Temnothorax americanus

AntWiki: The Ants --- Online
Temnothorax americanus
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Crematogastrini
Genus: Temnothorax
Species group: palearctic
Species: T. americanus
Binomial name
Temnothorax americanus
(Emery, 1895)



Specimen Label

Temnothorax americanus (previously known as Protomognathus americanus) is a social parasite of a number of widespread and common Temnothorax species that occur in North America.

At a Glance • Dulotic  

Photo Gallery


This ant is a Myrmicinae that is differentiated from other genera in the subfamily by the combination of mandibles with four teeth, a median concavity present on the anterior clypeal border and the presence of well-developed antennal scrobes. Most similar to Harpagoxenus but this other genus differs in having smooth mandibles with no teeth.

Prebus (2017) - A member of the Palearctic clade.

Keys including this Species


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 44.85° to 30.6225°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: United States (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Countries Occupied

Number of countries occupied by this species based on AntWiki Regional Taxon Lists. In general, fewer countries occupied indicates a narrower range, while more countries indicates a more widespread species.

Estimated Abundance

Relative abundance based on number of AntMaps records per species (this species within the purple bar). Fewer records (to the left) indicates a less abundant/encountered species while more records (to the right) indicates more abundant/encountered species.


P. americanus is fairly well studied. This surely has something to do with its abundance. It can be common in local areas where a suitable host is present and abundant and the three species it parasitizes (Temnothorax ambiguus, Temnothorax curvispinosus and Temnothorax longispinosus) are in fact quite common. Raiding occurs by workers invading a foreign nest, causing the natal workers to flee, and raiding individuals absconding with eggs, larvae and pupae. Pupae that are taken back to the Protomognathus americanus nest and allowed to eclose become workers within this colony.

Creighton (1929) found that dealate P. americanus queens were able to gain access to laboratory maintained nests of Temnothorax, establish themselves on the brood pile and over time eventually maim and kill all the resident workers. Existing queens were not attacked but did eventually die, presumably from starvation. Pupae that subsequently eclose form constitute the first workers that are not hostile to the P. americanus queen and attend to her needs.

Life History Traits

  • Queen number: monogynous (Rissing and Pollock, 1988; Frumhoff & Ward, 1992)
  • Queen type: winged (Rissing and Pollock, 1988; Frumhoff & Ward, 1992) (queenless worker reproduction)
  • Worker-produced males: present (Buschinger & Alloway, 1977; Frumhoff & Ward, 1992)



Images from AntWeb

Protomognathus americanus casent0006099 head 1.jpgProtomognathus americanus casent0006099 profile 1.jpgProtomognathus americanus casent0006099 dorsal 1.jpgProtomognathus americanus casent0006099 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0006099. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Protomognathus americanus casent0104553 head 1.jpgProtomognathus americanus casent0104553 profile 1.jpgProtomognathus americanus casent0104553 dorsal 1.jpgProtomognathus americanus casent0104553 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0104553. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Protomognathus americanus casent0003235 head 1.jpgProtomognathus americanus casent0003235 profile 1.jpgProtomognathus americanus casent0003235 dorsal 1.jpgProtomognathus americanus casent0003235 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0003235. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.


The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's Online Catalogue of the Ants of the World.

  • americanus. Tomognathus americanus Emery, 1895c: 272 (w.) U.S.A. Creighton, 1927: 27 (q.m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1955b: 26 (l.). Combination in T. (Protomognathus): Wheeler, W.M. 1905a: 3; in Harpagoxenus: Wheeler, W.M. 1910g: 494; in Protomognathus: Cover, in Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990: 65; in Temnothorax: Ward et al., 2014: 15. See also: Smith, M.R. 1939b: 166.

Type Material

Washington D. C., im Neste von Leptothorax curvispinosus (=Temnothorax curvispinosus) Mayr von Herrn Pergande gefunden. Ein Exemplar aus Beatty, Pennsylvanien, ohne weitere Angabe.

A syntype worker is located in the Emery collection, Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Genoa Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.



