Formica rufibarbis

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Formica rufibarbis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Formicini
Genus: Formica
Species: F. rufibarbis
Binomial name
Formica rufibarbis
Fabricius, 1793

Formica rufibarbis casent0173870 profile 1.jpg

Formica rufibarbis casent0173870 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


This is a widely distributed species occurring throughout Europe, nesting in the ground with a single entrance hole or under stones. It is predatory and aggressive and readily attacks other species of ants and insects. New nests are started by single queens alone. Mature colonies are separate but may contain two or three queens with up to 500 or more workers. Alatae fly in late June and July (Collingwood 1979). Pashaei Rad et al. (2018) found this species in Iran on parkland ground in a moderate rainfall area.

Photo Gallery

  • Formica rufibarbis worker at nest entrance. Photo by Jitte Groothuis.
  • Formica rufibarbis queen. Photo by Michal Kukla.


Seifert and Schultz (2009) - A member of the Formica rufibarbis group. Formica rufibarbis is safely separable by discriminant analysis from any other species of the group throughout its whole geographic range. Sometimes, less hairy specimens of F. rufibarbis could be confused with more hairy Formica clara.

Collingwood (1979) - Head and alitrunk mainly red with variable amounts of dark on promesonotum and hind part of head. Gaster thickly pubescent, dull. Erect hairs numerous on pronotum and normally present on upper margin of scale, absent on gula and occiput. Length: 4.5-7.0 mm.

Keys including this Species


Seifert and Schultz (2009) - Inhabiting the temperate, Ponto-south-Siberian and Submediterranean zones of the West Palaearctic from the Pyrenees to West Siberia (76° E) and the Southwest Siberian Saur Mountains (85° E). In Fennoscandia going to 61° N, both in Sweden (Collingwood 1979) and Finland, in the Alps and the Caucasus climbing up to 2100 m.

Collingwood (1979) - Portugal to Western Siberia, Mountains of Middle East to South Fennoscandia.

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Oriental Region: India.
Palaearctic Region: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Balearic Islands, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France (type locality), Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iberian Peninsula, Iran, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Seifert and Schultz (2009) - Habitat selection intermediate between the moderately thermophilic Formica cunicularia and the strongly thermophilic Formica clara. Compared to the former more frequent on sandy and open ground with higher soil temperature, lower moisture and less developed herb layer and penetrating deeper into the urban zone. Presence, mean and maximum nest density on 81 potentially suitable, 150-m2-test-plots on open land in Germany was 44%, 1.0 and 6.0 nests / 100 m2 respectively. Diet, activity pattern and nest construction similar to F. cunicularia but often with larger nest populations, more aggressive, more readily attacking other ants and more effectively defending against social parasites than F. cunicularia. Cooperative transport of large prey items may occur. Alates occur in Central Europe 14 July ± 15 d [16 June, 3 August], n = 13 (Seifert 2007).

Associations with other Organisms

Other Insects

  • This species is a host for the ant Formica sanguinea (a slave maker).
  • This species is a host for the ant Polyergus rufescens (a slave maker).
  • This ant has been associated with a butterfly species that has recently been split into two species: Polyommatus icarus and Polyommatus celin. Presently it is unclear if this association is between F. rufibarus and one or the other of these butterflies, or both (Obregon et al. 2015).


This species is a host for the fungus Aegeritella tuberculata (a pathogen) (Espadaler & Santamaria, 2012).



