Note: This article was modified from Johnson, J., A. Calixto, M. Harris and B. Drees. 2011. “Common ant fauna observed at lures when sampling for fire ants” in Proceedings of the Imported Fire Ant Conference (P. Nester, ed.), Galveston, Texas, April 4-7, 2011. Page 102.
Food lure baits are commonly used to attract foraging ants where they can be observed and collected. This technique is used to estimate the composition and richness of foraging fauna. It also helps to examine ant activity and behavioral patterns of assemblage structure (Bestelmeyer et al 2000). The time to recruit and the abundance of foragers provides a measure of foraging efficiency and species dominance (resource discovery and dominance).
Use of food lure baits are an integral part of red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta Buren) studies where they are used to aid in the estimation of relative densities and assess ecological dominance among different habitats (Calixto et al. 2012) (see video of food lure sampling in field plot). We have conducted field studies across Texas and have observed numerous species responding to these baits. Identification in the field is somewhat difficult. Our goal was to develop an illustrated, descriptive field guide for the common ants observed at baits to distinguish them from fire ants in ecological and applied studies.
Ants foraging on hot dogs (each = 2 gr of Bar-S Classic Franks) were photographed using a digital camera after left exposed for 30-45 minutes. We present pictures of the species along with a brief description and how frequent each is observed at food lure baits (Low, Medium, High).
Solenopsis invicta Buren: Polymorphic castes, reddish color, has a median clypeal tooth, colonies can reach 100,000+ ants. Frequency: High
Solenopsis geminata (Fabricius): Polymorphic castes, reddish color, has no median clypeal tooth. Frequency: Rare + ants. Frequency: High
Solenopsis (=Diplorhoptrum) molesta (Say) : Small species (~1mm), yellowish to brown color, small colonies. Frequency: Medium
Monomorium minimum (Buckley): small species (~1mm), black color. Frequency: Medium
Pheidole dentata (Mayr): Majors ~4mm, Minors ~3mm, reddish color, Majors have disproportionately large head. Frequency: Medium to High
Pogonomyrmex barbatus (Smith): Workers 7.0-9.5, reddish-brown, rounded head, monomorphic, called red harvester ants. Frequency: Low to medium
Crematogaster laeviuscula Mayr: ~3-4mm, reddish color with black abdomen, called the Valentine ant because of its heart shaped abdomen. Frequency: Low
Nylanderia terricola (Buckley): ~2mm, yellowish to brown color, hairs present over the majority of its body. Frequency: Medium
Forelius pruinosis (Roger): ~2mm, yellowish to brown in color, Frequency: High
Dorymyrmex flavus McCook: ~3mm, yellowish to brown color, commonly known as the pyramid ant due to the pyramid shape of their mounds. Frequency: High
Linepithema humile (Mayr): ~2mm, commonly known as the Argentine ant, well developed petiolar scale, highly invasive species. Frequency: Low (in places where an infestation occurs, frequency can be extremely high)
Pachycondyla villosa (Fabricius): Large species (~12mm), shiny black with golden villosities, mostly solitary. Frequency: Rare
Watch video; see video of P. harpax.
Johnny Johnson, Alejandro A. Calixto, Marvin Harris and Bart Drees, Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
We wish to thank Molly Keck and Danny McDonald for their careful reviews of this page.
Bestelmeyer, B. T., D. Agosti, L. E. Alonso, C. R. Brandao, W. L. Brown Jr., J. H. C. Delabie and R. Silvestre. 2000. Field techniques for the study of ground-dwelling ants: an overview, description, and evaluation, pp. 122–144. In Agosti, D., Majer, J., Alonso, E. and Schultz, T., (eds.). Ants: Standard Methods for Measuring and Monitoring Biodiversity. Biological Diversity Handbook Series. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington DC.
Brian L. Fisher and Stefan P. Cover . Ants of North America, University of California Press: 2007.
Calixto, A. A., B. Drees and L. A. Pena. 2012. Rapid assessment survey of the fauna of Green Island, Cameron County, Texas. Southwestern Entomologist 37(2):141-146.