Formica incerta

Acid Ant
Formica incerta

 

Acid Ant Formica incerta w feeding on small insect on Hoptree leaf. June 12, 2015, Point Pelee National Park, Leamington, Ontario.
Acid Ant Formica incerta w feeding on small insect on Hoptree leaf. June 12, 2015, Point Pelee National Park, Leamington, Ontario.

Identification:
Head: Worker head reddish-brown and wider than others of this group, but not as shiny. Male is uniform blackish to dull black-brown. Large eyes.
Antenna: Very long antenna base (scape), but shorter than F. pallidefulva.
Thorax: Thorax slightly shiny, very light reddish-yellow to reddish-brown. Base has some short hairs, more than F. pallidefulva. Queen with three distinct dark spots on base of thorax, one at center, one on each side which may appear as streaks – variable. No other Formica Queen has these marks. Male is uniform blackish to dull black-brown, hairy.
Wings: Wings with a faint brownish to smoky gray tint. F. pallidefulva has clear to reddish tint on wings.
Legs: Very long, especially the hind thigh (femur) which reaches almost to the end of the abdomen. (Shorter than F. pallidefulva which surpasses abdomen). Legs are light reddish-yellow, lower legs appear darker. Male legs reddish-brown.
Abdomen: Abdomen is not very shiny, darker reddish-brown (than head), becoming darker near tip. Segment 1 is dull, with appressed hairs; rest of abdomen less dull, but not as shiny as F. pallidefulva, due to more hairs. Male is uniform blackish to dull black-brown. Hairy.

Similar Species: Formica incerta has a slightly shorter antenna base (scape) than F. pallidefulva, slightly more hair on base of thorax, but very short; head slightly wider. Overall, F. incerta is lighter in color and less shiny.

Size: Workers 4.5 to5.5 mm.. Queens 7.5 to 9.5 mm.

Flight Time: Mid-July to mid-August – 2 to 3 weeks later than F. pallidefulva.

Habitat: Prairies and barren land often near grass clumps, dry open forest edges, grasslands and sandy lawns, golf courses. Not a forest dweller.

Food: Frequently found on Sumac flowers, sunflowers, partridge pea and other prairie plants. Tends and protects aphids and treehoppers for their honeydew. Also feeds on honeydew from the Hoptree Leafroller Agonopterix pteleae at Pt. Pelee Nat. Park, Leamington, Ontario.

Life Cycle: Nests, usually in bare soil or under rocks. Occasionally it will nest next to a clump of grass. Exposed nests in soil are covered with plant debris. About 2,000 ants per colony. Several queens may be present in one colony. New colonies are built by the workers.
Preyed on by slave-maker ant Polyergus lucidus in Ontario.
Anting – Flickers are fond of this species and catch the ants, rubbing their acid on their feathers before eating them.

Comments: Not listed for Essex or Kent county. Recorded by Trager, 2007 for Lambton county. Also in Livingston county, Michigan.

Synonyms: Emery 1893
Neoformica pallidefulva subsp. schaufussi var. incerta,  Neoformica pallidefulva subsp. incerta, Neoformica pallidefulva, Neoformica schaufussi, Formica schaufussi

References:
Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute, 2007, Vol. 80, pp. 622 to 625 and key 629 by Trager, et al.

 

Lasius neoniger

Labour Day Ant
Lasius neoniger

 

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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 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.