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

  • rufibarbis. Formica rufibarbis Fabricius, 1793: 355 (w.) FRANCE. Jurine, 1807: 273 (q.m.); Emery, 1909b: 197 (q.m.). Combination in F. (Serviformica): Forel, 1915d: 64. Subspecies of fusca: Forel, 1874: 54; Mayr, 1886d: 427; Forel, 1892i: 307; Ruzsky, 1904b: 4; Wheeler, W.M. 1908g: 406; Emery, 1909b: 197; Forel, 1915d: 64; Emery, 1916b: 255; Santschi, 1919e: 247. Status as species: André, 1882b: 182; Nasonov, 1889: 19; Dalla Torre, 1893: 209; Emery, 1898c: 126; Ruzsky, 1902d: 11; Bingham, 1903: 335; Wheeler, W.M. 1913f: 514; Donisthorpe, 1915d: 320; Wheeler, W.M. 1917a: 550; Bondroit, 1918: 51; Emery, 1925b: 249; Karavaiev, 1927c: 286; Stitz, 1930: 238; Karavaiev, 1936: 234; Stitz, 1939: 355; Novak & Sadil, 1941: 107; Yarrow, 1954a: 231; Dlussky, 1967a: 73; Bernard, 1967: 297; Francoeur, 1973: 228; Collingwood, 1979: 128. Senior synonym of cinereorufibarbis: Bernard, 1967: 297; Collingwood, 1978: 73; Seifert & Schultz, 2009: 260; of defensor, fraterna: Forel, 1894c: 403; Bingham, 1903: 335; of nicaeensis: Roger, 1863b: 13; of piligera: Lomnicki, 1928: 9; Dlussky & Pisarski, 1971: 163; of stenoptera: Dalla Torre, 1893: 210; Yarrow, 1954a: 231; Dlussky, 1967a: 73. See also: Seifert & Schultz, 2009: 260. Current subspecies: nominal plus clarorufibarbis, subpilosorufibarbis.
  • nicaeensis. Formica nicaeensis Leach, 1825: 291 (w.q.m.) FRANCE. Junior synonym of rufibarbis: Roger, 1863b: 13.
  • cinereorufibarbis. Formica fusca var. cinereorufibarbis Forel, 1874: 55 (w.q.m.) SWITZERLAND. Combination in F. (Serviformica): Forel, 1915d: 64. Subspecies of rufibarbis: Dalla Torre, 1893: 210; of cinerea: Forel, 1915d: 64; Emery, 1916b: 255; Emery, 1925b: 246. Junior synonym of rufibarbis: Bernard, 1967: 297; of fuscocinerea: Dlussky & Pisarski, 1971: 161. Revived from synonymy and raised to species: Kutter, 1977c: 253. Junior synonym of rufibarbis: Collingwood, 1978: 73; Seifert & Schultz, 2009: 260.
  • defensor. Formica defensor Smith, F. 1878b: 11 (w.) CHINA. Junior synonym of rufibarbis: Forel, 1894c: 403.
  • fraterna. Formica fraterna Smith, F. 1878b: 11 (w.) CHINA. Junior synonym of rufibarbis: Forel, 1894c: 403; Bingham, 1903: 335.
  • piligera. Formica rufibarbis var. piligera Lomnicki, 1925a: 175 (w.q.) POLAND. Junior synonym of rufibarbis: Lomnicki, 1928: 9; Dlussky & Pisarski, 1971: 163.

Type Material

Seifert and Schultz (2009) - Neotype worker labelled “FRA: 44.073°N, 7.295°E, St. Martin Vesubie, Cime de la Palu, 2058 m R. Schultz 2002.05.14 -108” and “Neotype Formica rufibarbis Fabricius 1793, des. Seifert & Schultz 2009”; SMN Görlitz. In case of destruction or loss of the neotype specimen, a replacement neotype can be designated from a series of 6 mounted workers and 14 workers in ethanol from the same nest sample, having identical sample number, kept in SMN Görlitz and coll. RS.

Justification of the neotype fixation: Formica rufibarbis has been described from France ("Habitat in Gallia"). There is no specimen from Fabricius available that could be interpreted as a primary type. During a thorough search in the Fabricius collection in ZMU Copenhagen in 2006, a Formica worker labelled “rufibarbis” was found. It is without head, has a damaged mesosoma, carries no locality label but the registration label "Formica rufibarbis 402.26 Kiel" (a permanent loan from the museum in Kiel). This specimen definitely belongs to Formica truncorum Fabricius, 1804. It cannot be considered as type of F. rufibarbis because its characters clearly disagree with the original description: It has reddish legs including tarsi instead of “pedes nigri” and a reddish brown gaster instead of “Abdomen atrum”. The missing parts of this F. truncorum specimen would also not have a “Caput nigrum ore late rufo”. Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.



Seifert and Schultz (2009) - Large Serviformica species (mean CS 1.455 mm), head more elongated (CL / CW1.4 1.141), Scape moderately long SL / CS1.4 1.068; distance of lateral ocelli moderate (OceD / CS1.4 0.169), petiole rather wide (PEW / CS1.4 0.471). Clypeus with sharp median keel and fine longitudinal microcarinulae. Frontal triangle finely transversely rippled and with 35 - 55 short pubescence hairs. Eyes with microsetae of 11 - 15 μm maximum length. Total mean of unilateral setae numbers on different body parts predicted for a specimen with CS = 1.4 mm: pronotum 11.1, mesonotum 6.5, propodeum plus dorsolateral metapleuron 0.8, petiole scale dorsal of spiracle 3.2, flexor profile of hind tibia 2.8. Posterior margin of head normally without setae. Ventral coxae and gaster tergites with long setae. Dorsal mesonotum in lateral aspect broadly rounded. Metanotal groove relatively deep. Propodeal dome in profile rounded, its basal profile sometimes flat or slightly concave. Dorsal crest of petiole in frontal view convex, sometimes (especially in larger specimens) with straight or weekly excavate median portion, in smaller ants sometimes bluntly angled. Petiole scale in lateral aspect rather thin, with convex anterior and more straight posterior profile. Gaster with transverse microripples of small average distance (RipD 4.4 μm) and covered by dense silvery pubescence (sqPDG 3.2). Pubescence on head, mesosoma and petiole dense. Posterior vertex, sometimes dorsal promesonotum, coxae and all appendages normally brown or dark brown, gaster always dark brown. Other body parts reddish.


