Lasius fuliginosus

Every Ant Tells a Story - And Scientists Explain Their Stories Here
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Lasius fuliginosus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Lasiini
Genus: Lasius
Species: L. fuliginosus
Binomial name
Lasius fuliginosus
(Latreille, 1798)

Lasius fuliginosus casent0173166 profile 1.jpg

Lasius fuliginosus casent0173166 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels

This species exhibits temporary social parasitism. Queens found new colonies by infiltrating an established nest of a different ant species, killing the queen and having the host workers care for her initial brood. Hosts include Lasius alienus, Lasius brunneus, Lasius mixtus, Lasius niger, Lasius rabaudi and Lasius umbratus. Lasius fuliginosus form large carton nests commonly in cavities at the base of old trees (oak, birch, willow, pine).

At a Glance • Temporary parasite  


Photo Gallery

  • Lasius fuliginosus, foraging workers. Photo by Michal Kukla.
  • Lasius fuliginosus, foraging workers. Photo by Michal Kukla.


Radchenko (2005) –

L. fuji worker Lasius fuliginosus worker
head usually somewhat longer than wide (CI 0.95-1.01 ); head length equal to or less than its width (CI 1.00-1.03);
scape relatively longer (SI2 0.88-0.95); scape relatively shorter (SI2 0.82-0.89);
standing hairs on the upper margin of petiolar scale longer, the longest hairs distinctly longer than the half of the maximum diameter of the scape; standing hairs on the upper margin of petiolar scale shorter, the longest hairs shorter than the half of the maximum diameter of the scape;
decumbent pubescence on the anterior (vertical) surface of first gastral tergite relatively dense, distance between hairs distinctly shorter than the hairs length decumbent pubescence on the anterior (vertical) surface of first gastral tergite relatively sparse, distance between hairs not shorter (usually longer) than the hairs length
Queen - eyes with somewhat longer hairs, length of the longest ones ≥ 0.040 mm Queen - eyes with somewhat shorter hairs, length of the longest ones ≤ 0.035 mm

Collingwood (1979) - Shining black, legs brownish yellow; pubescence sparse, scattered erect hairs over dorsum. Head broadly cordate, emarginate posteriorly with rounded occipital lobes; genital margins incurving towards mandibular insertions. Maxillary palps short with segments 4, 5 and 6 subequal. Petiole thickened wedge shaped in profile, with feebly convex faces, dorsal margin narrow, convex or straight. Length: 4.0-6.0 mm.

Keys including this Species


Portugal to Japan and North India, South Italy to Finland (Collingwood 1979).

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Palaearctic Region: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Channel Islands, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France (type locality), Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iberian Peninsula, Isle of Man, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


This distinctive species is easily recognised by its shining black colour and broad head. Carton nests are constructed at the base of old trees, hedgerows and sometimes in sand dunes and in old walls. Colonies are populous, often polycalic with more than one focal nest and several queens. Workers forage above ground in narrow files throughout the day and night during warm weather, ascending trees and shrubs to tend aphids. The mandibles are relatively weak but small insects may be taken as food. Other competing ant species are repelled by aromatic anal secretions. Fertilised queens may be retained in the old nest or found fresh colonies through adoption by the members of the umbratus species group; mixed colonies with Lasius umbratus or Lasius mixtus have often been observed. Flight periods are irregular and have been recorded in all months from May to October. A number of local beetles occur with this species including members of the genus Zyras which exhibit protective mimicry. Waldén (1964), records an enormous nest measuring 63 x 55 x 55 cm found in a cellar near Göteborg and there are similar reports from outbuildings and cellars in England (Donisthorpe, 1927).

Wilson (1955) - Many European observers have reported independently on various aspects of the ecology of this ant, and together they present a reassuringly consistent picture. Lasius fuliginosus nests primarily in standing tree trunks and rotting stumps, and only occasionally in and around the roots of trees, under stones, and in open soil. In a random field survey in Germany, Gosswald (1932) recorded 63 nests in wood, 2 under stones, and 5 in open soil. He found the species nesting most commonly in old poplars and willows in dry meadows. It is often locally abundant; O'Rourke (1950) notes that in Ireland it may become the dominant ant in oak woods.

fuliginosus almost invariably constructs a carton nest. The composition of the carton has been analyzed by Stumper (1950), who finds that it consists primarily of macerated wood hardened with secretions from the mandibular glands. There may be some soil particles mixed in, especially in subterranean nests, but these constitute a very minor fraction. Stumper was unable to find supporting evidence for the old contention that several species of symbiotic fungi are normally grown in the carton walls.

fuliginosus forages during both the day and night, forming long, conspicuous columns which usually lead to trees infested with aphids or eoceids , the excreta of these latter insects forms a principal food source for the ant. In addition, many authors have observed workers carrying dead or crippled insects back to the nests.

