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Unless otherwise noted, information contained in each edition of the Kansas School Naturalist reflects the knowledge of the subject as of the original date of publication.

KSN - Vol 40, No 2 - Checklist of Kansas AntsVolume 40, Number 2 - April 1994

Checklist of Kansas Ants

by Mark DuBois


ISSN: 0022-877X






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Mark DuBois has been actively investigating various groups of insects for the past 30 years and has over 30 publications, including chapters in various books. He has a Master's degree from the University of Kansas and has worked for the State Biological Survey of Kansas. He is currently employed in the private sector and is affiliated with the Illinois Natural History Survey. He may be reached via e-mail: or at 116 Burton Street, Washington, IL 61571. In 1993 he served as guest curator at Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences (Peoria, Illinois) with an exhibition - "Insects: A Part of the Biodiversity Crisis."

Checklist of Kansas Ants

by Mark DuBois

Ants represent one of the more successful groups of terrestrial animals. At any given moment, scientists estimate there are approximately 10 (23) (100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual living ants (Wilson, 1971). Ants occur from north of the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego; most species are found in tropical areas with numbers of species decreasing with increasing latitude.

Over 8,000 species of ants have been formally described. Scientists estimate there may be as many as 20,000 species (thus, more species of ants than birds).

All ants belong to the family Formicidae in the insect order Hymenoptera (which includes ants, bees, and wasps). Ants can be separated form other insects by a combination of features. All ants are social; their societies consist of one or more queens and sterile female workers who cooperate in the care of the next generation. Immature ants are nearly immobile and depend upon workers to provide food and protection. In some species, worker ants can be divided into larger (major) and smaller (minor) workers (figure 12). Males die shortly after mating with the queen. Other insects are social (for example, termites, some bees, and some wasps), but ants differ from these groups by having both elbowed antennae (figure B) and a constriction with swelling(s) in the first few abdominal segments (figure 1 and 2).

Ants often modify their local habitat in their favor. As you travel the plains of western Kansas, conical, gravel-covered mounds of one species of harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis, are a common sight. Does the density of mounds appear higher near roadways and railroad beds than in areas less disturbed by humans? Perhaps limited rainfall concentrates near these disturbances providing softer soil for queens to establish new colonies. Food, such as plant seeds, may collect near these areas. Maybe the differences in density are an illusion. Perhaps an astute reader will settle this question. There are many such questions awaiting answers regained ants and their biology.

Several species construct mounds in Kansas (Formica subsericea, Formica montana, and Formica planipilis are examples). Mounds were originally a means of disposing of excavated soil. Some ant species now modify mounds to assist in temperature regulation. A mound collects more radiant energy than a flat area of the same size, particularly in early morning and late afternoon. Some mounds are riddled with chambers throughout which the developing young are moved to assure optimum temperatures for their development. Under conditions of extreme heat, cold, or drought, most ants retreat deep into the soil where more moderate temperature and humidity persists.

Readers will note that scientific names are used throughout this publication as most species of ants lack common names. See also "Scientific Names, Common Names" KSN Vol. 37, No. 1, Oct. 1990.

From 1977 through 1981, I attempted to document the distribution of ants in Kansas. Members of the State Biological Survey of Kansas provided valuable assistance. All 105 counties were visited to collect ants. Results of this study were published separately for research entomologists (DuBois, 1985; DuBois and Danoff-Burg, in prep.; DuBois, in prep.). This publication is intended to aid teachers and students who encounter ants in Kansas. Those wishing additional details should consult the above references, or contact me directly.

The following list summarizes those species which have been confirmed within the boundaries of the state of Kansas. Those marked with an asterisk (*) were not personally collected, but valid records exist in various museums. Those marked with an (I) are introduced tropical species.


Subfamily Ponerinae

Ponerine ants are typically arthropod predators. Most colonies in Kansas are small (less than 100 individuals). Only Hypoponera opacior is found statewide. That species and Ponera pennsylvanica are the two species most likely encountered in this subfamily.

