Formica sanguinea

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Formica sanguinea
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Formicini
Genus: Formica
Species: F. sanguinea
Binomial name
Formica sanguinea
Latreille, 1798

Formica sanguinea casent0173153 profile 1.jpg

Formica sanguinea casent0173153 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels

Evolutionary Relationships

Proformica longiseta

Polyergus rufescens

Polyergus samurai

Iberoformica subrufa

Formica cunicularia

Formica gerardi

Formica frontalis

Formica sanguinea

Based on Gomez, Lorite, P. et al. 2018. Note that this study was restricted to species near Formica gerardi.

Formica sanguinea is a slave-maker of many ants from the subgenus Serviformica. It uses two strategies to exploit its Serviformica hosts. The newly mated F. sanguinea queens usurp Serviformica nests and kill the resident Serviformica queens, thereby avoiding the costs of independent nest founding. Formica sanguinea workers from established colonies are also capable of raiding worker pupae from nearby Serviformica nests. This raiding can provide food and new Serviformica workers. After eclosion these slaves behave as regular members of the society, performing normal worker tasks and taking care of the slave-maker brood. Since F. sanguinea is a facultative social parasite, the workers are capable of nursing broods also independently and slaves are not found in all colonies. Queens may also start new colonies by fission. In Russia it is most common in dry pine forests and forest margins where large nests are constructed of plant material or soil (Haapaniemi and Pamilo 2015, Zryanin and Zryanina 2007).

At a Glance • Dulotic  • Polygynous  


Photo Gallery

  • Formica sanguinea worker. Photo by Michal Kukla[1].
  • Formica sanguinea' queen with (possibly) phoretic mites. Photo by Michal Kukla.


Mesosoma and front of head bright red; gaster and ocellar region of head brownish black. Proportion of dark to red varies from north to south with some arctic samples having proponderantly dark heads and dusky red mesosoma contrasting with southern samples which may have whole body excluding gaster bright red. Frontal triangle dull; eyes without hairs. Clypeus with median anterior notch variable in size and shape but always present. Head and mandibles broad relative to alitrunk and gaster. Length: 6.0-9.0 mm (Collingwood 1979).


Throughout Eurasia from Portugal to Japan and Iran to Arctic Norway (Collingwood 1979).

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Oriental Region: India.
Palaearctic Region: Afghanistan, Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Balearic Islands, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France (type locality), Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iberian Peninsula, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, 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


Collingwood (1979) - This is the well known aggressive red slave-making ant raiding nests of any species in its neighbourhood during the summer and removing pupae of the Formica fusca group of species for rearing in the parent nest as auxiliaries and also as food. All Fennoscandian species of the F. fusca group have been found in mixed colonies with F. sanguinea including Formica rufibarbis, Formica cinerea, Formica gagatoides and Formica transkaucasica as well as the more frequent Formica fusca or Formica lemani. F. sanguinea tends to avoid in-fighting but overwhelms other species by abrupt aggressive movements. Nests are situated under stones or in tree stumps with a small accumulation of leaf litter. It is often a dominant species in cleared woodland and in some localities all other Formica species have been eliminated and in such cases only pure F. sanguinea colonies are to be found, usually with a high proportion of small workers to act as nurses. Colonies spread by nest splitting and also by individual queens entering nests of the auxiliary species and appropriating a part of the brood, the host queen or queens being subsequently destroyed. Alatae are developed in July pairing often occurring in the vicinity of the nest.

Haapaniemi and Pamilo (2015) found workers of Formica fusca, Formica lemani, Formica gagatoides and Formica picea in the nests of Formica sanguinea they studied in Finland.

Associations with other Organisms

Ant Hosts

Other Insects


  • This species is a host for the bacterium Wolbachia (Haapaniemi and Pamilo, 2015) (51% infection frequency).
  • This species is a host for the bacterium Spiroplasma (Haapaniemi and Pamilo, 2015) (80% infection frequency).
  • This species is a host for the bacterium Entomoplasma (Haapaniemi and Pamilo, 2015) (~20% infection frequency).


