Lasius murphyi

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Lasius murphyi
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Lasiini
Genus: Lasius
Species: L. murphyi
Binomial name
Lasius murphyi
Forel, 1901

Lasius-murphyi-MCZ001L.jpg

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Specimen Label

Lasius murphyi is a subterranean ant which nests under or next to rocks or logs in open woods or on the edges of woods. It is most common in sandy or fine loam soils (Ellison et al., 2012). It is a temporary social parasite of Lasius neoniger and is known to hybridize with Lasius latipes and Lasius subglaber in the field.

At a Glance • Temporary parasite  
 

Identification

Mackay and Mackay (2002) - The hairs on the ventral surface of the head of workers are relatively short (0.20 mm or less) and distributed over the entire surface. The hairs on the gaster are also short (0.22 mm or less) and are also scattered over the entire dorsal surface. The apex of the petiole is blunt (viewed in profile) and convex or straight as seen from the front (rarely slightly concave).

Ellison et al. (2012) - All species in the claviger group smell like citronella when disturbed or crushed. Lasius murphyi can be confused with Lasius latipes, which also has a blunt, rounded petiole, but L. murphyi has dense hairs on the propodeum and sparse hairs elsewhere on its body. The queens of L. murphyi have distinctive, heavily matted body hairs.

Keys including this Species

Distribution

Coast to coast in southern Canada and northern United States, with southern extensions to New Mexico in the Rocky Mountains and to Georgia in the Appalachians. It has been collected most frequently east of the Mississippi River, south to Georgia and the Carolinas. There are scattered records of it from Colorado, Utah, and northern Arizona. It has not yet been collected in New England, but it as the climate warms, look for it in pine barrens and sandy areas of southern new England (Ellison et al., 2012).

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: United States (type locality).

A dated view of Lasius murphyi occurrence records, Wing 1968.

Distribution based on AntMaps

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Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Biology

Wing (1968) – This species usually nests under or adjacent to stones in open woods or on their edges; it shows a preference for sandy soil. Nests occur at altitudes ranging from sea level to above 6000 feet, with most southern records occurring at the higher altitudes. In North Carolina, for example, 7 of the 9 collections were from mountains. I have no direct evidence that this species nests under wood or maintains regular mounds anywhere in its range. I found a small colony on the edge of an open pine woods at Siler City, North Carolina. The nest vas under a small stone well covered by pine needles. Its main chambers and galleries were about 2 inches below the surface of the soil, and did not extend outward for more than a few feet. The dominant Acanthomyops (= Lasius) species in this woods and along its edges was Lasius claviger. Although most nests are in open woods, often pines in the Southeast, occasional nests are found in the open, without covering objects. Carter (1962b) found 1 colony in western North Carolina under a stone on a grassy roadside bank. Wheeler and Wheeler (1963) reported 1 nest from open grasslands in North Dakota. Talbot (1963) studied 11 nests in southern Michigan; they were located both in open fields and fence rows, and among young trees and in mature open oak woods. She found that nests often covered sizable areas. One colony that used 15 covering stones, extended for at least 5 yards. Another nest had clusters of exits extending for at least 13 yards during the flight period, but no trace of openings could be seen after flights were over.

Alate dates The 21 dated samples with alates showed extreme dates of June 28 and September l8. The June date was for a sample with larval queens. Forel (1901) reported that the types were having their nuptial flight on July 16. It is doubtful if flights occur much before mid-July. Talbot (1963) noted that the date of first flights was variable, but her records indicate that most take place in late July and early August. Since the flight period of this species is usually brief, most flights are probably over by middle to late August. She noted, however, that one colony, which produced only males in 1961, was still making flights on August 23, with males still left in the nest. Another nest still contained males and females on September 2. As in other species, rains usually provided the stimulus for the opening of the nests by workers and the subsequent flights.

Mackay and Mackay (2002), for New Mexico: Habitat Open woodlands or at edges of deciduous woodland forests, ponderosa pine forests, especially in riparian habitats. Biology This species nests in sandy soils or fine loam under stones or logs. Reproductives were found in nests from June to September, dealate females were also found loose in August. Flights occur from mid July to early August. It is a social parasite of Lasius neoniger. It nests together with Tapinoma sessile and Formica argentea, and is a temporary social parasite of Lasius spp.

Fungi

This species is a host for the ectoparastic fungus Laboulbenia formicarum (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.

  • murphyi. Lasius (Acanthomyops) murphii Forel, 1901e: 367 (w.q.m.) U.S.A. [Justified emendation of spelling to murphyi: Wheeler, W.M. 1905f: 398.] Combination in Acanthomyops: Creighton, 1950a: 431; in Lasius: Ward, 2005: 13. See also: Wing, 1968: 113.

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.