1. Amblyopone pallipes (Haldeman) 1844 [figures A and B, centerfold pages 8-9].

2. Hypoponera opacior (Forel) 1893.

3. Hypoponera sp. possibly a new species, see DuBois, 1985.

4. Ponera pennsylvanica Buckley 1866 [figure 7].

5. Proceratium pergandei Emery 1895.

6. Proceratium silaceum Roger 1863.

Figures 1-7 (facing page). Pictorial key to ant subfamilies in Kansas. It is unlikely you will encounter subfamily Ecitoninae. Some small Myrmicinae may be confused with this subfamily as they also have small eyes (for example, Solenopsis). However, these have an antennal "club" formed an enlargement of, at least, the ultimate and penultimate segments. Ecitoniane lack this antennal club. All Figures represent lateral views of ants (unless noted) with sculpture, pilosity, and majority of legs omitted.

Figures 1-7. Diagrams of ant anatomy

Figure 1. Camponotus pennsylvanicus, Butler Co. (336 colonies of Camponotus collected). a = Circlet of microsetae always present in Formicinae.

Figure 2. Pogonomyrmex occidentalis, Hodgeman Co. (288 colonies of Pogonomyrmex collected). b = Sting usually visible in Myrmicinae and Ecitoninae.

Figure 3. Camponotus pennsylvanicus, Butler Co., head, full face view.

Figure 4. Neivamyrmex nigrescens, Marshall Co., (30 colonies of Neivamyrmex collected).

Figures 5 and 6. Forelius pruinosus analis, Hamilton Co. (212 colonies of Forelius collected). Figure 6 head, full face view.

Figure 7. Ponera pennsylvanica, Douglas Co. (69 colonies of Ponera collected). c = Construction always visible in Ponerinae.


Subfamily Ecitoninae

Ecitonine ants are commonly called army ants. They feed exclusively on living prey (usually other ants) encountered during their raids. Colonies can become large, containing thousands of workers. These ants are usually encountered by chance since they shun direct sunlight. Two species Neivamyrmex nigrescens and Neivamyrmex opacithorax are most likely encountered in the subfamily.

7. Neivamyrmex carolinensis (Emery) 1894.

*8. Neivamyrmex fallax Borgmeier 1953.

*9. Neivamyrmex fuscipennis (Wheeler) 1908.

10. Neivamyrmex minor (Cresson) 1872.

11. Neivamyrmex nigrescens (Cresson) 1872 [figure 4].

12. Neivamyrmex opacithorax (Emery) 1894.


Subfamily Myrmicinae

Myrmicinae ants are most commonly encountered in Kansas. They have a diverse variety of habits (the harvester ants discussed previously belong to this subfamily). Crematogaster punctulata and Monomorium minimum are the two most common species on a statewide basis; many others are locally abundant.

13. Aphaenogaster fulva Roger 1863.

14. Aphaenogaster mariae Forel 1886.

15. Aphaenogaster rudis (Emery) 1895.

16. Aphaenogaster tennesseensis (Mayr) 1862 [figure 8, below].

17. Aphaenogaster texana (Emery) 1895.

18. Aphaenogaster treatae pluteicornis Wheeler and Wheeler 1934.

19. Crematogaster ashmeadi Mayr 1886.

20. Crematogaster cerasi (Fitch) 1854.

Figure 8.

Figure 8. Aphaenogaster tennesseensis, Douglas Co. (191 colonies of Aphaenogaster collected).

Figure 9 .

Figure 9. Crematogaster punctulata, Douglas Co. (619 colonies of Crematogaster collected).

