Students of the North American myrmecofauna will undoubtedly recognize this ant. Pudgy, pleasingly orange in color, and smelling sweetly of citrus, the citronella ant is an endearing creature. This Nearctic endemic is among our most common ants, living in underground empires farming root aphids and mealybugs for sustenance.
Yet few people ever encounter these shy insects. They emerge above ground for only a few hours each year, in late summer to see off the colony’s winged reproductives.
The dozen or so citronella ant species have been placed historically in the genus Acanthomyops, a tightly-defined group marked by a number of recognizable morphological traits. This arrangement is no longer viable. Taxonomists had long suspected that Acanthomyops was a daughter lineage descended from the widespread Holarctic Lasius. Their suspicion has been confirmed by molecular genetic data from multiple studies, and Ward (2005) performed the inevitable demotion. Acanthomyops is now a subgenus of Lasius.
photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon EOS 20D
ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f/13, flash diffused through tracing paper