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Temporal range: 48.6–0 Ma
Eocene – Recent
Lasius niger
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Lasiini
Genus: Lasius
Fabricius, 1804
Type species
Formica nigra
123 species
23 fossil species
(Species Checklist)

Lasius niger casent0005404 profile 1.jpg

Lasius niger

Lasius niger casent0005404 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

Evolutionary Relationships

  (2 genera)


  (13 species)

  (123 species)

  (30 species)

  (6 species)

  (42 species)

  (19 species)

  (135 species)

  (66 species)

  (8 species)

  (6 species)

  (9 genera)

  (8 genera)

Gesomyrmex, Oecophylla

  (9 genera)

Gigantiops, Myrmoteras, Santschiella

  (8 genera)

Based on Ward et al. (2016) and Matos-Maravi et al. (2018).

Lasius is one of the most prominent and familiar of the Holarctic ant genera. From the time of Reaumur in the eighteenth century (Wheeler, 1926), European and North American entomologists have focused attention on it in countless general biological and taxonomic investigations which are today part of the classical foundation of myrmecology. It is probably best known for its conspicuous nuptial flights, its habit of tending and transporting homopterous insects, and the temporary parasitic behavior of some of its species. It has also attracted much attention as one of the several ant genera which have persisted in Europe and North America since early Tertiary times with only a small amount of visible evolutionary change. (Wilson 1955)


The morphological distinctions between Lasuis and Acanthomyops have always been unambiguous but it has taken a recent molecular phylogenetic analysis (Janda et al. 2004) to settle whether or not these two groups represent two distinctive genera. The latter is well accepted today as a synonym of Lasius. It remains convenient for identification purposes to distinguish Acanthomyops as a distinctive species group within Lasius.

Nearctic species of Lasius with long maxillary palpi, those that were once thought to be distinctive from Acanthomyops, can be determined to species using this key by Wilson (1955) :

Wing (1968) provides the following in his revision of the Neartic Acanthomyops: Acanthomyops has short, 3-segmented maxillary palpi, while those of Lasius are 6-segmented and long. Another attribute of Acanthomyops that serves as a convenient diagnostic character for field collectors using a mouth-type aspirator is the presence of a characteristic odor produced by the mandibular glands of disturbed workers. This odor, a defense mechanism, is like that of oil of citronella or lemon verbena. As sensed by a collector with normal olfactory powers the odor is pronounced. A few species of Lasius possess a similar odor, but it is sensed, at most, as quite weak. Lasius umbratus probably has the strongest odor of any species of Lasius, yet it is decidedly weaker than that of all species of Acanthomyops I have collected.

There is also a somewhat outdated (1955) and restricted (no Nearctic Acanthomyops queens and males):

Keys including this Genus


Keys to Species in this Genus


Lasius occupies a purely Holarctic range. Northward it reaches northern Scandinavia, the Baikal region of Siberia, Kamchatka, southeastern Alaska, and southern Labrador. Southward it reaches Madeira, North Africa, northern Iraq, the southern Himalayas, the mountains of Formosa, the mountains of central Mexico, and northern Florida. Where it comes closest geographically to tropical faunas, as in southeastern Asia, it still retains its north-temperate character, i.e., limited to temperate vegetation at higher elevations and there associated chiefly with typically Holarctie ant genera. (Wilson 1955)

Distribution and Richness based on AntMaps


Within this range it is among the most abundant of all insect genera. In Europe the two species Lasius niger and Lasius flavus are often the overriding dominants of the ant fauna in local situations and under a variety of ecological conditions. In the eastern United States neoniger mounts such dense populations in open fields and lawns that W. M. Wheeler was once moved (1905) to suggest that it might be the most abundant insect in North America. Such a contention would probably be an exaggeration with respect to all insects, of course, yet there is no denying neoniger its importance as a major faunal influent within its range and favored habitat.

Lasius is also remarkable - perhaps unique - among animal groups thus far monographed, in its great abundance, ubiquity, and conspicuousness, and the consequent ease with which it can be found in the field. Anywhere in the northern United States, in practically all but desert and semidesert conditions, it is possible for an investigator to walk onto nearly any plot of ground and within a matter of minutes find nests of one or more species. (Wilson 1955)

Lasius 6057.jpg



Worker Morphology

 • Antennal segment count 12 • Antennal club absent-gradual • Palp formula 6,4 • Total dental count 6-10 (0-1) • Spur formula 1 simple, 1 simple; 0, 0 • Eyes present • Scrobes absent • Caste a few species weakly polymorphic • Sting absent