21. Crematogaster clara Mayr 1870.

22. Crematogaster laeviuscula Mayr 1870.

23. Crematogaster lineolata (Say) 1836.

24. Crematogaster minutissima missouriensis Emery 1895.

25. Crematogaster punctulata Emery 1895 [figure 9, above].

26. Harpagoxenus americanus (Emery) 1895.

27. Leptothorax ambiguus Emery 1895.

28. Leptothorax curvispinosus Mayr 1866 [figure 10, below].

29. Leptothorax pergandei Emery 1895.

30. Leptothorax schaumi Roger 1863.

31. Leptothorax tricarinatus Emery 1895.

32. Monomorium minimum (Buckley) 1866 [figure 11, page 10].

*I 33. Monomorium pharaonis (Linnaeus) 1758.

34. Myrmecina americana Emery 1895.

35. Myrmica AmericanaWeber 1939.

36. Myrmica punctiventris Roger 1863.

Figure 10.

Figure 10. Leptothorax curvispinosus, Douglas Co. (153 colonies of Leptothorax collected).

Figures A - T

Figures A and B. Amblyopone pallipes, Douglas Co. (7 colonies of Amblyopone collected). Terms frequently encountered in ant literature.

C = Coxa (remainder of legs omitted; ants have same leg segments as other insects).

E = Compound eye (worker ants lack ocelli).

F = Funiculus (all antennal segments except scape).

G = Gena (cheek).

M = Mandible.

N = Pronotum.

O = Occiput (area near top of head, more properly called occipital vertex).

P = Petiole (if followed by a similar segment, subsequent segment is called postpetiole).

Pr = Propodeum (the first segment of the abdomen, but appears to be part of the "thorax" called alitrunk in ants).

Ps = Propodeal spiracle.

S = Sternite (the abdomen is called gaster in ants, see propodeum above).

Sc = Scape (first segment of antenna, always elongated in ants).

St = Sting (found only in Ponerinae, Ecitoninae, and Myrmicinae).

T = Tergite (upper plate vs lower plate or sternite).

Figure 11

Figure 11. Monomorium minimum, Douglas Co. (265 colonies of Monomorium collected).

37. Pheidole bicarinata Mayr 1870 [figure 12, below].

38. Pheidole dentata Mayr 1886.

39. Pheidole desertorum Wheeler 1906.

40. Pheidole pilifera coloradensis Emery 1895.

41. Pheidole pilifera pilifera (Roger) 1863.

42. Pheidole senex Gregg 1952.

43. Pheidole sitarches campestris Wheeler 1908.

Figure 12.

Figure 12. Pheidole bicarinata, Douglas Co. (219 colonies of Pheidole collected). Note differences between major and minor workers which usually occur in the same nest.


Figure 13

Figure 13. Solenopsis molesta, Douglas Co. (126 colonies of Solenopsis collected).

*44. Pogonomyrmex apache Wheeler 1902.

45. Pogonomyrmex barbatus (F. Smith) 1858.

46. Pogonomyrmex comanche Wheeler 1902.

47. Pogonomyrmex maricopa Wheeler 1914.

48. Pogonomyrmex occidentalis (Cresson) 1865 [figure 2].

49. Pogonomyrmex rugosus Emery 1895.

50. Smithistruma dietrichi (M. Smith) 1931.

51. Smithistruma laevinasis (M. Smith) 1931.

52. Smithistruma ohioensis (Kennedy and Schramm) 1933.

53. Smithistruma pilinasis (Forel) 1901.

54. Smithistruma pulchella (Emery) 1895.

55. Smithistruma reflexa (Wesson and Wesson) 1939.

56. Solenopsis molesta (Say) 1836 [figure 13, above].

57. Solenopsis texana Emery 1895.

58. Solenopsis xyloni McCook 1879.

*59. Stenamma brevicorne (Mayr) 1886.

60. Trachymyrmex septentrionalis (McCook) 1880.


Figure 14

Figure 14. Dorymyrmex flavus, Hamilton Co. (145 colonies of Dorymyrmex collected).


Figure 15

Figure 15. Tapinoma sessile, Ellis Co. (148 colonies of Tapinoma collected).

Subfamily Dolichoderinae

Dolichoderinae ants are frequently encountered in Kansas. Most species are scavengers. Colonies are usually moderate in size (several hundred to several thousand individuals). These ants are often locally abundant and may be the only species encountered in the harsher environments in the state. Dorymyrmex insana and Forelius pruinosus are the two species most commonly encountered in Kansas.