Eidmann (1943) has studied overwintering in this species. A colony which he kept under observation through the autumn moved from a position in a tree bole to subterranean quarters directly beneath the tree. The winter carton nest had chambers twice the size of those in the summer nest, and its walls were conspicuously studded with grains of sand. Medium-sized and full grown larvae were found hibernating with the adults.

Winged reproductives have been taken in the nests from May to September. The nuptial flights apparently take place earlier than in other members of the genus; literature records span the period May 4 to July 27. The flights occur mostly in the afternoon, although some authors, such as Escherich and Ludwig (1906), have suggested that they occur at night also. According to Donisthorpe (1927), the mating behavior shows early signs of parasitic degeneration. There is a marked decrease in the size difference between the two sexes, and the nuptial flight appears to have been partly suppressed. In one case Donisthorpe observed nestmates copulating on vegetation in the immediate vicinity of the parent nest.

Donisthorpe (1922) has also reviewed the extensive literature on colony founding in this species. It has been proven without any doubt to be a temporary social parasite on Lasius umbratus (= Lasius mixtus), which species was defined in the old sense and may well include Lasius rabaudi also. Numerous mixed colonies have been found in nature, and successful adoptions of dealate queens by host colonies have been repeatedly obtained under artificial conditions. This habit places fuliginosus in the extraordinary position of being a social hyperparasite, since Lasius umbratus is parasitic itself on members of the subgenus Lasius. In more recent years, Stareke (1944) has obtained the experimental adoption of fuliginosus queens by colonies of rabaudi (= Lasius meridionalis), Lasius niger, and Lasius alienus.


See the general biology discussion above for an overview of diet and foraging. Novgorodova (2015b) investigated ant-aphid interactions of a dozen honeydew collecting ants in south-central Russia. All of the ants studied had workers that showed high fidelity to attending particular aphid colonies, i.e, individual foragers that collect honeydew tend to return to the same location, and group of aphids, every time they leave the nest. Lasius fuliginosus showed no specialization beyond this foraging site fidelity. Foragers tended Chaitophorus populeti (Panzer), Cinara laricis (Hartig) and Stomaphis quercus (Linnaeus).

Known Hosts

Lasius fuliginosus is known to use the following species as temporary hosts:

Association with Other Organisms

  • This species is a host for the eucharitid wasp Pseudometagea sp. (a parasite) (Universal Chalcidoidea Database) (primary host).
  • This species is a host for the pteromalid wasp Spalangia crassicornis (a parasite) (Universal Chalcidoidea Database) (associate).
  • This species is a host for the pteromalid wasp Spalangia nigripes (a parasite) (Universal Chalcidoidea Database) (associate).

Life History Traits

  • Mean colony size: 2,500,00 (Hainaut-Riche et al., 1980; Quinet & Pasteels, 1987; Beckers et al., 1989)
  • Foraging behaviour: trunk trail (Hainaut-Riche et al., 1980; Quinet & Pasteels, 1987; Beckers et al., 1989)




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

  • fuliginosus. Formica fuliginosa Latreille, 1798: 36 (w.q.m.) FRANCE. Hauschteck, 1962: 219 (k.). Combination in Lasius: Mayr, 1861: 49; in Donisthorpea: Donisthorpe, 1915d: 188; in Formicina: Emery, 1916b: 242; in Acanthomyops: Forel, 1916: 460; in Lasius (Dendrolasius): Ruzsky, 1912: 630; Müller, 1923: 132; Emery, 1925b: 236; Wilson, 1955a: 138. See also: Yamauchi, 1979: 171; Collingwood, 1982: 292; Kupyanskaya, 1989: 783; Atanassov & Dlussky, 1992: 243.

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.



Wilson (1955) - (1) Head usually deeply concave in full face, the depth of the concavity 0.06 mm. or more except in some series from northeastern Asia.

(2) Antennal scapes short-elliptical in cross-section, so that for most of their length the minimum width at any point is 0.8 X the maximum width at that point or greater.

