Some plants supply nectar to ants in return for protection from herbivores. Here a Dolichoderus ant feeds from nectar. Dolichoderus are morphologically and ecologically diverse ants found worldwide. They are heavily sculptured and their bodies often ornamented with spines.
Major and minor workers of an Oligomyrmex species. Minor workers of Oligomyrmex are among the world's smallest ants. The ants pictured here, like many tropical rainforest insects, belong to a species that has not yet been described by scientists. Little is known about the biology of most species, but some are known to be thief ants, nesting alongside larger species of ants whose brood they prey upon.
Dinoponera hunting ants are the largest ants in the Neotropics.
Myrmecia ants are a conspicuous element of the Australian insect fauna, and with the exception of a rare New Caledonian species they are found nowhere else. These large, elegant ants are regarded as having many primitive characteristics, including a relatively simple social structure, little morphological difference between queens and workers , and a basic foraging strategy where ants hunt for food individually using primarily visual cues.
A California harvester ant worker stands guard at the nest entrance. Pogonomyrmex are harvester ants found in arid habitats in North and South America. They are often large and conspicuous insects, and they play ecologically important roles as scavengers and seed dispersers. Pogonomyrmex are also known for their painful stings.
A trap-jaw ant stalks a young cricket. Odontomachus are large, conspicuous ponerine ants found in the tropics and subtropics worldwide. These predatory insects are noted for their unusual mandibles, which are held open at 180º and snap shut on a hair trigger.
Citronella ants tending subterranean mealybugs. The ants derive much of their nutrition from mealybug secretions, and the mealybugs are protected and carried to new plants by their ant hosts. Also notice that the ant at the upper right has a mite riding on its abdomen. Lasius are commonly encountered ants in a wide variety of habitats in the North Temperate Zone in both the old and the new world.
Honeypot ants have an unusual food storage system. Some members of each colony act as living receptacles known as "repletes", these ants become engorged with food and hang from the ceilings of chambers deep underground. Myrmecocystus are soil-nesting ants endemic to the arid regions of western North America.
Amblyopone is an ancient group of predaceous ants found worldwide. These subterranean ants have elongate mandibles and a characteristic broad posterior attachment of the petiole. Amblyopone ants are specialist predators of geophilomorph centipedes. Here a worker ant carries a centipede it has paralyzed back to her nest.
Army ants on the march. This species, Neivamyrmex californicus, is endemic to California and Baja California. Neivamyrmex are the most diverse and widely-distributed of the new world army ants, and are the only army ants found in the temperate regions of North America. Although these ants are not uncommon, they are not often encountered because of their partly subterranean habits. Most Neivamyrmex are specialized predators of other ant species.
Army ants on the run. Eciton are large Neotropical army ants with a highly modified soldier caste bearing ice-tong shaped mandibles. E. burchelli, are known for its expansive epigaeic swarm raids.
Ants mating. The tiny male is little more than a flying sperm delivery vessel whose life ends shortly after mating. The much larger female will strike out on her own to start a new ant colony. Her bulk is necessary for a life of prolific egg production. Brachymyrmex are some of the smallest ants in the world. They are found throughout the new world but are particularly diverse in the Neotropics.
A testy bulldog ant advances on the camera that intrudes on her nest. The large eyes of this ant give her excellent vision. Bull ants are well known by Australians for the aggressive defense of their nests and their painful stings.
Myrmecia ants from neighboring nests, engaged in battle. Jack jumpers are well known by Australians for the aggressive defense of their nests and their painful stings.
Nothomyrmecia is among the most elegant of ants. The single species N. macrops is the only living representative of an ancient lineage (the Prionomyrmecini) that occurred worldwide in the Cretaceous. Nothomyrmecia ants are only rarely seen, not because they are uncommon, but because they only forage on cold nights during some parts of the year and because they are restricted to a particular type of mallee habitat.
Oecophyll are large arboreal ants of the African, Asian, and Australian tropics. These conspicuous insects are weaver ants, they create nests by pulling living tree leaves together and securing them with silk produced by the ants' larvae. Colonies can be large and territorial, covering several trees and containing dozens of nests.
A spider ant worker, gaster raised characteristically above her body. Leptomyrmex are large, leggy, often colorful insects. Their rapid, skittish movements and their long legs give them a spider-like appearance in the field. Some workers in each nest specialize as living storage containers called repletes, their gasters greatly distended. The extant species of this distinctive genus are restricted to eastern Australia, New Guinea, and New Caledonia.
Minor workers of Pheidole desertorum tending to eggs and larvae. Pheidole is the world's most species-rich ant genus. They have a cosmopolitan distribution but are particularly diverse in the tropics. Pheidole have a pronounced worker caste polymorphism- major workers are considerably larger than minors and have disproportionately large heads. Some species are seed harvesters.
Queen and worker Formica ants in the nest, early spring. The fusca group is the most diverse and abundant of all the Formica. They are found nearly everywhere in temperate North America and Eurasia.
Rhytidoponera metallica is a common soil-nesting ant in urban areas throughout Australia. Rhytidoponera are common, conspicuous, and often strikingly-colored ectatommine ants found from Indonesia to Australia and New Caledonia. These ants are encountered in a broad range of habitats and usually nest in the soil or in rotting wood.