61. Dolichoderus mariae Forel 1885.

62. Dorymyrmex flavus McCook 1879 [figure 14, page 11].

63. Dorymyrmex insanus (Buckley) 1866.

64. Forelius Maccooki (Forel) 1886.

65. Forelius pruinosus analis (Andre) 1893 [figures 5 and 6].

I 66. Tapinoma melanocephalum (Fabricius) 1793.

67. Tapinoma sessile (Say) 1836 [figure 15, above].


Subfamily Formicinae

Formicinae ants are abundant in Kansas, second only to myrmicine ants. Many species feed on the sweet excretions of other insects (such as aphids and scale insects). Colonies can contain several thousand individuals. Members of the genus Formica often build conspicuous mounds. Species within the genera Camponotus and Formica are the most common fomicine ants in Kansas.

68. Acanthomyops claviger (Roger) 1862.

69. Acanthomyops interjectus (Mayr) 1866.

*70. Acanthomyops latipes (Walsh) 1862.

71. Brachymyrmex depilis Emery 1893.


Figure 16

Figure 16. Formica pallidefulva, Johnson Co. (371 colonies of Formica collected).

72. Camponotus americanus Mayr 1862.

73. Camponotus caryae (Fitch) 1855.

74. Camponotus castaneus (Latreille) 1802.

75. Camponotus decipiens Emery 1893.

76. Camponotus discolor (Buckley) 1866.

77. Camponotus ferrugineus (Fabricius) 1798.

78. Camponotus impressus (Roger) 1863.

79. Camponotus nearcticus Emery 1893.

80. Camponotus pennsylvanicus (DeGeer) 1773 [figures 1 and 3].

81. Camponotus sayi Emery 1894.

82. Camponotus vicinus Mayr 1870.

83. Formica bradleyi Wheeler 1913.

84. Formica canadensis Santschi 1913.

85. Formica emeryi Wheeler 1913.

*86. Formica exsectoides Forel 1886.

87. Formica montana Emery 1893.

89. Formica neogagates Emery 1893.

90. Formica neorufibarbis Emery 1893.

91. Formica nitidiventrisEmery 1893.

92. Formica pallidefulva Latreille 1802 [figure 16].

93. Formica perpilosa Wheeler 1902.

94. Formica planipilis Creighton 1940.

95. Formica schaufussi dolosa Wheeler 1912.

96. Formica subintegra Emery 1893.

97. Formica subsericea Say 1836.

98. Lasius alienus (Foerster) 1850 [figure 17].

99. Lasius flavus (Fabricius) 1781.

100. Lasius neoniger Emery 1893.


Figure 17

Figure 17. Lasius alienus, Johnson Co. (289 colonies of Lasius collected).


101. Lasius speculiventris Emery 1893.

102. Lasius umbratus (Nylander) 1846.

103. Myrmeceocystus mimicus Wheeler 1908.

104. Myrmeceocystus navajo Wheeler 1908.

105. Myrmeceocystus romainei Cole 1936.

106. Paratrechina parvula (Wheeler) 1905.

107. Paratrechina parvula (Mayr) 1870.

108. Paratrechina terricola (Buckley) 1866.

109. Paratrechina vividula (Nylander) 1846.

110. Polyergus breviceps Emery 1893.

111. Prenolepis imparis (Say) 1836 [figure 18].


Figure 18

Figure 18. Prenolepis imparis, Douglas Co. (113 colonies of Prenolepis collected).



Where to Find Ants:Ants are easiest to collect during warmer months when they are active and their movements are more easily observed. Since ant nests are found in diverse terrestrial locations, it is wise to visit as many habitats as possible. Many nests are found in soil, particularly under rocks or near plants. Some species prefer to live in preformed plant cavities (such as hollow stems, or last year's walnuts or acorns). Often, nests are found in leaf litter (particularly where it collects in sheltered places). Other ants are only found in rotten logs.