  • This taxon is a host for the fungi

Ophiocordyceps myrmecophila (Shrestha et al., 2017) and Aegeritella superficialis (Espadaler & Santamaria, 2012).




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

  • sanguinea. Formica sanguinea Latreille, 1798: 37 (w.) FRANCE. Jurine, 1807: 272 (q.m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1953c: 169 (l.); Imai, 1966: 119 (k.). Combination in F. (Raptiformica): Forel, 1913i: 361. Senior synonym of dominula: Smith, F. 1851: 115; Schenck, 1852: 36; Mayr, 1855: 337; Radchenko, 2007: 37; of arenicola, borea, clarior, fusciceps, griseopubescens, leninei, mollesonae, monticola, rotundata, strennua, tristis: Dlussky, 1965a: 16; of flavorubra: Dlussky, 1967a: 97; Collingwood, 1978: 74. Material of the unavailable name minuta referred here by Dlussky, 1965a: 16. See also: Wheeler, W.M. 1913f: 401; Donisthorpe, 1915d: 280; Stitz, 1939: 316; Dlussky, 1967a: 97; Tarbinsky, 1976: 186; Kutter, 1977c: 289; Collingwood, 1979: 137; Kupyanskaya, 1990: 191; Atanassov & Dlussky, 1992: 280.
  • dominula. Formica dominula Nylander, 1846a: 905, pl. 18, fig. 15 (w.q.m.) FINLAND. Junior synonym of sanguinea: Smith, F. 1851: 115; Schenck, 1852: 36; Mayr, 1855: 337; Radchenko, 2007: 37.
  • fusciceps. Formica sanguinea var. fusciceps Emery, 1895c: 335 (footnote) (w.) JAPAN. Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1965a: 16.
  • mollesonae. Formica sanguinea var. mollesonae Ruzsky, 1903c: 206 (w.) RUSSIA. Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1965a: 16.
  • clarior. Formica (Raptiformica) sanguinea var. clarior Ruzsky, 1905b: 420 (w.) CAUCASUS. Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1965a: 16.
  • flavorubra. Formica sanguinea var. flavorubra Forel, 1909c: 105 (w.) SPAIN. Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1967a: 97; Collingwood, 1978: 74.
  • borea. Formica (Raptiformica) sanguinea var. borea Santschi, 1925g: 351 (w.m.) FINLAND. Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1965a: 16.
  • strennua. Formica (Raptiformica) sanguinea var. strennua Santschi, 1925g: 352 (w.) SPAIN. [Unresolved junior primary homonym of strenua Haliday, above.] Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1965a: 16.
  • griseopubescens. Formica sanguinea var. griseopubescens Kuznetsov-Ugamsky, 1926b: 95 (w.) KAZAKHSTAN. Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1965a: 16.
  • monticola. Formica sanguinea subsp. monticola Kuznetsov-Ugamsky, 1926b: 95, figs. 3, 4 (w.) KAZAKHSTAN. [Unresolved junior primary homonym of monticola Buckley, 1866: 157, above.] Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1965a: 16.
  • rotundata. Formica sanguinea var. rotundata Kuznetsov-Ugamsky, 1926b: 95, fig. 2 (w.) KAZAKHSTAN. Raised to species: Dlussky, 1962: 182. Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1965a: 16.
  • clara. Formica (Raptiformica) sanguinea var. clara Karavaiev, 1927d: 345 (w.) UKRAINE. [Junior primary homonym of clara Forel, 1886f: 206.] Replacement name: leninei Santschi, 1928b: 46.
  • arenicola. Formica sanguinea subsp. arenicola Kuznetsov-Ugamsky, 1928b: 15 (w.) RUSSIA. [Unresolved junior primary homonym of arenicola Buckley, above.] Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1965a: 16.
  • leninei. Formica (Raptiformica) sanguinea var. leninei Santschi, 1928b: 46. Replacement name for clara Karavaiev, 1927d: 345. [Junior primary homonym of clara Forel, 1886f: 206.] Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1965a: 16.
  • tristis. Formica (Raptiformica) sanguinea var. tristis Karavaiev, 1929b: 217 (w.) RUSSIA. [Unresolved junior primary homonym of tristis Christ, above.] Junior synonym of sanguinea: Dlussky, 1965a: 16.



