Aphaenogaster lamellidens is a common woodland species found in eastern North America, from New York south and west to Texas. They form large colonies (several thousand workers) and are ground nesting in open areas, under rocks or in or under rotten wood. Workers are general predators and scavengers, feeding on a range of living and dead insects and other arthropods.
- 1 Identification
- 2 Distribution
- 3 Biology
- 4 Castes
- 5 Nomenclature
- 6 References
Aphaenogaster lamellidens has dark legs compared to the rest of the body and the frontal carina has a rearward-facing tooth. (DeMarco, 2015)
Deyrup (2016) - The frontal lobe of this species is elevated to form a thin ridge that is notched posteriorly so that it projects posteriorly as a tooth. The antennal scape can fit into this notch, perhaps protecting the base of the scape, or allowing it to fold back more compactly against the head. This diagnostic character is not as easy to see as it might seem, because the head of the ant must be positioned at just the right angle for this notch or tooth to be visible. In the field, workers are distinctively colored, a dark reddish brown with pale coxae that contrast with the dark femora and tibiae. The gaster is often paler than the rest of the body. In the Appalachians, workers of Aphaenogaster fulva and Aphaenogaster tennesseensis may be colored like lamellidens, perhaps forming a mimetic trio. Foraging lamellidens are usually seen walking slowly up or down the trunks of large hardwoods.
Keys including this Species
Deyrup (2016) - New York south into Florida, west into Illinois and eastern Texas (Smith 1979). In Florida, lamellidens is known from Highlands County northward, including most of the Panhandle. Records are scattered because this species is often difficult to find without baiting a large number of trees.
Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists
Distribution based on AntMaps
Distribution based on AntWeb specimens
Check data from AntWeb
In this short observation a single worker drags a yellow jacket (Vespula spp.) until a point close to the nest and then switches task. She leaves to recruit more workers as a scout. Until the first recruits arrive two workers tend the prey. The location of the prey must be close to the nest because a third worker join them 55 seconds after the scout leaves. Based on the time stamp of the unedited footage 1 minutes 44 seconds after the scout leaves the number of workers around the prey already reaches four.
The most striking event is the flood of recruits flooding into the scene entering from the upper right corner of the screen one by one. The worker numbers reached 26 before the prey is moved once again towards the nest. During this time four ants returned back to nest perhaps to recruit more workers. Scientist studying ants call this behavior “task allocation”. Learn more.
Deyrup (2016) - The following paragraph is summarized from Carroll (1975). In Florida, the nests of lamellidens are almost always in dead portions of living hardwood trees. There is some evidence that colonies may be founded in rotten logs on the ground, and these colonies either fail or relocate into standing live trees. In its range north of Florida, lamellidens colonies may be permanently in fallen logs, and may also be in standing pines, which do not seem to serve as nest sites in Florida. The shape and extensiveness of the nest depends on the preformed cavity in which it occurs. Old galleries of termites and other insects may be modified, and large holes or cracks to the outside may be sealed with wood chips, but lamellidens does not construct its own extensive galleries in sound wood. Foragers explore the trunk and large branches of the nest tree, and make expeditions to the surrounding ground, but do not forage on leaves and twigs. Workers collect arthropods, such as crickets, caterpillars, staphylinid beetles, small spiders, psocopterans, and chironomids, as well as flower petals and seeds. Alates were found in a colony in June. Mature colonies may contain more than 600 workers.
In a survey of the ants of Tennessee (Dennis 1938), lamellidens was the commonest Aphaenogaster found, except for Aphaenogaster fulva (the latter probably a combination of several species). It was collected in many forest types, up to a level of 2500 feet in the mountains, nesting in stumps and rotten logs. Dennis (1938) suggests that low temperatures restrict lamellidens to lower elevations. In North Carolina, Carter (1962) found lamellidens in hardwood, pine, and mixed forests, usually in mesic rather than xeric conditions. The species seemed to be more common in pine forests. Nests were in rotten wood, stumps, and standing dead trees. Large numbers of individuals could be found under loose bark. In Florida, I, like Carroll, have found lamellidens restricted to dead, often rotted out, portions of large, standing, live trees, always in mesic forests or edges of swamp forests. This regional difference in nest site may possibly reflect the history of Florida and adjacent areas of the Coastal Plain. During parts of the Pleistocene, the cliniate was much drier, and large trees and logs may have been confined to riverine corridors and bottomlands. Seasonal flooding could have precluded nesting in fallen logs, leaving the rotted out portions of standing trees as the only useable nest sites. As recently as two or three centuries ago, the uplands of Florida in their native state burned frequently, leaving open pine forest with little dead wood, as fallen dead trees were mostly consumed by fire. Swamp forests and floodplain forests would have been the primary refuges for lamellidens, with logs and stumps submerged or saturated during periods of high water.
Aphaenogaster lamellidens has a strong chemical repellent that is easily detected by the human nose and unpleasant to taste when specimens are aspirated from tree trunks.
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- lamellidens. Aphaenogaster lamellidens Mayr, 1886d: 444 (w.q.m.) U.S.A. Taber & Cokendolpher, 1988: 95 (k.). Combination in Stenamma (Aphaenogaster): Emery, 1895c: 302; in Aphaenogaster: Wheeler, W.M. 1913c: 114; in Aphaenogaster (Attomyrma): Emery, 1921f: 58. Senior synonym of nigripes: Creighton, 1950a: 144.
- nigripes. Aphaenogaster lamellidens var. nigripes Smith, M.R. 1923b: 308 (w.) U.S.A. Junior synonym of lamellidens: Creighton, 1950a: 144.
- Bolton, B. 1995b. A new general catalogue of the ants of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 504 pp. (page 70, catalogue)
- Creighton, W. S. 1950a. The ants of North America. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 104: 1-585 (page 144, Senior synonym of nigripes)
- DeMarco, B.B. 2015. Phylogeny of North American Aphaenogaster species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) reconstructed with morphological and DNA data. Ph.D. thesis, Michigan State University.
- Deyrup, M.A. 2016. Ants of Florida: Identification and Natural History. CRC Press, 423 pp.
- Emery, C. 1895d. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der nordamerikanischen Ameisenfauna. (Schluss). Zool. Jahrb. Abt. Syst. Geogr. Biol. Tiere 8: 257-360 (page 302, Combination in Stenamma (Aphaenogaster))
- Emery, C. 1921c. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Myrmicinae. [part]. Genera Insectorum 174A:1-94 94: 1-94 + 7 (page 58, Combination in Aphaenogaster (Attomyrma))
- Mayr, G. 1886d. Die Formiciden der Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 36: 419-464 (page 444, worker, queen, male described)
- Taber, S. W.; Cokendolpher, J. C. 1988. Karyotypes of a dozen ant species from the southwestern U.S.A. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Caryologia 41: 93-102 (page 95, karyotype described)
- Wheeler, W. M. 1913d. Ants collected in Georgia by Dr. J. C. Bradley and Mr. W. T. Davis. Psyche (Camb.) 20: 112-117 (page 114, Combination in Aphaenogaster)