the colony grows, intermediate and major sized worker appear. Usually 3 to 6 years before winged males and females appear.

Comments: Essex County – Ojibway Prairies.

Parasite: An alternate host for the Round Fungus Beetle Nemadus parasites.

Synonyms: De Geer 1773
Formica pennsylvanica, Camponotus herculeanus pennsylvanicus, Camponotus herculaneus var. mahican.

Type specimens are from Pennsylvania, but no type specimens housed in Canadian or U.S. institutions.