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

  • LASIUS [Formicinae: Lasiini]
    • Lasius Fabricius, 1804: 415. Type-species: Formica nigra, by subsequent designation of Bingham, 1903: 338.
    • [Lasius Jurine, 1801: 164 (Apidae), resurrected by Morice & Durrant, 1915: 421, suppressed by Act of Commission.]
    • Lasius junior synonym of Acanthomyops: Forel, 1916: 460; Donisthorpe, 1916c: 276; Morice & Durrant, 1917: 442. Donisthorpe, 1927b: 206; Donisthorpe, 1937b: 132; Donisthorpe, 1943f: 655; Donisthorpe, 1946g: 91.
    • Lasius junior synonym of Formicina: Emery, 1916a: 61; Bondroit, 1918: 19.
    • Lasius as genus: Wheeler, W.M. 1916k: 172; Emery, 1925b: 226; Wilson, 1955a: 11.
    • Lasius senior synonym of Donisthorpea: Wheeler, W.M. 1916k: 172; Emery, 1925b: 226; Wilson, 1955a: 11.
    • Lasius senior synonym of †Tylolasius: Hong, Wu & Ren, 2001: 348.
    • Subgenera of Lasius: nominal plus Acanthomyops, Austrolasius, Cautolasius, Chthonolasius, Dendrolasius.
  • DONISTHORPEA [junior synonym of Lasius]
    • Donisthorpea Morice & Durrant, 1915: 423. Type-species: Formica nigra, by original designation. [Unnecessary replacement name for Lasius Fabricius.]
    • Donisthorpea as genus: Donisthorpe, 1915d: 184.
    • Donisthorpea subgenus of Formicina: Emery, 1916a: 11; Emery, 1916b: 239.
    • Donisthorpea subgenus of Acanthomyops: Donisthorpe, 1927b: 229; Donisthorpe, 1946g: 91.
    • Donisthorpea junior synonym of Acanthomyops: Forel, 1916: 460; Morice & Durrant, 1917: 442; Donisthorpe, 1927b: 209.
    • Donisthorpea junior synonym of Lasius: Wheeler, W.M. 1916k: 172; Wilson, 1955a: 11.
    • [Lasius and Donisthorpea share the same type-species, synonymy is therefore absolute.]
  • TYLOLASIUS [junior synonym of Lasius]
    • Tylolasius Zhang, J. 1989: 295. Type-species: †Tylolasius inflatus, by original designation.
    • Tylolasius junior synonym of Lasius: Hong, Wu & Ren, 2001: 348.


