Formica fusca

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Formica fusca
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Formicini
Genus: Formica
Species: F. fusca
Binomial name
Formica fusca
Linnaeus, 1758



Specimen Label


In Korea this species is common in mountainous highlands of more than 1000 meters (Dong & Kim, 2019).

At a Glance • Polygynous  




Black, legs brownish. Gula, occiput, mid femora and promesonotum without standing hairs - occasionally one or two weak pronotal hairs. Pubescent hairs on gaster longer than their interspace width. Frons with fine microsculpture. Length: 4.5-7.0 mm.

Mackay and Mackay (2002) - Metasternal lobe is absent or very poorly developed and usually has erect hairs around the metasternal cavity. It is concolorous black with abundant appressed pilosity. The underside of the head has no erect hairs, and the first tergite of the gaster (excluding the posterior edge) has only about 4 course, erect hairs.

Keys including this Species



Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: Canada.
Oriental Region: India, Nepal.
Palaearctic Region: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Channel Islands, China, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iberian Peninsula, Isle of Man, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb



Formica fusca collect honeydew. Novgorodova (2015b) investigated ant-aphid interactions of a dozen honeydew collecting ant species in Western Siberia pine and aspen-birch-pine forests (54°7´N, 83°06´E, 200 m, Novosibirsk) and mixed-grass-cereal steppes with aspen-birch groves (53°44´N, 78°02´E, 110 m, near Karasuk) in the Novosibirsk Region and coniferous forests in the northeastern Altai (north end of Lake Teletskoe, 51°48´N, 87°17´E, 434 m). All of the ants studied had workers that showed high fidelity to attending particular aphid colonies, i.e, individual foragers that collect honeydew tend to return to the same location, and group of aphids, every time they leave the nest. F. fusca showed no specialization beyond this foraging site fidelity. F. fusca tended Symydobius oblongus (Heyden), Chaitophorus populeti (Panzer) and Aphis craccivora Koch.

Regional Notes


This is the common black ant of Europe. It nests variously in banks, under stones and in tree stumps along hedgerows and woodland borders. Workers are timid, fast moving and forage singly, predating small insects but also feeding on extra floral nectaries and on aphid honeydew. Colonies are usually small with up to 500 workers and one or a few queens present. Alatae are developed in June and July and fly off the nests in July and early August (Collingwood 1979).

Associations with other Organisms

Other Insects

Host for the slave-making ants:

Host for the temporary parasites:

This species is a host for the eucharitid wasp Eucharis esakii (a parasite) (Universal Chalcidoidea Database) (primary host).

This species is a host for the eulophid wasp Melittobia acasta (a parasite) (Universal Chalcidoidea Database) (primary host).

This species is a mutualist for the butterfly Glaucopsyche alexis (Obregon et al. 2015).


This ant is a host for the fungi Ophiocordyceps myrmecophila, Aegeritella superficialis and Aegeritella tuberculata (Espadaler & Santamaria, 2012).


This species is a host for the nematode Comanimermis clujensis (a parasite) (Coman, 1953).

Life History Traits

  • Mean colony size: 500 (Wallis, 1964; Moglich & Holldobler, 1975; Beckers et al., 1989)
  • Foraging behaviour: mass recruiter (Wallis, 1964; Moglich & Holldobler, 1975; Beckers et al., 1989)


Queens of different fecundity levels differed in their Cuticular Hydrocarbons profiles. This was associated with worker behaviour; the higher a queen’s fecundity, the more attention she received from workers (Hannonen et al. 2002).