Description

Worker

Wing 1968 Lasius murphyi

Wing (1968) – Numerous, short standing hairs covering very blunt petiolar scale and entire surface of the gula, and the very small eyes are sufficient to separate this species from all others except some specimens of Lasius latipes. Workers of murphyi have standing hairs of alitrunk concentrated largely on the propodeum, while latipes workers have pilosity more or less evenly distributed over alitrunk.

Standing body hairs numerous; pubescence moderate. Body and appendages shining, color ranging from yellow to brownish yellow.

Queen

Wing (1968) – Hair tufts unevenly distributed, matted, beard-like; petiolar scale large, blunt, densely pilose; antennal scapes slender, head deformed; SI near or above 80, FI 40 or less.

The matted body hairs are coarse and whitish to golden in appearance; those on the fore femora are strongly reflexed, or looped, and not tightly matted to surface. Gaster with few or no standing hairs, moderately to densely pubescent. Body and appendages more or less dull, yellowish-brown. Forewings brownish basally, lighter apically.

Male

Wing (1968) – Petiolar scale blunt, gula with a few s tanding hairs usually restricted to its posterior 2/3, antennal scapes slender, with appressed pubescence; body pilosity moderate to sparse.

Pubescence moderate; cuticle finely sculptured, feebly shining. Body color dark brown, appendages lighter. Infuscation of forewings as in queens.

Hybrids

Wing (1968) discovered and described numerous hybrid forms of this species.

murphyi × Lasius latipes hybrid

Wing 1968 murphyi × latipes hybrid

Five samples from three states: Colorado, Idaho, Iowa.

Worker

Bears a close resemblance to latipes, from which it is not now separable.

Body pilosity more dense than that of most latipes workers, otherwise no consistent differences have been noted.

Queen

Similar to latipes, but differing as follows: Standing body hairs unevenly distributed, bent, tangled, and twisted, but not matted to surface. Crest of petiolar scale more pilose. Gula with most hairs appressed. Antennal scapes and funiculi less clavate. Genual plates of fore femora less pronounced. Fore femora with hairs suberect to erect and mostly flexed, those on other femora fewer in number, mostly appressed to decumbent, and straight. SI over 70. FI 51 or less.

Pubescence on dorsum of gaster dense to moderately dense, elsewhere on body and appendages dilute to moderate. Color brown to yellowish brown.

Male

A typical murphyi male associated with the Idaho collection indicates that this hybrid was produced by the cross, murphyi female × latipes male.

murphyi × Lasius subglaber hybrid

Wing 1968 murphyi × subglaber hybrid

This taxon is known from only 2 collections made by R. Sanwald in Suffolk Co., Long Island, New York : Medford, August 1961, and N. E. Patchogue, September 1960, in moist open woods.

Worker

Resembles a small latipes specimen with standing body hairs fewer and shorter. Pubescence on antennal scapes predominantly suberect. Eyes very small. CI 96 or more.

Crest of petiolar scale often with a median notch. Pubescence dilute to moderate, denser on front of head than on dorsum of gaster. Color yellow to pale brownish yellow.

Queen

Somewhat similar in form and size to larger subglaber specimens. Body pilosity coarse, often with tips blunt, unevenly distributed in a pattern suggesting murphyi. Pilosity on gula appressed to suberect ; on propodeum tangled and flexed. Scale densely pilose, with crest blunt and sometimes with a median notch. Antennal scapes moderately clavate, covered with suberect and decumbent pubescence. Head somewhat deformed. SI 71-74, CI 94-96.

Pubescence dilute to moderate. Color yellowish brown.

Male

Unknown.

Type Material

Wing (1968) – Type locality: Morganton, Burke Co., North Carolina. Location of types: Syntypes in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, American Museum of Natural History, and Forel Collection, Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, Geneva.

References

  • Cover, S.P.; Sanwald, R. (1988) Colony Founding in Acanthomyops murphyi, a Temporary Social Parasite of Lasius neoniger. Advances in Myrmecology by James Trager, 405-417
  • Creighton, W. S. 1950a. The ants of North America. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 104: 1-585 (page 431, Combination in Acanthomyops)
  • Ellison, A.M., Gotelli, N.J., Farnsworht, E.J., Alpert, G.D. 2012. A Field Guide to the Ants of New England. Yale University Press, 256 pp.
  • 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).
  • Forel, A. 1901j. Variétés myrmécologiques. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 45: 334-382 (page 367, worker, queen, male described)
  • Mackay, W. P. and E. Mackay. 2002. The ants of New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, NY.
  • Ward, P.S. 2005. A synoptic review of the ants of California (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 936: 1-68 (page 13, revived combination in Lasius (Acanthomyops))
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1905j. An annotated list of the ants of New Jersey. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 21: 371-403 (page 398, Justified emendation of spelling to murphyi)
  • Wing, M. W. 1968a. Taxonomic revision of the Nearctic genus Acanthomyops (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Mem. Cornell Univ. Agric. Exp. Stn. 405: 1-173 (page 113, see also)