Formica obtusopilosa

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Formica obtusopilosa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Formicini
Genus: Formica
Species: F. obtusopilosa
Binomial name
Formica obtusopilosa
Emery, 1893

Formica obtusopilosa casent0104686 profile 1.jpg

Formica obtusopilosa casent0104686 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


Nests are found under stones or in earthen mounds, similar to those of Myrmecocystus, in fine sandy or loam soils. These ants are very aggressive. Brood was found in nests in June and August, dealate females were found in July. Colonies are probably small, possibly a few hundred workers. One colony also contained workers of Formica aserva, Formica argentea, Formica lasioides and Myrmica. (Mackay and Mackay 2002)


Just approaching medium-sized, the bicolored (black, or darker brown to reddish brown, gaster with lighter colored, yellowish-red alitrunk and head) Formica obtusopilosa workers have a dense gastric pubescence. This species belongs to the sanguinea species group, which is behaviorally differentiated from other Formica species by their slavemaking habitats. They may be found in colonies that contain a mix of conspecific and heterspecific workers.

Morphologically the combination of dense gastric pubescence and an indentation in the middle of the clypeus or, more technically, a median concave impression on the anterior border of the clypeus set sanguinea species apart from other North American Formica. Erect light colored hairs (whitish to whitish yellow) that are larger towards their truncate tips differentiate these ants from other sanguinea species.


Minnesota to Alberta and southward to Nebraska, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico; also northern Mexico.

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 50.762° to 31.433333°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: Canada, United States (type locality).
Neotropical Region: Mexico.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Countries Occupied

Number of countries occupied by this species based on AntWiki Regional Taxon Lists. In general, fewer countries occupied indicates a narrower range, while more countries indicates a more widespread species.

Estimated Abundance

Relative abundance based on number of AntMaps records per species (this species within the purple bar). Fewer records (to the left) indicates a less abundant/encountered species while more records (to the right) indicates more abundant/encountered species.


In New Mexico (Mackay and Mackay 2002) - Sagebrush scrub through meadows, irrigated plains and pinyon-juniper forests up to aspen forests. Cole (1954) found a nest in dry semi-desert.


This species is a member of a group of Formica species that were formerly placed in the subgenus Raptiformica. All species are facultative slavemakers, i.e., species which usually or often have slaves but can get along without them. The colony-founding female forces her way into a small colony of another species of Formica, somehow gets rid of its queen and workers and appropriates its nest and brood. The workers emerging from this brood accept the intruding queen as their own. The enslaved species belong to the Formica neogagates, fusca, and pallidefulva species groups. When the workers of the slave-making species have become numerous enough, they start raiding for more slaves.

Nests in the soil in open grassy areas. Chambers may be found under stones or there may be a small earthen mound surrounding exposed ground entrances. Colonies can contain up to a few hundred workers.

Nevada, Wheeler and Wheeler (1986) - This species is widely scattered throughout the state. We have 45 records from 29 localities; 3,900-9,000 ft.; but 80% are between 6,000 ft. and 8,000 ft. Fourteen are in the Cool Desert (4 in Atriplex Subclimax and 1 in Sarcobatus Subclimax) and 28 are in the Pinyon-Juniper Biome. We have descriptions of 36 nests: 13 were under stones; of the exposed nests 11 were surmounted by craters, 7 by messy piles of excavated soil, while 5 had no excavated soil (just a hole in the ground). Craters ranged from 5 to 19 cm in diameter, average 14 cm; entrances ranged from 5 to 25 mm in diameter, average 8.6 mm. Workers were fast and timid, erratic (i.e., stopped suddenly and changed direction), but in a populous colony they were aggressive. In 2 colonies we found Formica fusca as slaves.

This species is a host for the ant Formica rubicunda (a slave maker).

Association with Other Organisms

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  • This species is a mutualist for the aphid Rhopalosiphum nymphaeae (a trophobiont) (Jones, 1927; Saddiqui et al., 2019) (as Formica munda).



MCZ ENT Formica obtusopilosa hef 6.jpgMCZ ENT Formica obtusopilosa hal 2.5x.jpgMCZ ENT Formica obtusopilosa had 2.jpgMCZ ENT Formica obtusopilosa lbs.jpg
Worker. . Owned by Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Mcz-ent00668237 Formica obtusopilosa hef.jpgMcz-ent00668237 Formica obtusopilosa hal.jpgMcz-ent00668237 Formica obtusopilosa had.jpgMcz-ent00668237 Formica obtusopilosa lbs.JPG
Worker. . Owned by Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Images from AntWeb

Formica obtusopilosa casent0104687 head 1.jpgFormica obtusopilosa casent0104687 profile 1.jpgFormica obtusopilosa casent0104687 dorsal 1.jpgFormica obtusopilosa casent0104687 label 1.jpg
Type of Formica obtusopilosaWorker. Specimen code casent0104687. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by AMNH, New York, NY, USA.


The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's Online Catalogue of the Ants of the World.