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

  • fusca. Formica fusca Linnaeus, 1758: 580 (w.) EUROPE.
    • Latreille, 1802c: 159 (q.m.)
    • Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1953c: 164 (l.).
    • Combination in F. (Serviformica): Forel, 1913i: 361.
    • Senior synonym of barbata: Emery & Forel, 1879: 451; of flavipes, libera: Latreille, 1802c: 159; Smith, F. 1851: 3; Roger, 1863b: 13; of pallipes, rufipes: Dlussky, 1967a: 58; of tristis: Emery, 1892b: 162; of glebaria: Mayr, 1855: 346; Yarrow, 1954a: 230; Dlussky, 1967a: 58; Radchenko, 2007: 35.
    • Current subspecies: nominal plus alpicola, fuscolemani, hyrcana, maura, tombeuri.
    • See also: Emery, 1893i: 657; Wheeler, W.M. 1913f: 494; Donisthorpe, 1915d: 304; Stitz, 1939: 348; Dlussky, 1967a: 58; Dlussky & Pisarski, 1971: 148; Francoeur, 1973: 189; Tarbinsky, 1976: 180; Collingwood, 1979: 120; Kupyanskaya, 1990: 183; Atanassov & Dlussky, 1992: 260; Seppä, et al. 2011: 31.
    • Status as species: Schar et al., 2018: 6.
  • libera. Formica libera Scopoli, 1763: 313 (w.) AUSTRIA. Junior synonym of fusca: Latreille, 1802a: 159.
  • flavipes. Formica flavipes Geoffroy, in Fourcroy, 1785: 452 (m.) FRANCE. Junior synonym of fusca: Latreille, 1802c: 161.
  • barbata. Formica barbata Razoumowski, 1789: 225, fig. 12 (w.) SWITZERLAND. Junior synonym of fusca: Emery & Forel, 1879: 451.
  • tristis. Formica tristis Christ, 1791: 513, pl. 60, fig. 13 (m.) no locality given. Junior synonym of fusca: Emery, 1892b: 162.
  • glebaria. Formica glebaria Nylander, 1846a: 917, pl. 18, fig. 23 (w.q.) FINLAND. Foerster, 1850a: 31 (m.). Combination in F. (Serviformica): Forel, 1915d: 63. Subspecies of fusca: Emery & Forel, 1879: 451; Wheeler, W.M. 1908g: 408; Emery, 1909b: 196; Ruzsky, 1914b: 104; Forel, 1915d: 63; Emery, 1916b: 254; Santschi, 1925g: 353; Karavaiev, 1927c: 286; Stitz, 1939: 353; Novak & Sadil, 1941: 108; of rufibarbis: Karavaiev, 1936: 237. Status as species: Bondroit, 1918: 49; Müller, 1923: 139; Boven, 1947: 188. Junior synonym of cunicularia: Bernard, 1967: 296; Boven, 1977: 164; Agosti & Collingwood, 1987a: 59; of fusca: Mayr, 1855: 346; Yarrow, 1954a: 230; Dlussky, 1967a: 58; Radchenko, 2007: 35.
  • pallipes. Formica fusca var. pallipes Kuznetsov-Ugamsky, 1926b: 97 (w.) KAZAKHSTAN. [Unresolved junior primary homonym of pallipes Latreille, above.] Junior synonym of fusca: Dlussky, 1967a: 58; Tarbinsky, 1976: 180.
  • rufipes. Formica fusca var. rufipes Stitz, 1930: 238 (w.q.) RUSSIA. [Unresolved junior primary homonym of rufipes Fabricius, 1775: 391, above.] Junior synonym of fusca: Dlussky, 1967a: 58.

Taxonomic Notes

Dong & Kim (2019): This species was previously known as Formica lemani in Korea but we treated this species as a misidentication of Formica fusca by the following characteristics: 1. No more than 6 erect hairs (Radchenko, 2005) on the pronotum of worker. 2. Workers with less than 3 hairs in mid femur. However, according to Dlussky and Pisarski (1971), there are some variable individuals without any setae on the pronotum, which requires close examination. Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.


Francoeur 1973. Figures 326-341.


  • n = 27, 2n = 54 (Germany; Japan; Switerland) (Imai, 1969 ; Hauschteck-Jungen & Jungen, 1976).


