Monday Night Mystery: tell me about these ants

In February 2003, over 10 years ago, I bought my first SLR camera. I wanted to photograph ants, of course. So I didn’t lose time heading to the California coast range to try the new gear on live subjects. Below is one of the first properly-focused efforts, more or less (you really don’t want to see the failures):


Your challenge tonight is to answer the following:

  1. What is the genus (2 points) and species (2 points)?
  2. According to the available genetic data, which lineage of ants is most likely to be the closest living relative of this genus? (3 points)
  3. I mentioned that this photo was taken in California in February. If I were to return to the same spot now, in August, would I be more likely or less likely to see these ants? Explain (3 points).

To earn points, be the first person to correctly answer each question. The cumulative points winner across all mysteries for the month of August will win their choice of 1) any 8×10-sized print from my insect photography galleries, or 2) a guest post here on Myrmecos.

Good luck!

11 thoughts on “Monday Night Mystery: tell me about these ants”

  1. Liometopum occidentalis; the Aptinoma/Tapinoma clade; I’d expect to see them in Oak trees at this time of year, venturing less often into the grass.

    1. In terms of more or less likely; they were active in February? Where in California were you? Around the East bay, they seem to peak in activity around mid to late spring, then haunt the trees and climb in and all over your hair. I’d guess that as you were early in the year, the peak of activity would be later and therefore yes, they would be more likely to be active later.

  2. Based on my ‘Revision of Formicidae of North America’ I suggest these are Formica rubronigra, thought to be derived from a hybrid swarm between Formica rubra and Formica nigra. Under this revised classification, all seven species of ants in North America can be found pretty much all year long.

  3. Michael Suttkus, II

    If you came back in August ten years later, you are not likely to see those ants! They’re all dead! Ants don’t live for ten years!

  4. Pingback: Answer to the Monday Mystery – MYRMECOS - Insect Photography - Insect Pictures

  5. 1. Liometopum occidentale

    2. Linepithema humile

    3. Less likely. These ants seem to undergo a short mid-summer activity shut-down, presumably from the heat.

Leave a Reply