Friday, April 2, 2010

Nuptial Flights of Spring Ants

This video shows a nuptial flight that recently happened in California to the widely distributed Prenolepis imparis. The common names are False Honey Ant if you're down south or from an arid area, or Winter Ant if you're up north where it's more temperate.

Queens are very Lasius like in appearance. Abdomen color ranges from dark amber to blondish brown and yellow. Thorax is a very noticeable pink salmon like color. Occasionally they're a little darker but almost imposable to mistake for anything else running around this time of year. At least in North America.

With such a wide distribution though genetic mutations are to be expected. All of these queens above were caught locally and you can see they differ in color and somewhat in size. (This group of 5 queens failed to produce any workers. Since then I've drawn the line at 4.)

Workers also differ somewhat. All across their range there are several noted varieties of this species. Color varies and I'm sure other features must as well. The two varieties near me tend to be pale brown or deep black. Searching for images on shows us everything in between, including a group that leans more toward being red. This shows how useless color is when identifying ants but it has it's uses all the same. An interesting thing to note though is that P. imparis colonies can have multiple queens in them, AND I have never found a colony that was comprised of two varieties. So this difference in color suddenly suggests P. imparis could be more than one species or hybrids there of.

To anyone planning on starting a colony, I wish you the best of luck. Late afternoon is best, if you can find a swarm as in the video above, even better. And you have until the end of April. Down south you may have missed them for the year, but Camponotus and Nylanderia have likely started up, (as well as a few spring flying Myrmica but fall is the season when most species fly I think).