Formica rufa

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Formica rufa
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Formicini
Genus: Formica
Species: F. rufa
Binomial name
Formica rufa
Linnaeus, 1761

Formica rufa casent0173862 profile 1.jpg

Formica rufa casent0173862 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

Subspecies
Synonyms

A common forest ant that makes large mound nests. Their conspicuous nests make this a well known and recognizable ant for anyone that has spent time in European lowland forests. Queens start new colonies by parasitizing nests of other ants.

At a Glance • Temporary parasite  • Facultatively polygynous  
 

Photo Gallery

  • Formica rufa worker with spider. Photo by Michal Kukla.

Identification

Bicoloured red and brownish black with variable degree of depth and size of dorsal dark patch on head and promesonotum. Eyes usually with a few microscopic hairs. Long erect hairs more or less abundant on gula, clypeus, dorsum of head, alitrunk, scale and gaster but never on scape nor on posterior border of occiput. Occasional to few suberect hairs on extensor surfaces of hind tibiae and femora. Frontal triangle reflecting light but often in part with micropunctures. Frons somewhat shining with widely spaced indistinct fine punctures and scattered coarse punctures: coarse and fine punctures widely spaced on disc of first gaster tergite. Funiculus segments two and three always less than twice as long as wide. Length: 4.5-9.0 mm (Collingwood 1979).

Distribution

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Palaearctic Region: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iberian Peninsula, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uzbekistan.

Check distribution from AntMaps.

Distribution based on specimens

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The above specimen data are provided by AntWeb. Please see Formica rufa for further details

Biology

Photo by Vladimir Zryanin

Collingwood (1979) - This is the common wood ant of most of lowland Europe building large hill nests of leaves and twigs. Nests may be isolated or in small groups, normally with many queens, up to 100 or more. Various estimates of numbers of workers in a populous nest range from 100,000 to 400,000. This is an aggressive acid squirting but somewhat clumsy species. Foraging trails radiating from a large nest may be up to 100 m or more usually orientated toward suitable aphid bearing trees. Prey is taken somewhat unselectively from both trees and forest floor with any insect, arthropod or earthworm taken back as food to the nest although the main diet as with all species of this group is aphid honey dew. These ants mass in tight clusters on the top of the mound in the early spring sunshine. The first queen laid eggs develop into alate sexuals which fly off the nest early in the summer from May until early July. New nests arise from colony splitting in the spring but occasionally single queens may secure adoption in nests of Formica fusca.

A monogynous form of F. rufa occurs in continental Europe and probably locally in Sweden but has never been found in England. This is the Formica rufa rufa of Gösswald (1941). Average worker size of this form is generally large and samples are usually conspicuously hairy. Many males from such isolated colonies in the Netherlands may have one or more coarse hairs protruding from the genae below the eyes and very occasionally queens may have very short sparse hairs on the basal face of the gaster but all such individuals have the widely spaced puncturation of true F. rufa and although workers may have a few hairs on the upper surface of the hind femora they never form a close fringe as in other species. This form has also sometimes been referred to as F. piniphila Schenck, 1852. Although generally monogynous, similar hairy specimens occur on the coastal dunes of the Netherlands in polygynous colonies.

Nesting Biology

Formica rufa nest. Nýrsko, Czech Republic

Rybnikova and Kuznetsov (2015) studied nest complexes of wood ants in the Darwin Nature Reserve (Rybinsk Reservoir basin, Vologda and Yaroslavl Provinces, Russia). Their work assessed, in part, how wild boars and seasonal flooding may influence the survival and viability of wood ant colonies.

A complex of raised and transitional sphagnum bogs is developed in the central part of the peninsula. The better drained areas near the shores are occupied by a strip of upland forests from 1 to 5 km wide, mostly represented by green moss, tall moss, and complex pine forests blending into sphagnum pine forests closer to the bogs. Small patches of lichen pine forests are present in the raised areas. The biotic complex of the reserve is affected by the water level fluctuations in the reservoir, due to which its vast shallow peripheral areas are annually flooded and exposed. However, the water level not only changes seasonally within one year but also varies from year to year, so that high-water and low-water years occur. The destruction of mature ant nests by boars leads to complete elimination of many colonies and stimulates fragmentation of the surviving colonies in spring. The results of exogenous fragmentation of the damaged nests include a decrease in the number of large nests, loss of their growth potentials, depopulation, and degradation. Regular and largescale destruction of ant nests by boars leads to rapid degradation and dying off of whole nest complexes (Dyachenko, 1999; Efremov, 2013).

Observations of the ants have been carried out since 1997. The parameters recorded were the number of inhabited nests in the complexes (n), the basal diameter of the nest dome (d), and the diameter of the nest mound (D).