Picea, pilosa et microscopice pubescens, capite thoraceque creberrime reticulato-punctatis, illius dimidio postico et fronte tamen laevioribus, nitidulis, clypeo laevi, nitido, medio depresso et late emarginato, mandibularum margine masticatorio dente apicali valido, aliisque 3-4 brevibus, obtusis armato, antennarum flagelli articulo]. tribus sequentibus aulo breviore, 2-6 transversis; thorace versus metanoti basin depresso, sutura tamen non impressa, spinis brevibus, rectis, divergentibus; abdominis nitidissimi pedunculo punctulato, segmento 1. antice breviter petiolato, postice cum nodo squamiformi, 2. Transverse ovato, praecedente fere duplo latiore, subtus mutico, scapis et pedibus sine pilis erectis. Long. 2 ½ - 2 ¾ mm.

Smith (1939) - Length 2.5-2.75 mm.

Head subrectangular, distinctly longer than broad, with very feebly emarginate or straight posterior border, rounded occipital angles, and moderately convex sides. Mandible rather small, convex, 3- to 4-toothed, apical tooth much larger than others. Anterior border of clypeus with a prominent and broad median emargination, which is distinctly broader than long; each side of emargination with an angular tooth or projection; posterior border of clypeus rounded, extending backward between frontal carinae. Frontal area not clearly defined. Frontal carinae prominent, longer than antennal scapes, and forming rather deep and distinct scrobes into which the scapes rest when in repose. Antenna 11-segmented; scape stout, curved, strongly depressed; last three segments of funiculus greatly enlarged, ultimate segment slightly exceeding combined length of the two preceding segments, funicular segments 2-6 each clearly broader than long. Thorax, from above, with rounded humeral angles; promesonotal suture present but not always very distinct, mesoepinotal constriction especially pronounced laterally; epinotal spines rather short, acute, directed upward, backward, and outward. Petiole, viewed laterally, scalelike, with abruptly sloping anterior and posterior faces, which meet to form a sharp superior border; viewed posteriorly, sides of petiole converging dorsally toward the superior border, which is narrow laterally, entire or feebly emarginate; ventral surface of peduncle with a prominent tooth anteriorly. Postpetiole, from above, considerably broader than long; viewed laterally, lacking a ventral tooth. Gaster strongly constricted at base, and with feeble basal angles.

Mandibles, clypeus, dorsal surface of head, anterior surface of petiole, and gaster rather smooth and shining; cheeks, and sides of thorax longitudinally rugulose-punctate; antennal scrobes, dorsum of thorax, and dorsal surfaces of petiole and postpetiole finely punctulate, the thorax often with fine rugulae.

Hairs long and erect, moderately abundant, present on all parts of body except appendages; a few hairs sometimes present on coxae, trochan ters, and bases of femora. Pubescence sparse, appressed, most easily discernible on appendages but also visible on other parts of body under certain lights.

Color varying from almost uniform deep brown to brownish black, with the mandibles, clypeus, antennae, coxae, trochanters, base of femora, and tarsi lighter; eyes, mandibular teeth, and edges of frontal carinae black.


Smith (1939) - Length 2.7-3.5 mm.

Excluding the usual morphological differences and size, so similar to worker as to be easily associated. Wings whitish, pilose, with ciliated margins; veins pale, indistinct. Anterior wing with a discoidal, a cubital, and an open radial cell, as well as a fairly large but pale stigma.


Creighton (1927) - Length: 2.7 mm.

Color: head, thorax and abdomen brownish black; antennae and legs very pale, almost transparent in fresh specimens. Head rugulose with numerous erect hairs. Thorax feebly rugulose, somewhat glabrous, and with fewer hairs. Abdomen glabrous with sparse erect hairs. Antennae 12-jointed. Funiculus without a distinct club but the joints gradually increasing in diameter towards the tip. First funicular joint pyriform, much broader than those immediately succeeding it. Second and third funicular joints cylindrical and distinctly shorter than the adjacent joints. The following joints sub-oval and gradually increasing in length towards the tip. Scape one quarter the length of the funiculus. Scape and funiculus clothed with a short erect pubescence. Antennal scrobes much shallower than in female and worker, but distinct. Mandibles long and narrow, feebly toothed and sharply mueronate at the tip. Neck long and flattened dorso-ventrally.

