Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Identifying male ants

So... I have all these reproductives. Hundreds. A lot of them I have been able to pull out and identify to genus because they look so much like the workers. Crematogaster queens, for instance, all have that very obvious gaster attachment. Easy. A lot of Wasmannia queens have that same scrobe/frontal lobe configuration that just says Wasmannia to me. Attine queens seem to all have that Attine look to them. I still have a lot left, though. Mostly from the canopy. And then there are the males. Boy, I really hate males. As far as I can tell, they look nothing like the workers at all. I can't even put them reliably into subfamilies because things like petiole number or antennal segment number can be different. Yesterday I posted to The Ant Farm's and Myrmecology's Message Board asking if anyone had any suggestions on how to ID male ants. Surprisingly, someone actually did. I was pointed to a 1943 paper by Marion R. Smith. There is a link to it on antbase. org. It is only for male ants of the United States, and it was written quite awhile ago, but it's the first thing I've seen that even attempted to do this, so I am overjoyed. I will let everyone know how it goes. In the meantime, if anyone else has any hints or suggestions, I would be happy to post them here.

Gordon Snelling writes that army ant males are very easy to identify as they have "very elongate and hairy gasters. All other male ants have gasters which are distinctly smaller than thorax and head, in the case of AAs, gaster is usually much larger or at least equal. Additionally they have very large mandibles compared to other male ants and are very distinctive as a result." The picture below links to his army ant website.

Update: see post Identifying male ants II

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