  • obtusopilosa. Formica obtusopilosa Emery, 1893i: 648 (w.) U.S.A. Combination in F. (Raptiformica): Emery, 1925b: 259. Subspecies of sanguinea: Wheeler, W.M. 1901c: 713; Wheeler, W.M. 1913f: 414. Revived status as species: Emery, 1925b: 259; Cole, 1942: 377. Senior synonym of munda: Emery, 1925b: 259; Creighton, 1950a: 465; of alticola: Wilson & Brown, 1955: 128.
  • munda. Formica munda Wheeler, W.M. 1905c: 267 (w.q.) U.S.A. Junior synonym of obtusopilosa: Emery, 1925b: 259; Creighton, 1950a: 465. See also: Wheeler, W.M. 1913f: 416.
  • alticola. Formica munda var. alticola Wheeler, W.M. 1917a: 534 (w.) U.S.A. Combination in F. (Raptiformica): Creighton, 1950a: 466. Subspecies of obtusopilosa: Creighton, 1950a: 466. Junior synonym of obtusopilosa: Wilson & Brown, 1955: 128.



  • Borowiec, M.L., Cover, S.P., Rabeling, C. 2021. The evolution of social parasitism in Formica ants revealed by a global phylogeny. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118, e2026029118 (doi:10.1073/pnas.2026029118).
  • Cole, A. C., Jr. 1942. The ants of Utah. Am. Midl. Nat. 28: 358-388 (page 377, revived status as species)
  • Creighton, W. S. 1950a. The ants of North America. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 104: 1-585 (page 465, Senior synonym of munda)
  • Emery, C. 1893k. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der nordamerikanischen Ameisenfauna. Zool. Jahrb. Abt. Syst. Geogr. Biol. Tiere 7: 633-682 (page 648, worker described)
  • Emery, C. 1925d. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Formicinae. Genera Insectorum 183: 1-302 (page 259, Combination in F. (Raptiformica), revived status as species, Senior synonym of munda)
  • Wheeler, G. C. and J. Wheeler. 1986. The ants of Nevada. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles.
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1901e. The compound and mixed nests of American ants. Part II (continued). Am. Nat. 35: 701-724 (page 713, Subspecies of sanguinea)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1913i. A revision of the ants of the genus Formica (Linné) Mayr. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 53: 379-565 (page 414, Subspecies of sanguinea)
  • Wilson, E. O.; Brown, W. L., Jr. 1955. Revisionary notes on the sanguinea and neogagates groups of the ant genus Formica. Psyche (Camb.) 62: 108-129 (page 128, Senior synonym of alticola)

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Allred D. M. 1982. Ants of Utah. The Great Basin Naturalist 42: 415-511.
  • Allred, D.M. 1982. The ants of Utah. Great Basin Naturalist 42:415-511.
  • Bestelmeyer B. T., and J. A. Wiens. 2001. Local and regional-scale responses of ant diversity to a semiarid biome transition. Ecography 24: 381-392.
  • Cole A. C., Jr. 1942. The ants of Utah. American Midland Naturalist 28: 358-388.
  • Cole, A.C. 1936. An annotated list of the ants of Idaho (Hymenoptera; Formicidae). Canadian Entomologist 68(2):34-39
  • Downing H., and J. Clark. 2018. Ant biodiversity in the Northern Black Hills, South Dakota (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 91(2): 119-132.
  • Glasier J. R. N., S. Nielsen, J. H. Acorn, L. H. Borysenko, and T. Radtke. 2016. A checklist of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Saskatchewan. The Canadian Field-Naturalist 130(1): 40-48.
  • Gregg, R.T. 1963. The Ants of Colorado.
  • Johnson R. Personnal Database. Accessed on February 5th 2014 at
  • Knowlton G. F. 1970. Ants of Curlew Valley. Proceedings of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters 47(1): 208-212.
  • La Rivers I. 1968. A first listing of the ants of Nevada. Biological Society of Nevada, Occasional Papers 17: 1-12.
  • Lavigne R., and T. J. Tepedino. 1976. Checklist of the insects in Wyoming. I. Hymenoptera. Agric. Exp. Sta., Univ. Wyoming Res. J. 106: 24-26.
  • Mackay W. P., and E. E. Mackay. 2002. The ants of New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 400 pp.
  • Mackay, W., D. Lowrie, A. Fisher, E. Mackay, F. Barnes and D. Lowrie. 1988. The ants of Los Alamos County, New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). pages 79-131 in J.C. Trager, editor, Advances in Myrmecololgy.
  • Michigan State University, The Albert J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection. Accessed on January 7th 2014 at
  • Sharplin, J. 1966. An annotated list of the Formicidae (Hymenoptera) of Central and Southern Alberta. Quaetiones Entomoligcae 2:243-253
  • Wheeler G. C., and J. Wheeler. 1986. The ants of Nevada. Los Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, vii + 138 pp.
  • Wheeler G. C., and J. Wheeler. 1987. A Checklist of the Ants of South Dakota. Prairie Nat. 19(3): 199-208.
  • Wheeler W. M. 1905. New species of Formica. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 21: 267-274.
  • Wheeler W. M. 1913. A revision of the ants of the genus Formica (Linné) Mayr. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 53: 379-565.
  • Wheeler W. M. 1917. The mountain ants of western North America. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 52: 457-569.
  • Wheeler, G.C. and J. Wheeler. 1988. A checklist of the ants of Montana. Psyche 95:101-114
  • Wheeler, G.C. and J. Wheeler. 1988. A checklist of the ants of Wyoming. Insecta Mundi 2(3&4):230-239
  • Wilson E. O., and W. L. Brown, Jr. 1955. Revisionary notes on the sanguinea and neogagates groups of the ant genus Formica. Psyche (Cambridge) 62: 108-129.