Collecting Equipment:An aspirator or forceps (available from various biological supply houses) is needed to collect ants. I prefer the blow-type aspirator to avoid inhaling spores and dust along with noxious defensive chemicals of some ants. I do not recommend collecting ants with bare hands. Smaller specimens are easily crushed and some larger specimens can bite or deliver a painful sting. Each nest of anapest collected should be placed in a separate vial containing alcohol (either ethanol or isopropanol). I require 15 to 20 vials on short excursions. A garden trowel or small spade is helpful for excavating nests. After collecting, always replace the disturbed material. A field notebook should be used to record specific locality (including distance and direction from nearest city), date of collection, and collector. Information should also be written in indelible ink (or pencil) and placed in each vial. Other useful information includes habitat description, nest description, air and soil temperature, and current weather conditions.

Since many nests in a given area may look similar, several should be examined to determine if multiple species are present. Several "parasitic" ant species (such as Harpagoxenus americanus or Polyergus breviceps) may be present in a few nests. The odds of encountering such species by opening one nest are quite small.

I recommend pinning a small sample (3 to 6 individuals) from each vial and retaining the rest in alcohol (immature stages should never be pinned). Always use paper points and glue the ants to the edge. Insect pins and points can be obtained from biological supply houses. Refer to "Making an Insect Collection" KSN Vol. 35, No. 1, Oct. 1988 (page 4). I usually include a unique cross reference number between each vial and corresponding samples.

Based upon my study of the ants of Kansas, I determined the species most frequently encountered. These are listed along with the number of collections (nests) for each species. Over 3,700 nests were sampled.

Crematogaster punctulata (317)
Monomorium minimum (265)
Forelius pruinosus (206)
Lasius neoniger (185)

Over 50,000 ants were collected during the course of this study. Of that total, the following were the species with the highest number of individuals collected.

Monomorium minimum (8,250)
Crematogaster punctulata (265)
Forelius pruinosus analis (3,057)
Pogonomyrmex occidentalis (2,607)

Based on the above numbers, I believe the first three species are the most common and most abundant ant species across the state of Kansas.

For More Information

DuBois, M.B. 1985. Distribution of ants in Kansas: Subfamilies Ponerinae, Ecitoninae, and Myrmicinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiol 11(2): 153-187.

DuBois, MB (in prep.). Biodiversity of ants in Kansas.

DuBois, MB and J. Danoff-Burg (in prep.). Distribution of ants in Kansas: Subfamilies Dolichoderinae and Formicinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).

DuBois, MB and W.E. LaBerge. 1988. Annotated list of ants in Illinois (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). In J.C. Trager, ed., Advances in Myrmecology, pp. 133-156. E.J. Brill, New York, New York.

Gregg, R.E. 1963. The ants of Colorado. Univ. Colorado Press, Boulder. 792 pp.

Holldobler, B. and E.O. Wilson. 1990. The ants. Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. xii + 732 pp.

Ross, H.H., G. L. Rotramel, and W.E. LaBerge. 1971. A synopsis of common and economic Illinois ants, with keys to the genera (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Illinois Nat. Hist. Surv. Biol. Notes 71: 1-22.

Shattuck, S.O. 1992. Generic revision of the ant subfamily Dolichoderinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiol. 21(1) 1-181.

Wheeler, G.C. and J. Wheeler. 1963. The ants of North Dakota. Univ. North Dakota Press, Grand Forks. 326 pp.

Wheeler, W.M. 1910. Ants: Their structure, development and behavior. Columbia Univ. Press, New York. xxv + 663 pp.

Wilson, E.O. 1971. The insect societies. Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. x + 548 pp.

Wilson, E.o. 1992. The diversity of life. Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 424 pp.

Young, J. and D. Howell. 1964. Ants of Oklahoma. Oklahoma State Univ. Exp. Sta.

Misc. Publ. MP-71: 1-42.

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