November 19, 2007
by: jovial_cynic
I noticed that Formica Podzolica wasn't represented over at, so I e-mailed the guy running the site and asked him if he'd like some pictures of mine. I sent him one picture along with the e-mail, and he replied:

I'm curious as to how you arrived at the identification of Formica podzolica. Your ants are actually an Aphaenogaster species (A. occidentalis, perhaps), which are in a different subfamily myrmicinae).

I e-mailed him back and asked him for some identifying characteristics so I can tell the difference, and he replied:

The first thing you'll want to do when identifying any ant is to look at the waist. The major subfamilies of ants can have different configurations of the waist segments, and this is very useful in narrowing down the ID.

In the temperate zone of the U.S. you will only encounter three or four of the 20 or so subfamilies with any frequency. Myrmicinae have two waist segments, called the petiole and the postpetiole, which give them a very narrow-waisted, slender look. Your Aphaenogaster is such an ant. Formicinae have only a single waist segment, the petiole, and as a result they often look a bit more pudgy. Carpenter ants and Formica fall into this group.

Here is a useful key:

It's for the midwest, but many of the genera are the same so it should work pretty well for your area.

I can tell your ants are Aphaenogaster because, in addition to having the two-segmented waist, they have a very slender thorax and relatively long legs. I used to keep Aphaenogaster all the time, as they are very attractive ants and do well in captivity.

Very interesting. Time to do some research on a new type of ant.

Also, I'm getting close to messing around with my ant habitat, but I haven't pinned down how I want to do it. I'm beginning to like the idea of the plaster nest, but I'm also considering having another go with my router and a piece of wood, only instead of going vertical with it, I'm thinking about keeping it flat on a table, so I have to look down on it instead of having it sit upright. I have a sheet of glass from a scanner I scavenged, and I have some really nice flat wood that I think I'll use for the chambers. That should do it.

I'll have to wait until this weekend to start, as my mom is in town, and I'm sure that I'll appear a little anti-social if I'm playing with my ants instead of spending time with her.
np category: ants


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