Anterior face of mesonotum abruptly projecting above pronotum. Mayrian furrows strongly impressed at the promesonotal suture, bat becoming feeble at their point of confluence. Fore wings with a short open radial cell. Hind wings veinless except for faint impressions at the base of the wing. Epinotum unarmed. Second node of petiole without ventral tooth, squamiform, broader and less constricted behind than in worker.

Petiolar hairs sparse.

Smith (1939) - Length 2.7 mm.

Posterior border of head and occipital angles strongly rounded. Eye convex, protuberant, occupying approximately one-half-length of side of head. Distance between two lateral ocelli greater than that between either of them and median ocellus. Antennal scrobe extending from anterior end of frontal carina to above and somewhat behind eye. Antenna 12-segmented; scape approximately as long as first five funicular segments; first funicular segment pyriform. Clypeus strongly convex, its anterior border with a broad emargination. Mandible with a long, prominent, apical tooth, followed by a broad, blunt edge which is sometimes finely denticulate, sometimes toothless. Thorax with Mayrian furrows and parapsidal furrows; propleuron deeply concave laterally; epinotum without spines but often with a pair of blunt angulations. Wings like those of female. Petiole, viewed laterally, with a blunt superior border; ventrally with a longitudinal carina, which sometimes bears a small tooth anteriorly. Postpetiole distinctly broader than long; ventral surface without a tooth. Base of gaster scarcely wider than posterior border of postpetiole. Genital appendages not remarkably large; a pair of terminal cerci.

Head and thorax subopaque, with reticulate-punctulate shagreening; dorsum of thorax more finely sculptured and shining. Gaster smooth and shining, petiole and postpetiole almost smooth and glabrous.

Body with grayish, moderately long, sparse hairs, those on appendages shorter and suberect.

Color varying from deep brownish black to black; with mandibles, appendages, wings, apex of gaster, and genital appendages pale yellowish white; edges of mandibles brownish to black.


  • n = 11 (Canada; USA) (Fischer, 1987) (as Harpagoxenus americanus).

Worker Morphology

Explore-icon.png Explore: Show all Worker Morphology data or Search these data. See also a list of all data tables or learn how data is managed.
  • Caste: monomorphic