  • n = 26, 2n = 52 (Japan; Switzerland) (Imai & Yosida, 1964; Imai, 1966; Imai, 1969; Hauschteck-Jungen & Jungen, 1976).


  • Atanassov, N.; Dlussky, G. M. 1992. Fauna of Bulgaria. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Fauna Bûlg. 22: 1-310 (page 280, see also)
  • Billen, J. 1982. The Dufour gland closing apparatus in Formica sanguinea Latreille (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Zoomorphology 99: 235–244 (doi:10.1007/BF00312297).
  • Borowiec, L. & Salata, S. 2013. Ants of Greece – additions and corrections (Hymenoptera Formicidae). Genus (Wroclaw) 24, 335-401.
  • Buschinger, A. 2009. Social parasitism among ants: a review (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 12: 219-235.
  • 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 74, senior synonym of flavorubra)
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1979. The Formicidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomol. Scand. 8: 1-174 (page 137, see also)
  • Dlussky, G. M. 1965a. Ants of the genus Formica L. of Mongolia and northeast Tibet (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Ann. Zool. (Warsaw) 23: 15-43 (page 16, senior synonym of arenicola, borea, clarior, fusciceps, griseopubescens, leninei, mollesonae, monticola, rotundata, strennua and tristis)
  • Dlussky, G. M. 1965a. Ants of the genus Formica L. of Mongolia and northeast Tibet (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Ann. Zool. (Warsaw) 23: 15-43 (page 16, material of the unavailable name minuta referred here)
  • Dlussky, G. M. 1967a. Ants of the genus Formica (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, g. Formica). Moskva: Nauka Publishing House, 236 pp. (page 97, senior synonym of flavorubra)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1915f. British ants, their life-history and classification. Plymouth: Brendon & Son Ltd., xv + 379 pp. (page 280, see also)
  • 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. (Raptiformica))
  • Haapaniemi, K. and P. Pamilo. 2015. Social parasitism and transfer of symbiotic bacteria in ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News. 21:49-57.
  • Imai, H. T. 1966b. The chromosome observation techniques of ants and the chromosomes of Formicinae and Myrmicinae. Acta Hymenopterol. 2: 119-131 (page 119, karyotype described)
  • Jurine, L. 1807. Nouvelle méthode de classer les Hyménoptères et les Diptères. Hyménoptères. Vol. 1. Genève: Paschoud, 319 pp. (page 272, queen, male described)
  • Kupyanskaya, A. N. 1990a. Ants of the Far Eastern USSR. Vladivostok: Akademiya Nauk SSSR, 258 pp. (page 191, see also)
  • Kutter, H. 1977c. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Insecta Helv. Fauna 6: 1-298 (page 289, see also)
  • Latreille, P. A. 1798. Essai sur l'histoire des fourmis de la France. Brive: F. Bourdeaux, 50 pp. (page 37, worker 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 337, senior synonym of dominula)
  • Mori, A., Grasso, D.A., Visicchio, R., Le Moli, F. 2001. Comparison of reproductive strategies and raiding behaviour in facultative and obligatory slave-making ants the case of Formica sanguinea and Polyergus rufescens. Insectes sociaux 48, 302–314 (doi:10.1007PL00001782).
  • 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.
  • Schenck, C. F. 1852. Beschreibung nassauischer Ameisenarten. Jahrb. Ver. Naturkd. Herzogthum Nassau Wiesb. 8: 1-149 (page 36, senior synonym of dominula)
  • 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 115, senior synonym of dominula)
  • 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. (page 316, see also)
  • Tarbinsky, Y. S. 1976. The ants of Kirghizia. Frunze: Ilim, 217 pp. (page 186, see also)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1953c. The ant larvae of the subfamily Formicinae. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 46: 126-171 (page 169, 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 401, see also)
  • Zryanin, V.A. and Zryanina, T.A. 2007. Novye dannye o faune murav’ev Srednego Povolzh’ya. Uspekhi Sovremennoj Biologii. 127:226-240. [in Russian]