Wheeler, W.M., 1905
This species has been considered a subspecies of Liometopum occidentale, but occurs at higher elevations (usually above 2000 meters). The distributions of the two are parapatric or sympatric in a number of areas, especially the mountains of southern California, with no apparent hybridization. (Mackay and Mackay 2002)
Polymorphic, concolorous dark brown workers. The body is covered with a dense pubescence, a feature that partially explains the common name for ants in this genus - "velvety tree ants." It is possible to separate Liometopum luctuosum from Liometopum apiculatum by the presence of a metanotal suture that breaks up the dorsal mesosomal outline, the short and relatively sparse standing hairs on the top of the pronotum and their dark coloration. The largest workers of Liometopum apiculatum are distinctively larger than the largest sized luctuosum workers.
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Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists
Distribution based on AntMaps
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Liometopum luctuosum nest under rocks, decaying logs and at the base of large trees. Colonies can be large and their abundant workforce can be quite noticeable due to their long foraging trails and constant activity. Foraging can be persistent throughout the day and night. This species is closely related and shares much in common with its co-occuring congener Liometopum apiculatum. Liometopum luctuosum is usually found at higher elevations (> 2000 m) but does occur in suitable habitat in lower elevation sites.
This species can be found in habitats with sagebrush, oaks, Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and in riparian habitats found at higher elevations. Liometopum luctuosum is an aggressive ant and the excitable workers will stream out of the nest, emitting a strong odor, and quickly swarm upon anything located near the nest entrance when a colony is disturbed.
They can form long and very busy trails that are used for foraging or to connect segments of their polydomous nest. Established trail routes can persist for many years (Shapley 1920). Foraging columns can also be located under the ground and litter, surfacing underneath ground level objects such as rocks and downed wood. Colonies are rarely investigated because both finding and excavating a nest can be difficult. Foraging trails often disappear into inaccessible holes (e.g. around the roots at the base of a tree) or into a cavity that is more a satellite location where some workers may congregate rather than a part of the nest. Workers disappearing under a rock that can be flipped over, for example, are typically found to be using the covering object to make their way into one of their underground trails. In some cases these cavities will contain numerous workers, but no brood, and digging reveals there are no additional nest chambers nearby. When the main section of the nest is found, or suspected to be located, it may be situated in a tree bole or under a large rock.
Both their odor and aggressive nature make them a potential nuisance when they do, albeit relatively rarely, settle in or around human structures. Reproductive flights occur in June and July, at least in the southwest.
Mackay and Mackay (2002) noted for New Mexico: Habitat Sagebrush, pinyon pine, oak forests, ponderosa pine-riparian, Douglas fir, riparian habitats at high elevations, mixed canyon forests, widely distributed in New Mexico. Biology Nests are found in living or dead tree trunks or in the soil under stones or logs. Soils are usually rocky loam, but it also occurs in sandy areas. These ants are very aggressive. Flights occurred during June and July; sexuals can be collected at blacklights or in bodies of water the day after flights. We have not found myrmecophiles in nests.
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- luctuosum. Liometopum apiculatum subsp. luctuosum Wheeler, W.M. 1905e: 325 (w.) U.S.A. Forel, 1914c: 619 (m.); Del Toro, et al. 2009: 321 (q.). Subspecies of occidentale: Creighton, 1950a: 339. Raised to species: Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1986g: 55; Mackay, Lowrie, et al. 1988: 102.
- Creighton, W. S. 1950a. The ants of North America. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 104: 1-585 (page 339, Subspecies of occidentale)
- Forel, A. 1914c. Einige amerikanische Ameisen. Dtsch. Entomol. Z. 1914: 615-620 PDF (page 619, male described)
- MacKay, W. P.; Lowrie, D.; Fisher, A.; MacKay, E. E.; Barnes, F. 1988. The ants of Los Alamos County, New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pp. 79-131 in: Trager, J. C. (ed.) Advances in myrmecology. Leiden: E. J. Brill, xxvii + 551 pp. (page 102, Raised to species)
- MacKay, W.P. & MacKay, E.E. 2002. The Ants of New Mexico: 400 pp. Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, N.Y.
- Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1986g. The ants of Nevada. Los Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, vii + 138 pp. (page 55, Raised to species)
- Wheeler, W. M. 1905h. The North American ants of the genus Liometopum. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 21: 321-333 PDF (page 325, worker described)