Aphaenogaster tennesseensis

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Aphaenogaster tennesseensis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Stenammini
Genus: Aphaenogaster
Species: A. tennesseensis
Binomial name
Aphaenogaster tennesseensis
(Mayr, 1862)

Aphaenogaster tennesseensis casent0103600 profile 1.jpg

Aphaenogaster tennesseensis casent0103600 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label


This species is presumed to be a temporary parasite in ground nests of other species of Aphaenogaster, including Aphaenogaster fulva, Aphaenogaster picea and Aphaenogaster rudis (Smith, 1979). Workers forage on trees and nest in rotting wood.

At a Glance • Temporary parasite  


Photo Gallery

  • Foraging worker from Antrim, New Hampshire. Photo by Tom Murray.
  • Portrait of a social parasite, Aphaenogaster tennesseensis. Urbana, Illinois, USA. Photo by Alex Wild.
  • Socially parasitic ants are usually describable by their relatively small queens, as ants that start new colonies by infiltrating existing nests do note need large body reserves. The queen of A. tennesseensis - a temporary nest-founding parasite of several other woodland Aphaenogaster - is scarcely larger than their own workers. Urbana, Illinois, USA. Photo by Alex Wild.
  • This parasitic A. tennesseensis queen has just penetrated a nest of her host species. Aphaenogaster rudis. She is highly attractive to her victims, who unknowingly tend her and begin raising her eggs as their own. The original host queen killed, this colony will gradually turn into a full nest of A. tennesseensis, Manhattan, Kansas, USA. Photo by Alex Wild.
  • A worker tending brood, including both pupae and mature larvae. Urbana, Illinois, USA. Photo by Alex Wild.
  • Aphaenogaster tennesseensis with eggs and young larvae. The difference in color between the two adult ants is due to their age, as ants darken over time. Urbana, Illinois, USA. Photo by Alex Wild.
  • On the underside of a sun-soaked leaf, Aphaenogaster tennesseensis tending to Entylia sp. treehoppers. The treehoppers secrete sweet honeydew for the ants in exchange for protection from parasites and predators. The spiky-looking bugs are the immature stages of the larger shield-shaped insects. Lake Glendale, Illinois, USA. Photo by Alex Wild.


Workers are relatively large, dark reddish-brown, with heavy sculpture, long curved propodeal spines, and have the postpetiole broader than long and suboval in shape. The queens are very distinctive looking and are almost entirely smooth, lacking any obvious sculpture, and have long blunt tipped propodeal spines.

This ant is easily diagnosed by its lack of hair on the mesosoma and metasoma, and by the propodeal spines that curve back towards the gaster (DeMarco, 2015).


Deyrup (2016) - This species has a protuberance on the ventral side of the postpetiole, and coarse irregular ridges on the mesopleuron, both features shared by Aphaenogaster mariae. It lacks the long, fine ridges at the base of the first gastral tergite found in A. mariae. Aphaenogaster tennesseensis differs from all other Florida species in the lack of any erect hairs on the mesosoma, petiole, postpetiole, and gaster. It is also distinguished by its extraordinarily long propodeal spines, which are thick at the base and somewhat curved, tapering to a sharp point. In the field, tennesseensis might be mistaken for Aphaenogaster lamellidens.

Keys including this Species



Deyrup (2016) - Quebec south into Florida, west into Minnesota and Oklahoma (Smith 1979). In Florida, tennesseensis is known from a few sites in the northern part of the state. It appears to be rare in Florida.

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: United States (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb



Deyrup (2016) - This species usually occurs in mesic woodlands. It is believed to be a temporary nest parasite of other Aphaenogaster, on the basis of the small size and large spines of the queen, and the discovery of three small mixed colonies of tennesseensis and some species in the fulva—rudis complex (Wheeler 1910a). These colonies were found under stones, rather than in rotten wood, where mature colonies of tennesseensis occur (Wheeler 1910a). Nests may be in rotting stumps or logs, in standing dead trees, and in dead portions of live trees (Smith 1965). Mature colonies have several hundred to several thousand individuals (Smith 1965). The latter estimate would be unusually high for a species of eastern Aphaenogaster. Foraging is usually on the ground, where the workers collect small arthropods (Carroll 1975). Alates have been found in the nest in August (Carroll 1975).




The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • laevis. Atta laevis Mayr, 1862: 743 (q.) U.S.A. Combination in Aphaenogaster: Roger, 1863b: 30. Junior synonym of tennesseensis: Mayr, 1886d: 446.
  • tennesseensis. Atta tennesseensis Mayr, 1862: 743 (w.) U.S.A. Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1953b: 61 (l.). Combination in Aphaenogaster: Roger, 1863b: 30; in Stenamma (Aphaenogaster): Emery, 1895c: 301; in Aphaenogaster (Attomyrma): Emery, 1921f: 60. Senior synonym of subrubra: Mayr, 1886c: 365; of laevis: Mayr, 1886d: 446; of ecalcaratum: Creighton, 1950a: 151.
  • subrubra. Myrmica subrubra Buckley, 1867: 336 (w.q.) U.S.A. Junior synonym of tennesseensis: Mayr, 1886c: 365. See also: Wheeler, W.M. 1902f: 26.
  • ecalcaratum. Stenamma (Aphaenogaster) tennesseense var. ecalcaratum Emery, 1895c: 301 (w.) U.S.A. Combination in Aphaenogaster: Emery, 1921f: 60. Junior synonym of tennesseensis: Creighton, 1950a: 151.