The Northern complex (Formica rufa) has been observed since 1997, when it consisted of 15 nests. The greatest number of nests (19) was recorded in 2004. The complex is positioned to the north of the central base of the reserve, along the edge of a middle-aged herb birch forest. Since the beginning of the prolonged high-water period (2004), the nests of this complex were repeatedly destroyed by boars. The surviving ants often built two or three small domes in the place of a large destroyed nest. Only 12 nests remained in 2010, three of which were fragmented into small domes built on the common mound. Before 2004 the mean diameter of the dome base (d) in this complex was 146 ± 54 cm (2001; n = 14), whereas in 2010 it was only 96 ± 26 cm (n =16). The mean dome height (h) also decreased twofold, from 60 ± 15 cm in 2001 (n = 14) to 30 ± 13 cm in 2010 (n = 16). The weakened nests were overgrown with grass, which further decreased their viability. Presently, the complex does not include any strong, viable nests with distinctly conical domes. The nests are hemispherical or flat and overgrown, or fragmented into several small domes. The principal nest, which is more than 60 years old according to the long-term residents, is now strongly flattened and overgrown with grass.

Fungi

This species is a host for the ectoparastic fungi Aegeritella superficialis and Aegeritella tuberculata (Espadaler & Santamaria, 2012).

Castes

Queen

Nomenclature

The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • rufa. Formica rufa Linnaeus, 1761: 426 (q.m.) EUROPE. [Not Linnaeus, 1758: 580 (w.); see Yarrow, 1954b: 313; Yarrow, 1955a: 5.] Latreille, 1802c: 143 (w.q.m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1953c: 166 (l.). Senior synonym of apicalis: Roger, 1862c: 287; of dorsata: Stephens, 1829: 357; Nylander, 1846a: 902; of ferruginea: Emery, 1892b: 161; of gaullei: Yarrow, 1955a: 4; Bernard, 1967: 308; of major: Emery & Forel, 1879: 450; Yarrow, 1955a: 3; Dlussky, 1967a: 93; of meridionalis: Yarrow, 1955a: 4; Dlussky & Pisarski, 1971: 184; of piniphila: Mayr, 1855: 328; Yarrow, 1955a: 4; Betrem, 1960b: 76; of rufopratensis: Karavaiev, 1936: 240; Dlussky, 1967a: 93. Material of the unavailable names bondroiti, emeryi referred here by Yarrow, 1955a: 4; of major Gösswald by Dlussky, 1967a: 93. Current subspecies: nominal plus angusticeps, brevisetosa, constricta, obscurata, rufopratensoides, rufobrevisetosa, tshugunovi. See also: Wheeler, W.M. 1913f: 425; Donisthorpe, 1915d: 245; Yarrow, 1955a: 3; Dlussky, 1967a: 93; Kutter, 1977c: 273; Collingwood, 1979: 141; Douwes, 1979: 187; Douwes, 1981: 213; Pavan, 1981: 1; Gösswald, 1989: 16; Atanassov & Dlussky, 1992: 277; Czechowski & Douwes, 1996: 125.
  • ferruginea. Formica ferruginea Christ, 1791: 512, pl. 60, fig. 10 (w.) no locality. Junior synonym of rufa: Emery, 1892b: 161.
  • dorsata. Formica dorsata Panzer, 1798: no. 1651 (q.) AUSTRIA. Junior synonym of rufa: Stephens, 1829: 357; Nylander, 1846a: 902.
  • piniphila. Formica piniphila Schenck, 1852: 28 (w.q.m.) GERMANY. Junior synonym of rufa: Mayr, 1855: 328; Emery & Forel, 1879: 450; Dalla Torre, 1893: 208. Revived from synonymy as subspecies of rufa: Forel, 1915d: 57. Revived status as species: Bondroit, 1918: 57. Subspecies of rufa: Emery, 1925b: 253; Stitz, 1939: 338. Junior synonym of major: Betrem, 1953: 325; of rufa: Yarrow, 1955a: 4; Betrem, 1960b: 76; Dlussky, 1967a: 93; Bernard, 1967: 308; Kutter, 1977c: 273.
  • apicalis. Formica apicalis Smith, F. 1858b: 49 (q.) "South America"; locality in error. [Unresolved junior primary homonym of apicalis Latreille, 1802c: 204, above.] Junior synonym of rufa: Roger, 1862c: 287.
  • rufopratensis. Formica rufa var. rufopratensis Forel, 1874: 53 (w.q.) SWITZERLAND. Stitz, 1939: 338 (m.). Subspecies of pratensis: Dalla Torre, 1893: 205; of rufa: Emery, 1925b: 253; Karavaiev, 1927c: 282. Junior synonym of rufa: Karavaiev, 1936: 240; Dlussky, 1967a: 93.
  • meridionalis. Formica rufa var. meridionalis Nasonov, 1889: 17 (w.) RUSSIA. Subspecies of rufa: Ruzsky, 1905b: 330; Emery, 1909b: 186; Karavaiev, 1936: 244. Junior synonym of rufa: Yarrow, 1955a: 4; Dlussky & Pisarski, 1971: 184.
  • gaullei. Formica gaullei Bondroit, 1917a: 176, fig. 1 (w.) FRANCE. Subspecies of rufa: Emery, 1925b: 253; Stitz, 1939: 339; Röszler, 1950: 213. Junior synonym of rufa: Yarrow, 1955a: 4.