  • n = 27, 2n = 54 (Finland; Switzerland) (Hauschteck-Jungen & Jungen, 1976; Rosengren et al., 1980).


  • André, E. 1882c. Les fourmis. [part]. Pp. 153-232 in: André, Edm. 1881-1886. Species des Hyménoptères d'Europe et d'Algérie. Tome Deuxième. Beaune: Edmond André, 919 + 48 pp. (page 182, status as species)
  • Bernard, F. 1967a [1968]. Faune de l'Europe et du Bassin Méditerranéen. 3. Les fourmis (Hymenoptera Formicidae) d'Europe occidentale et septentrionale. Paris: Masson, 411 pp. (page 297, status as species, senior synonym of cinereorufibarbis)
  • Bingham, C. T. 1903. The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Hymenoptera, Vol. II. Ants and Cuckoo-wasps. London: Taylor and Francis, 506 pp. (page 335, status as species, senior synonym of defensor and fraterna)
  • Bondroit, J. 1918. Les fourmis de France et de Belgique. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Fr. 87: 1-174 (page 51, status as species)
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1978. A provisional list of Iberian Formicidae with a key to the worker caste (Hym. Aculeata). EOS. Rev. Esp. Entomol. 52: 65-95 (page 73, senior synonym of cinereorufibarbis)
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1979. The Formicidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomol. Scand. 8: 1-174 (page 128, status as species)
  • Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 209, status as species; page 210, senior synonym of stenoptera)
  • Dlussky, G. M. 1967a. Ants of the genus Formica (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, g. Formica). Moskva: Nauka Publishing House, 236 pp. (page 73, status as species, senior synonym of stenoptera)
  • Dlussky, G. M.; Pisarski, B. 1971. Rewizja polskich gatunków mrówek (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) z rodzaju Formica L. Fragm. Faun. (Warsaw) 16: 145-224 (page 163, senior synonym of piligera)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1915f. British ants, their life-history and classification. Plymouth: Brendon & Son Ltd., xv + 379 pp. (page 320, status as species)
  • Emery, C. 1898c. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der palaearktischen Ameisen. Öfvers. Fin. Vetensk.-Soc. Förh. 20: 124-151 (page 126, status as species)
  • Emery, C. 1909b. Beiträge zur Monographie der Formiciden des paläarktischen Faunengebietes. (Hym.) Teil VII. Dtsch. Entomol. Z. 1909: 179-204 (page 197, queen, male described, Variety/race/subspecies of fusca)
  • Emery, C. 1916a [1915]. Fauna entomologica italiana. I. Hymenoptera.-Formicidae. Bull. Soc. Entomol. Ital. 47: 79-275 (page 255, Variety/race/subspecies of fusca)
  • Emery, C. 1925d. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Formicinae. Genera Insectorum 183: 1-302 (page 249, status as species)
  • Espadaler, X., Santamaria, S. 2012. Ecto- and Endoparasitic Fungi on Ants from the Holarctic Region. Psyche Article ID 168478, 10 pages (doi:10.1155/2012/168478).
  • Fabricius, J. C. 1793. Entomologia systematica emendata et aucta. Secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, adjectis synonimis, locis observationibus, descriptionibus. Tome 2. Hafniae [= Copenhagen]: C. G. Proft, 519 pp. (page 355, worker described)
  • Forel, A. 1874. Les fourmis de la Suisse. Systématique, notices anatomiques et physiologiques, architecture, distribution géographique, nouvelles expériences et observations de moeurs. Neue Denkschr. Allg. Schweiz. Ges. Gesammten Naturwiss. 26: 1-452 (page 54, Variety/race/subspecies of fusca)
  • Forel, A. 1892j. Die Ameisenfauna Bulgariens. (Nebst biologischen Beobachtungen.). Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 42: 305-318 (page 307, Variety/race/subspecies of fusca)
  • Forel, A. 1894c. Les Formicides de l'Empire des Indes et de Ceylan. Part IV. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 8: 396-420 (page 403, senior synonym of defensor and fraterna)
  • Forel, A. 1915d. Fauna insectorum helvetiae. Hymenoptera. Formicidae. Die Ameisen der Schweiz. Mitt. Schweiz. Entomol. Ges. 12(B Beilage: 1-77 (page 64, combination in F. (Serviformica), Variety/race/subspecies of fusca)