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Achenbach, A. and S. Foitzik. 2009. First Evidence for Slave Rebellion: Enslaved Ant Workers Systematically Kill the Brood of Their Social Parasite Protomognathus americanus. Evolution 63(4):1068-1075
  • Banschbach V. S., and E. Ogilvy. 2014. Long-term Impacts of Controlled Burns on the Ant Community (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of a Sandplain Forest in Vermont. Northeastern Naturalist 21(1): 1-12.
  • Beibl, J., R.J. Stuart, J. Heinze and S. Foitzik. 2005. Six origins of slavery in formicoxenine ants. Insectes Sociaux 52:291-297
  • Blatrix, R. and J.M. Herbers. 2004. Intracolonial conflict in the slave-making antProtomognathus americanus: dominance hierarchies and individual reproductive success. Insectes Sociaux 51(2):131-138.
  • Brandt, M. and S. Foitzik. 2004. Community Context and Specialization Influence Coevolution between a Slavemaking Ant and Its Hosts. Ecology 85(11):2997-3009
  • Brandt, M., J. Heinze, T. Schmitt and S. Foitzik. 2006. Convergent evolution of the Dufour's gland secretion as a propaganda substance in the slave-making ant genera Protomognathus and Harpagoxenus. insectes Sociaux 53:291-299.
  • Carroll T. M. 2011. The ants of Indiana (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Master's Thesis Purdue university, 385 pages.
  • Coovert G. A. 2005. The Ants of Ohio (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Ohio Biological Survey, Inc. 15(2): 1-207.
  • Coovert, G.A. 2005. The Ants of Ohio (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) Ohio Biological Survey Bulletin New Series Volume 15(2):1-196
  • Creighton W. S. 1927. The slave-raids of Harpagoxenus americanus. Psyche (Cambridge) 34: 11-29.
  • DuBois M. B. 1985. Distribution of ants in Kansas: subfamilies Ponerinae, Ecitoninae, and Myrmicinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 11: 153-722
  • DuBois M. B. 1994. Checklist of Kansas ants. The Kansas School Naturalist 40: 3-16
  • Dubois, M.B. and W.E. Laberge. 1988. An Annotated list of the ants of Illionois. pages 133-156 in Advances in Myrmecology, J. Trager
  • Ellison A. M. 2012. The Ants of Nantucket: Unexpectedly High Biodiversity in an Anthropogenic Landscape. Northeastern Naturalist 19(1): 43-66.
  • Ellison A. M., S. Record, A. Arguello, and N. J. Gotelli. 2007. Rapid Inventory of the Ant Assemblage in a Temperate Hardwood Forest: Species Composition and Assessment of Sampling Methods. Environ. Entomol. 36(4): 766-775.
  • Foitzik, S., V.L. Backus, A. Trindl and J.M. Herbers. 2004. Ecology of Leptothorax Ants: Impact of Food, Nest Sites, and Social Parasites. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 55(5):484-493
  • Forster J.A. 2005. The Ants (hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Alabama. Master of Science, Auburn University. 242 pages.
  • General D. M., and L. C. Thompson. 2011. New Distributional Records of Ants in Arkansas for 2009 and 2010 with Comments on Previous Records. Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science 65: 166-168.
  • General D., and L. Thompson. 2008. Ants of Arkansas Post National Memorial: How and Where Collected. Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science 62: 52-60.
  • General D.M. & Thompson L.C. 2008. New Distributional Records of Ants in Arkansas for 2008. Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science. 63: 182-184
  • Headley A. E. 1943. The ants of Ashtabula County, Ohio (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). The Ohio Journal of Science 43(1): 22-31.
  • Herbers J. M. 2011. Nineteen years of field data on ant communities (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): what can we learn. Myrmecological News 15: 43-52.
  • Herbers J. N. 1989. Community structure in north temperate ants: temporal and spatial variation. Oecologia 81: 201-211.
  • Ivanov, K. 2019. The ants of Ohio (Hymenoptera, Formicidae): an updated checklist. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 70: 65–87.
  • Ivanov K., L. Hightower, S. T. Dash, and J. B. Keiper. 2019. 150 years in the making: first comprehensive list of the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Virginia, USA. Zootaxa 4554 (2): 532–560.
  • Lynch J. F. 1988. An annotated checklist and key to the species of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the Chesapeake Bay region. The Maryland Naturalist 31: 61-106
  • MacGown, J.A and J.A. Forster. 2005. A preliminary list of the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Alabama, U.S.A. Entomological News 116(2):61-74
  • Michigan State University, The Albert J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection. Accessed on January 7th 2014 at http://www.arc.ent.msu.edu:8080/collection/index.jsp
  • Munsee J. R., W. B. Jansma, and J. R. Schrock. 1986. Revision of the checklist of Indiana ants with the addition of five new species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Indiana Academy of Science 95: 265-274.
  • Nuhn, T.P. and C.G. Wright. 1979. An Ecological Survey of Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in a Landscaped Suburban Habitat. American Midland Naturalist 102(2):353-362
  • Smith M. R. 1939. The North American ants of the genus Harpagoxenus Forel, with the description of a new species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 41: 165-172.
  • Sturtevant A. H. 1931. Ants collected on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Psyche (Cambridge) 38: 73-79
  • Talbot M. 1957. Populations of ants in a Missouri woodland. Insectes Sociaux 4(4): 375-384.
  • Wheeler G. C., J. N. Wheeler, and P. B. Kannowski. 1994. Checklist of the ants of Michigan (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). The Great Lakes Entomologist 26(4): 297-310
  • Wheeler W. M. 1905. An annotated list of the ants of New Jersey. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 21: 371-403.
  • Wheeler, G.C., J. Wheeler and P.B. Kannowski. 1994. CHECKLIST OF THE ANTS OF MICHIGAN (HYMENOPTERA: FORMICIDAE). Great Lakes Entomologist 26:1:297-310