Type Material

  • Formica rufa: Lectotype (designated by Yarrow, 1954: 316), queen, Europe; (material described by Linnaeus, 1761).

Taxonomic Notes

The name Formica rufa was first proposed by Linnaeus in 1758 based on a worker from Europe. A few years later, in 1761, Linnaeus described what he thought were the queen and male of this same species. In fact, these specimens belong to separate species, the worker being conspecific with Camponotus herculeanus (Linnaeus, 1758) while the queen and male are true Formica.

Over the years, myrmecologists developed a concept for Formica rufa based on the queen and male without realising, understanding or appreciating (depending on the author) that the true type, the worker, was actually a Camponotus. This descrepancy could potentially cause significant nomenclatural problems as Formica rufa is the type species of the genus Formica, and if Formica rufa were to be transferred to Camponotus, as would be required based on the type material, then Formica and Camponotus would become synonyms and (as Formica is the older name) all Camponotus species would become Formica species. This situation was so unacceptable that most authors chose to ignore the problem.

Yarrow (1954, 1955) was one of the first to seriously consider this situation and propose a solution. He suggested that the Formica rufa of Linnaeus, 1758 be suppressed and replaced by the Formica rufa of Linnaeus, 1761. This followed the concept widely in use for Formica rufa, maintaining the status quo and causing essentially no disruption to ant nomenclature.

To formalise this suggestion, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature published Opinion 424. Technically, this Opinion validated under the Plenary Powers the specific name rufa Linnaeus, 1761, as published in the combination Formica rufa and designated under the same Powers the species so named to be the type species of the genus Formica Linnaeus, 1758 (class Insecta, order Hymenoptera). In other words, Formica rufa would now be based on Linnaeus (1761) rather than Linnaeus (1758). In addition, this Opinion suppressed the name Formica rufa Linnaeus, 1758, meaning that it could no longer be used for nomenclatural purposes. Essentially it sets aside the Linnaeus (1758) description and replaces it with that of Linnaeus (1761). This is an elegant solution to a potentially disruptive situation and has been widely accepted and followed since its publication.