  • Francoeur, A. 1973. Révision taxonomique des espèces néarctiques du groupe fusca, genre Formica (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). Mém. Soc. Entomol. Qué. 3: 1-316 (page 228, status as species)
  • Jurine, L. 1807. Nouvelle méthode de classer les Hyménoptères et les Diptères. Hyménoptères. Vol. 1. Genève: Paschoud, 319 pp. (page 273, queen, male described)
  • Karavaiev, V. 1927a [1926]. Übersicht der Ameisenfauna der Krim nebst einigen Neubeschreibungen. Konowia 5: 281-303 (page 286, status as species)
  • Karavaiev, V. 1936. The fauna of the family Formicidae (ants) of the Ukraine. Part II (conclusion). Tr. Inst. Zool. Biol. Ukr. Akad. Nauk Ser. 1 Pr. Syst. Faun. 1936: 161-316 (page 234, status as species)
  • Lomnicki, J. 1928. Spis mrówek Lwowa i okolicy. Ksiegi Pamiatkowej (Lecia Gimn. IV Jana Dlugosza Lwowie) 50: 1-10 (page 9, senior synonym of piligera)
  • Mayr, G. 1886d. Die Formiciden der Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 36: 419-464 (page 427, Variety/race/subspecies of fusca)
  • Nasonov, N. V. 1889. Contribution to the natural history of the ants primarily of Russia. 1. Contribution to the ant fauna of Russia. Izv. Imp. Obshch. Lyubit. Estestvozn. Antropol. Etnogr. Imp. Mosk. Univ. 58: 1-78 (page 19, status as species)
  • Novák, V.; Sadil, J. 1941. Klíc k urcování mravencu strední Evropy se zvlástním zretelem k mravencí zvírene Cech a Moravy. Entomol. Listy 4: 65-115 (page 107, status as species)
  • Obregon, R., M. R. Shaw, J. Fernandez-Haeger, and D. Jordano. 2015. Parasitoid and ant interactions of some Iberian butterflies (Insecta: Lepidoptera). Shilap-Revista De Lepidopterologia. 43:439-454.
  • Pashaei Rad, S., Taylor, B., Torabi, R., Aram, E., Abolfathi, G., Afshari, R., Borjali, F., Ghatei, M., Hediary, F., Jazini, F., Heidary Kiah, V., Mahmoudi, Z., Safariyan, F., Seiri, M. 2018. Further records of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from Iran. Zoology in the Middle East 64, 145-159 (doi:10.1080/09397140.2018.1442301).
  • Roger, J. 1863b. Verzeichniss der Formiciden-Gattungen und Arten. Berl. Entomol. Z. 7(B Beilage: 1-65 (page 13, senior synonym of nicaeensis)
  • Ruzsky, M. 1902d. Material on the ant fauna of the Caucasus and the Crimea. Protok. Obshch. Estestvoispyt. Imp. Kazan. Univ. 206(su suppl: 1-33 (page 11, status as species)
  • Ruzsky, M. 1904b. Ants of the Dzungarian Ala Tau. Izv. Imp. Tomsk. Univ. 30(5th p part: 1-6 (page 4, Variety/race/subspecies of fusca)
  • Santschi, F. 1919e. Fourmis d'Espagne et des Canaries. Bol. R. Soc. Esp. Hist. Nat. 19: 241-248 (page 247, Variety/race/subspecies of fusca)
  • Seifert, B. and R. Schultz. 2009. A taxonomic revision of the Formica rufibarbis Fabricius, 1793 group (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News. 12:255-272.
  • Stitz, H. 1930a. Entomologische Ergebnisse der Deutsch-Russischen Alai-Pamir Expedition 1928 (1). 5. Hymenoptera III. Formicidae. Mitt. Zool. Mus. Berl. 16: 238-240 (page 238, status as species)
  • Stitz, H. 1939. Die Tierwelt Deutschlands und der angrenzenden Meersteile nach ihren Merkmalen und nach ihrer Lebensweise. 37. Theil. Hautflüger oder Hymenoptera. I: Ameisen oder Formicidae. Jena: G. Fischer, 428 pp. (page 355, status as species)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1908h. The ants of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. (Part I.). Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 24: 399-485 (page 406, Variety/race/subspecies of fusca)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1913i. A revision of the ants of the genus Formica (Linné) Mayr. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 53: 379-565 (page 514, status as species)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1917a. The mountain ants of western North America. Proc. Am. Acad. Arts Sci. 52: 457-569 (page 550, status as species)
  • Yarrow, I. H. H. 1954a. The British ants allied to Formica fusca L. (Hym., Formicidae). Trans. Soc. Br. Entomol. 11: 229-244 (page 231, status as species, senior synonym of stenoptera)