Subject: ALL THE SAME ANT IN THIS SWARM?
Location: Tonasket, WA
July 24, 2012 10:45 pm
They seem to be coming or going under the sidewalk… 3 kinds. Big red w/wings, skinny black w/wings and short fat red w/no wings. They are not flying, it’s about 1 hour from dark and they don’t look like they’re mating or eating. What else is there to do?!?
The winged members of this swarm are reproductive Alates that will eventually take wing, mate and set up new colonies, however, you photograph brings up more questions than we have answers for. We imagine that the nuptial flight was soon to begin unless some other reason caused this group of ants to surface, like a flooded colony, though none appear to be carrying eggs, larvae or pupae which is what they would normally do if they had to flee suddenly. The other thing that is unusual that you have mentioned is the black and red winged individuals in the same swarm. Perhaps you have an ant species with sexual dimorphism, but we are not aware of a species with such distinct differences between the sexes. Some ants raid other colonies and make slaves of other species, but the slaves would not be mating individuals and only fertile kings and queens have wings. We found a nice online article called Social Parasitism in Ants that describes that phenomenon. Perhaps we will be able to find an answer in the future or perhaps one of our readers will be able to come to our assistance in this matter.
No, I didn’t! Pretty sure it is sexual dimorphism in this case, the alate males being black, the new queens red….but there are colonies that get enslaved by other ants that might result in something like this, too. Try contacting Alex Wild, he would be able to tell you more…. Oh, looks like a colony of “citronella ants,” genus Lasius, and orange-ish rather than red for the worker caste.
Ed. Note: We did find an image on BugGuide showing the color variation and sexual dimorphism in swarming Citronella or Cornfield Ants in the genus Lasius.