Description

References

  • Atanassov, N.; Dlussky, G. M. 1992. Fauna of Bulgaria. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Fauna Bûlg. 22: 1-310 (page 277, see also)
  • Bernard, F. 1967a [1968]. Faune de l'Europe et du Bassin Méditerranéen. 3. Les fourmis (Hymenoptera Formicidae) d'Europe occidentale et septentrionale. Paris: Masson, 411 pp. (page 308, senior synonym of gaullei)
  • Betrem, J. G. 1960b. Ueber die Systematik der Formica rufa-gruppe. Tijdschr. Entomol. 103: 51-81 (page 76, senior synonym of piniphila)
  • Bolton, B. 1995b. A new general catalogue of the ants of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 504 pp. (page 202, catalogue)
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1979. The Formicidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomol. Scand. 8: 1-174 (page 141, see also)
  • Dlussky, G. M. 1967a. Ants of the genus Formica (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, g. Formica). Moskva: Nauka Publishing House, 236 pp. (page 93, senior synonym of major)
  • Dlussky, G. M. 1967a. Ants of the genus Formica (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, g. Formica). Moskva: Nauka Publishing House, 236 pp. (page 93, senior synonym of rufopratensis; material of the unavailable name major Gosswald referred here)
  • Dlussky, G. M.; Pisarski, B. 1971. Rewizja polskich gatunków mrówek (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) z rodzaju Formica L. Fragm. Faun. (Warsaw) 16: 145-224 (page 184, senior synonym of meridionalis)
  • Dekoninck, W., Maebe, K., Breyne, P., Frederik Hendrickx, F. (2014) Polygyny and strong genetic structuring within an isolated population of the wood ant Formica rufa. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 41: 95–111. doi: 10.3897/JHR.41.8191
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1915f. British ants, their life-history and classification. Plymouth: Brendon & Son Ltd., xv + 379 pp. (page 245, see also)
  • Douwes, P. 1979. Formica rufa-gruppens systematik. Entomol. Tidskr. 100: 187-191 (page 187, see also)
  • Douwes, P. 1981b. Intraspecific and interspecific variation in workers of the Formica rufa group (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Sweden. Entomol. Scand. Suppl. 15: 213-223 (page 213, see also)
  • Emery, C. 1892c [1891]. Note sinonimiche sulle formiche. Bull. Soc. Entomol. Ital. 23: 159-167 (page 161, senior synonym of ferruginea)
  • Emery, C.; Forel, A. 1879. Catalogue des Formicides d'Europe. Mitt. Schweiz. Entomol. Ges. 5: 441-481 (page 450, senior synonym of major)
  • Espadaler, X., Santamaria, S. 2012. Ecto- and Endoparasitic Fungi on Ants from the Holarctic Region. Psyche Article ID 168478, 10 pages (doi:10.1155/2012/168478).
  • Goropashnaya, Anna V.; Fedorov, Vadim B.; Pamilo, Pekka 2004. Recent speciation in the Formica rufa group ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae): inference from mitochondrial DNA phylogeny. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32(1): 198-206 (mtDNA sequence data)
  • Gösswald, K. 1989. Die Waldameise. Band 1. Biologische Grundlagen, Ökologie und Verhalten. Wiesbaden: AULA-Verlag, xi + 660 pp. (page 16, see also)
  • Hemming, F. 1956. Opinion 242. Opinions and Declarations Rendered by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, 14: 215-242.
  • Karavaiev, V. 1936. The fauna of the family Formicidae (ants) of the Ukraine. Part II (conclusion). Tr. Inst. Zool. Biol. Ukr. Akad. Nauk Ser. 1 Pr. Syst. Faun. 1936: 161-316 (page 240, senior synonym of rufopratensis)
  • Kutter, H. 1977c. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Insecta Helv. Fauna 6: 1-298 (page 273, see also)
  • Latreille, P. A. 1802b. Histoire naturelle générale et particulière des Crustacés et des insectes. Tome 3. Familles naturelles des genres. Paris: F. Dufart, xii + 467 pp. (page 143, worker, queen, male described)
  • Linnaeus, C. 1761. Fauna suecica sistens animalia Sueciae regni: Mammalia, Aves, Amphibia, Pisces, Insecta, Vermes. Editio altera, auctior. Stockholmiae [=Stockholm]: L. Salvii, 48 + 578 pp. (page 426, queen, male described)
  • Mayr, G. 1855. Formicina austriaca. Beschreibung der bisher im österreichischen Kaiserstaate aufgefundenen Ameisen, nebst Hinzufügung jener in Deutschland, in der Schweiz und in Italien vorkommenden Arten. Verh. Zool.-Bot. Ver. Wien 5: 273-478 (page 328, senior synonym of piniphila)
  • Nylander, W. 1846a. Adnotationes in monographiam formicarum borealium Europae. Acta Soc. Sci. Fenn. 2: 875-944 (page 902, senior synonym of dorsata)
  • Pavan, M. 1981. Utilità delle formiche del gruppo Formica rufa (2a edizione aggiornata). Collana Verde 57: 1-99 (page 1, see also)
  • Roger, J. 1862c. Synonymische Bemerkungen. 1. Ueber Formiciden. Berl. Entomol. Z. 6: 283-297 (page 287, senior synonym of apicalis)
  • Rybnikova, I. A. and A. V. Kuznetsov. 2015. Complexes of Formica s. str. nests in the Darwin Nature Reserve and causes of their degradation. Entomological Review. 95:947-952. doi:10.1134/s0013873815080023
  • Stephens, J. F. 1829b. A systematic catalogue of British insects: being an attempt to arrange all the hitherto discovered indigenous insects in accordance with their natural affinities. London: Baldwin & Cradock, xxxiv + 416 + 388 pp. (page 357, senior synonym of dorsata)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1953c. The ant larvae of the subfamily Formicinae. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 46: 126-171 (page 166, larva described)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1913i. A revision of the ants of the genus Formica (Linné) Mayr. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 53: 379-565 (page 425, see also)
  • Yarrow, I.H.H. 1954c. Application for the re-examination and re-phrasing of the decision taken by the International Commission regarding the name of the type species of Formica Linnaeus, 1758. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 9: 313-318. [30.xii.1954.] PDF
  • Yarrow, I. H. H. 1955a. The British ants allied to Formica rufa L. (Hym., Formicidae). Trans. Soc. Br. Entomol. 12: 1-48 PDF