  • Atanassov, N.; Dlussky, G. M. 1992. Fauna of Bulgaria. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Fauna Bûlg. 22: 1-310.
  • Beckers R., Goss, S., Deneubourg, J.L., Pasteels, J.M. 1989. Colony size, communication and ant foraging Strategy. Psyche 96: 239-256 (doi:10.1155/1989/94279).
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1979. The Formicidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomol. Scand. 8: 1-174.
  • Coman, D. 1953. Mermithide freatice in fauna Republich Populare Romane. Academia Republicii Populare Romıne, Studii si Cercetari stiint, Serii, vol. 2, 123–152.
  • Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 193, senior synonym of chevrolatii)
  • Dlussky, G. M. 1967a. Ants of the genus Formica (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, g. Formica). Moskva: Nauka Publishing House, 236 pp. (page 58, senior synonym of pallipes and rufipes)
  • Dlussky, G. M.; Pisarski, B. 1971. Rewizja polskich gatunków mrówek (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) z rodzaju Formica L. Fragm. Faun. (Warsaw) 16: 145-224 (page 148, see also)
  • Dong, M.-S., Kim, S.-K. 2019. Morphological comparison of the male genitalia of Formica fusca group (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Korea (doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.20086.34887).
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1915f. British ants, their life-history and classification. Plymouth: Brendon & Son Ltd., xv + 379 pp. (page 304, see also)
  • Emery, C. 1892c [1891]. Note sinonimiche sulle formiche. Bull. Soc. Entomol. Ital. 23: 159-167 (page 162, senior synonym of tristis)
  • Emery, C.; Forel, A. 1879. Catalogue des Formicides d'Europe. Mitt. Schweiz. Entomol. Ges. 5: 441-481 (page 451, senior synonym of barbata)
  • 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. 1913j. Notes sur quelques Formica. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 57: 360-361 (page 361, combination in F. (Serviformica))
  • Francoeur, A. 1973. Révision taxonomique des espèces néarctiques du groupe fusca, genre Formica (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). Mém. Soc. Entomol. Qué. 3: 1-316 (page 189, senior synonym of marcida)
  • Hannonen, M., Sledge, M.F., Turillazzi, S., Sundstrom, L., 2002. Queen reproduction, chemical signalling and worker behaviour in polygyne colonies of the ant Formica fusca. Animal Behaviour 64, 477–485.
  • Helantera, H., Martin, S.J., Ratnieks, F.L.W. 2014. Recognition of nestmate eggs in the ant Formica fusca is based on queen derived cues. Current Zoology 60: 131-136 (doi:10.1093/czoolo/60.1.131).
  • Helantera, H., Sundstrom, L. 2005. Worker reproduction in the ant Formica fusca. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 18: 162-171 (doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2004.00777.x).
  • Higgins, R. J. and B. S. Lindgren. 2015. Seral changes in ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) assemblages in the sub-boreal forests of British Columbia. Insect Conservation and Diversity. 8:337-347. doi:10.1111/icad.12112
  • Jensen T.F. & I. Holm-Jensen 1980. Energetic cost of running in workers of three ant species, Formica fusca L., Formica rufa L., and Camponotus herculeanus L. (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Journal of Comparative Physiology B 137, 151-156.
  • Kupyanskaya, A. N. 1990a. Ants of the Far Eastern USSR. Vladivostok: Akademiya Nauk SSSR, 258 pp. (page 183, 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 159, queen, male described, senior synonym of flavipes and libera)
  • Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Holmiae [= Stockholm]: L. Salvii, 824 pp. (page 580, worker described)
  • Mackay, W. P. and E. Mackay. 2002. The ants of New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, NY.
  • Novgorodova, T. A. 2015b. Organization of honeydew collection by foragers of different species of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): Effect of colony size and species specificity. European Journal of Entomology. 112:688-697. doi:10.14411/eje.2015.077
  • Obregon, R., M. R. Shaw, J. Fernandez-Haeger, and D. Jordano. 2015. Parasitoid and ant interactions of some Iberian butterflies (Insecta: Lepidoptera). Shilap-Revista De Lepidopterologia. 43:439-454.
  • Roger, J. 1863b. Verzeichniss der Formiciden-Gattungen und Arten. Berl. Entomol. Z. 7(B Beilage: 1-65 (page 13, senior synonym of flavipes and libera)
  • Schar, S., Talavera, G., Espadaler, X., Rana, J.D., Andersen, A.A., Cover, S.P., Vila, R. 2018. Do Holarctic ant species exist? Trans-Beringian dispersal and homoplasy in the Formicidae. Journal of Biogeography 2018:1–12 (doi:10.1111/jbi.13380).
  • Shrestha B, Tanaka E, Hyun MW, Han JG, Kim CS, Jo JW, Han SK, Oh J, Sung JM, Sung GH. 2017. Mycosphere Essay 19. Cordyceps species parasitizing hymenopteran and hemipteran insects. Mycosphere 8(9): 1424–1442 (DOI 10.5943/mycosphere/8/9/8).
  • Smith, F. 1851. List of the specimens of British animals in the collection of the British Museum. Part VI. Hymenoptera, Aculeata. London: British Museum, 134 pp. (page 3, senior synonym of flavipes and libera)
  • Stitz, H. 1939. Die Tierwelt Deutschlands und der angrenzenden Meersteile nach ihren Merkmalen und nach ihrer Lebensweise. 37. Theil. Hautflüger oder Hymenoptera. I: Ameisen oder Formicidae. Jena: G. Fischer, 428 pp.
  • Tarbinsky, Y. S. 1976. The ants of Kirghizia. Frunze: Ilim, 217 pp.
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1953c. The ant larvae of the subfamily Formicinae. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 46: 126-171 (page 164, larva described)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1913i. A revision of the ants of the genus Formica (Linné) Mayr. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 53: 379-565