  • Agosti, D. 1991. Revision of the oriental ant genus Cladomyrma, with an outline of the higher classification of the Formicinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Syst. Entomol. 16: 293-310 (page 296, Lasius in Formicinae, Lasius genus group)
  • Agosti, D.; Collingwood, C. A. 1987b. A provisional list of the Balkan ants (Hym. Formicidae) with a key to the worker caste. II. Key to the worker caste, including the European species without the Iberian. Mitt. Schweiz. Entomol. Ges. 60: 261-293 (page 281, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Arnol'di, K. V.; Dlussky, G. M. 1978. Superfam. Formicoidea. 1. Fam. Formicidae - ants. Pp. 519-556 in: Medvedev, G. S. (ed.) Keys to the insects of the European part of the USSR. Vol. 3. Hymenoptera. Part 1. Opredeliteli Faune SSSR 119:3-584. (page 555, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Ashmead, W. H. 1905c. A skeleton of a new arrangement of the families, subfamilies, tribes and genera of the ants, or the superfamily Formicoidea. Can. Entomol. 37: 381-384 (page 384, Lasius in Formicinae, Lasiini)
  • 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 350, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Bingham, C. T. 1903. The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Hymenoptera, Vol. II. Ants and Cuckoo-wasps. London: Taylor and Francis, 506 pp. (page 338, Type-species: Formica nigra, by subsequent designation)
  • Bolton, B. 1994. Identification guide to the ant genera of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 222 pp. (page 50, Lasius in Formicinae, Lasiini)
  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 97, Lasius as genus; in Formicinae, Lasiini)
  • Bondroit, J. 1918. Les fourmis de France et de Belgique. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Fr. 87: 1-174 (page 19, Lasius as junior synonym of Formicina)
  • Carpenter, F. M. 1930. The fossil ants of North America. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 70: 1-66 (page 58, Lasius in Formicinae, Formicini)
  • Chapman, J. W.; Capco, S. R. 1951. Check list of the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Asia. Monogr. Inst. Sci. Technol. Manila 1: 1-327 (page 201, Lasius in Formicinae, Formicini)
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1978. A provisional list of Iberian Formicidae with a key to the worker caste (Hym. Aculeata). EOS. Rev. Esp. Entomol. 52: 65-95 (page 89, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1979. The Formicidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomol. Scand. 8: 1-174 (page 92, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1982. Himalayan ants of the genus Lasius (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Syst. Entomol. 7: 283-296 (page 283, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 181, Lasius in Camponotinae)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1916e. Synonymy of some genera of ants. [concl.]. Entomol. Rec. J. Var. 28: 275-277 (page 276, Lasius as junior synonym of Acanthomyops)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1927c. British ants, their life history and classification (2nd edn.). London: G. Routledge and Sons, xvi + 436 pp. (page 206, Lasius as junior synonym of Acanthomyops)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1937c. Generic names, &c., of the British Formicidae. [part]. Entomol. Rec. J. Var. 49: 131-132 (page 132, Lasius as junior synonym of Acanthomyops)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1943g. A list of the type-species of the genera and subgenera of the Formicidae. [part]. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 11(10): 617-688 (page 655, Lasius in Formicinae, Acanthomyopsini; Lasius as junior synonym of Acanthomyops)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1946b. Formicidae, Stephens (1829). Entomol. Rec. J. Var. 58: 89-91 (page 91, Lasius as junior synonym of Acanthomyops)
  • Emery, C. 1895l. Die Gattung Dorylus Fab. und die systematische Eintheilung der Formiciden. Zool. Jahrb. Abt. Syst. Geogr. Biol. Tiere 8: 685-778 (page 772, Lasius in Camponotinae, Formicini)
  • Emery, C. 1916a [1915]. Fauna entomologica italiana. I. Hymenoptera.-Formicidae. Bull. Soc. Entomol. Ital. 47: 79-275 (page 239, Lasius as junior synonym of Formicina)
  • Emery, C. 1916b. Formiche d'Italia nuove o critiche. Rend. Sess. R. Accad. Sci. Ist. Bologna Cl. Sci. Fis. (n.s.) 20: 53-66 (page 61, Lasius as junior synonym of Formicina)
  • Emery, C. 1917a. Questions de nomenclature et synonymies relatives à quelques genres et espèces de Formicides (Hym.). Bull. Soc. Entomol. Fr. 1917: 94-97 (page 96, Lasius as junior synonym of Formicina)
  • Emery, C. 1925d. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Formicinae. Genera Insectorum 183: 1-302 (page 226, Lasius as genus and senior synonym of Donisthorpea; Lasius in Formicinae, Lasiini)
  • Emery, C.; Forel, A. 1879. Catalogue des Formicides d'Europe. Mitt. Schweiz. Entomol. Ges. 5: 441-481 (page 452, Lasius in Camponotinae [Camponotidae])
  • Fabricius, J. C. 1804. Systema Piezatorum secundum ordines, genera, species, adjectis synonymis, locis, observationibus, descriptionibus. Brunswick: C. Reichard, xiv + 15-439 + 30 pp. (page 415, Lasius as genus)
  • Forel, A. 1878c. Études myrmécologiques en 1878 (première partie) avec l'anatomie du gésier des fourmis. Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 15: 337-392 (page 374, Lasius in Camponotinae [Camponotidae])
  • Forel, A. 1886h. Études myrmécologiques en 1886. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 30: 131-215 (page 206, Lasius in Camponotinae, Camponotini [Camponotidae])
