Honeypot Ant Queen Question

A reader has a problem identifying his honeypot ant queens. Anyone out there good at Myrmecocystus identification? See the links for his photographs.

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I have an ant question! (With photo links!)

Hello there!
I recently captured a few queen ants during their nuptial flight this past August and I would like to know what species of ant this ant belongs to.

A little background information. I live in the Mojave desert, in the most Southern part. I am at an elevation of about 4,000ft and in the transition habitat between pinyon/juniper and pine. The workers are yellow/orange and are nocturnal. I’ve seen these ants feeding on nectar and small insects. Their nuptial flight took place at dusk after an afternoon thunderstorm.

Anyways, I think this species is a Myrmecocystus mexicanus, but a few others have mentioned that they are either M.testaceus or M.navajo. I’m so confused because all three sub species look the same! Here are links to two photos. Any information will be greatly appreciated! Thanks.

http://i344.photobucket.com/albums/p330/jimbodw07_2008/DSC_0001.jpg

http://i344.photobucket.com/albums/p330/jimbodw07_2008/96640104.jpg

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My suggestions:

As we discussed, you might want to wait until the workers come out.

If you have a good microscope and some knowledge of ant anatomy, AntWiki has a key to Myrmecocystus, to species level (both queens and workers), as well as general information about the genus

Some other useful links:

Navajo Nature has taxonomic information for Myrmecocystus

Alex Wild has photographs of various species

BugGuide has some photographs of Myrmecocystus queens, too

Does anyone else have any other suggestions? If so, please let leave a comment or contact me via wildaboutants (at) gmail.com. We'd appreciate it.

honeypots-hanging
Honeypot ants have a replete caste for storing food.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Honeypot Ant Queen Question

  1. Gordon C. Snelling

    I am still of the opinion that these are M. testaceus. Admittedly this is biased by the fact that although I have collected M. mexicanus in the area of Apple Valley which is close to where you found your queens I have never collected that species in your immediate area whereas I have collected M. testaceus on numerous occasions. It may well be that your queens are mexicanus but until you have "major" workers to put under a scope or until you can adequately scope a queen we will never know for sure. M. navajo is by far the least likely candidate and I know of no material of that species from this area of the Mojave.

  2. Roberta

    Post author

    Thank you for stopping by and sharing your expertise.

    We have the dark black-bodied species with the reddish-brown heads (which I believe are Myrmecocystus placodops) here at South Mountain Park, but I've never seen M. mexicanus or M. testaceus.

  3. Gordon C. Snelling

    Roberta, although diurnal under the right conditions M mexicanus and testaceus tend to be nocturnal species which would explain why you have not seen them. M. placodops and mendax both of which are very similar tend to be very conspicuous diurnal species in areas where they occur.

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