  • Forel, A. 1893b. Sur la classification de la famille des Formicides, avec remarques synonymiques. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 37: 161-167 (page 165, Lasius in Camponotinae, Formicini)
  • Forel, A. 1895b. A fauna das formigas do Brazil. Bol. Mus. Para. Hist. Nat. Ethnogr. 1: 89-139 (page 103, Lasius in Camponotinae, Formicini)
  • Forel, A. 1899h. Formicidae. [part]. Biol. Cent.-Am. Hym. 3: 105-136 (page 127, Lasius in Camponotinae, Formicini)
  • Forel, A. 1912j. Formicides néotropiques. Part VI. 5me sous-famille Camponotinae Forel. Mém. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 20: 59-92 (page 89, Lasius in Camponotinae, Formicini)
  • Forel, A. 1916. Fourmis du Congo et d'autres provenances récoltées par MM. Hermann Kohl, Luja, Mayné, etc. Rev. Suisse Zool. 24: 397-460 (page 460, Lasius as junior synonym of Acanthomyops)
  • Hong, Y.; Wu, J.; Ren, D. 2001. Emendation of Heteromyrmex Zhang, 1989 and Tylolasius Zhang, 1989 (Hymenoptera, Formicoidae [Formicidae]) from the Miocene Shanwang Basin, Shandong Province, China. Geol. Rev. (Beijing) 47: 345-349 (page 348, Lasius senior synonym of *Tylolasius)
  • Janda, M., D. Folková, and J. Zrzavý. 2004. Phylogeny of Lasius ants based on mitochondrial DNA and morphology, and the evolution of social parasitism in the Lasiini (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 33:595-614. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2004.07.012
  • Jurine, L. 1801. [Untitled.]. In: Panzer, G. W. F. Nachricht von einem neuen entomolischen [sic] Werke, des Hrn. Prof. Jurine in Geneve. Intelligenzbl. Litt.-Ztg. Erlangen 1:161-165. (page 164, Jurine's Lasius was an apid that Morice & Durrant, 1915: 421 proposed as a senior homonym of Lasius Fabricius; which left the Fabr. name in need of a replacement. However, the Jurine name was later suppressed by Act of Commission, leaving the Fabrician v)
  • Kupyanskaya, A. N. 1989. Ants of the subgenus Dendrolasius Ruzsky, 1912 (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, genus Lisius [sic] Fabricius, 1804) of the Far Eastern USSR. Entomol. Obozr. 68: 779-789 (page 779, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Kutter, H. 1977c. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Insecta Helv. Fauna 6: 1-298 (page 208, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Mayr, G. 1861. Die europäischen Formiciden. Nach der analytischen Methode bearbeitet. Wien: C. Gerolds Sohn, 80 pp. (page 49, Lasius in Formicinae [Formicidae])
  • Mayr, G. 1862. Myrmecologische Studien. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 12: 649-776 (page 652, Lasius in Formicinae (in key) [Formicidae])
  • Mayr, G. 1865. Formicidae. In: Reise der Österreichischen Fregatte "Novara" um die Erde in den Jahren 1857, 1858, 1859. Zoologischer Theil. Bd. II. Abt. 1. Wien: K. Gerold's Sohn, 119 pp. (page 8, Lasius in Formicinae [Formicidae])
  • Mayr, G. 1868c. Die Ameisen des baltischen Bernsteins. Beitr. Naturkd. Preuss. 1: 1-102 (page 42, Lasius in Formicinae [Formicidae])
  • Morice, F. D.; Durrant, J. H. 1917. Further notes on the "Jurinean" genera of Hymenoptera, correcting errors and omissions in a paper on that subject published in Trans. Ent. Soc. Lond. 1914, pp. 339-436. Trans. Entomol. Soc. Lond. 1916: 432-442 (page 442, Lasius as junior synonym of Acanthomyops)
  • Seifert, B. 1988a. A revision of the European species of the ant subgenus Chthonolasius (Insecta, Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Entomol. Abh. Staatl. Mus. Tierkd. Dres. 51: 143-180 (page 143, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Seifert, B. 1990. Supplementation to the revision of European species of the ant subgenus Chthonolasius Ruzsky, 1913 (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Doriana 6(2 271: 1-13 (page 1, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Seifert, B. 1992b. A taxonomic revision of the Palaearctic members of the ant subgenus Lasius s.str. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Abh. Ber. Naturkundemus. Görlitz 66(5): 1-67 (page 1, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Tarbinsky, Y. S. 1976. The ants of Kirghizia. Frunze: Ilim, 217 pp. (page 133, Revisionary studies with key)
  • Ward, P.S. 2005. A synoptic review of the ants of California (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 936: 1-68 (page 13, Acanthomyops status rev. returned to status as subgenus of Lasius)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1970b. Ant larvae of the subfamily Formicinae: second supplement. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 63: 648-656 (page 651, Lasius in Formicinae, Formicini)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1976b. Ant larvae: review and synthesis. Mem. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 7: 1-108 (page 101, Lasius in Formicinae, Formicini)
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  • Wheeler, W. M. 1916o. Questions of nomenclature connected with the ant genus Lasius and its subgenera. Psyche (Camb.) 23: 168-173 (page 170, 172, Lasius as genus and senior synonym of Donisthorpea; Lasius as junior synonym of Formicina)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1922i. Ants of the American Museum Congo expedition. A contribution to the myrmecology of Africa. VII. Keys to the genera and subgenera of ants. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 45: 631-710 (page 698, Lasius in Formicinae, Formicini)
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