(3) Petiole in frontal view broadest at about the level of the dorsal margin of the anterior foramen, gradually narrowing to the top. The dorsolateral angles broadly and evenly rounded; the dorsal margin narrow, convex to feebly emarginate. In side view the petiole symmetrical, with both faces feebly and evenly convex, tapering together to form a narrow-U-shaped dorsal crest.

(4) The hairs of the exposed gastric tergites shorter than in Lasius spathepus and Lasius crispus, rarely longer than 0.08 mm. and probably never surpassing the longest hairs of the pronotum. The appendages covered with dense appressed-to-decumbent pubescence but with few or no standing hairs.


Wilson (1955) - (1) HW 1.41 mm. (Odawara, Japan) to 1.65 mm. (England).

(2) Lacking the "beta" characteristics of the spathepus queen, i.e. the occipital margin in full face is only weakly concave, the head is about as long as broad or longer, and the mandibles are not exceptionally reduced relative to the remainder of the head.

(3) The entire body, exclusive of the appendages and (in European series) the anterior half of the head, covered with abundant, coarse suberect-erect hairs. In occasional specimens these hairs are rather sparse on the gastrict tergites, but this may be due to wear. The entire body is covered with appressed ground pubescence of varying density which partly obscures the smooth, shining cuticular surface.

(4) Petiolar lateral outline as in worker. Frontal outline typically as in worker and dorsal margin showing same degree of variation as in that caste; occasionally the broadest level is well above its usual location at the dorsal margin of the anterior foramen.

(5) Median clypeal carina feebly developed (see Lasius buccatus).


Wilson (1955) - (1) HW 1.00 mm. (Kiev) to 1.24 mm. (Innsbruck).

(2) Scape short-elliptical to circular in cross-section.

(3) Petiolar outline in side view similar to that of the worker, differing only in being generally thicker. In frontal view the broadest point is at the level of the dorsal margin of the anterior foramen or higher; the dorsal margin is convex in all series examined.

(4) Pygostyle similar to that typifying the subgenus Lasius: thumb-shaped, nearly as broad near the tip as at the basal attachment.


  • n = 14, 2n = 28 (Italy; Switzerland) (Hauschteck, 1962; Hauschteck-Jungen & Jungen, 1983).


  • Atanassov, N.; Dlussky, G. M. 1992. Fauna of Bulgaria. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Fauna Bûlg. 22: 1-310 (page 243, see also)
  • Beckers R., Goss, S., Deneubourg, J.L., Pasteels, J.M. 1989. Colony size, communication and ant foraging Strategy. Psyche 96: 239-256 (doi:10.1155/1989/94279).
  • Buschinger, A. 2009. Social parasitism among ants: a review (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 12: 219-235.
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1982. Himalayan ants of the genus Lasius (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Syst. Entomol. 7: 283-296 (page 292, see also)
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1915f. British ants, their life-history and classification. Plymouth: Brendon & Son Ltd., xv + 379 pp. (page 188, Combination in Donisthorpea)
  • Emery, C. 1916a [1915]. Fauna entomologica italiana. I. Hymenoptera.-Formicidae. Bull. Soc. Entomol. Ital. 47: 79-275 (page 242, Combination in Formicina)
  • Emery, C. 1925d. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Formicinae. Genera Insectorum 183: 1-302 (page 236, Combination in Lasius (Dendrolasius))
  • Forel, A. 1916. Fourmis du Congo et d'autres provenances récoltées par MM. Hermann Kohl, Luja, Mayné, etc. Rev. Suisse Zool. 24: 397-460 (page 460, Combination in Acanthomyops)
  • Hauschteck, E. 1962. Die Chromosomen einiger in der Schweiz vorkommender Ameisenarten. Vierteljahrsschr. Naturforsch. Ges. Zür. 107: 213-220 (page 219, karyotype described)
  • Holldobler, B., Kwapich, C.L. 2017. Amphotis marginata (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) a highwayman of the ant Lasius fuliginosus. PLoS ONE 12(8): e0180847 (DOI //
  • Kupyanskaya, A. N. 1989. Ants of the subgenus Dendrolasius Ruzsky, 1912 (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, genus Lisius [sic] Fabricius, 1804) of the Far Eastern USSR. Entomol. Obozr. 68: 779-789 (page 783, see also)
  • Latreille, P. A. 1798. Essai sur l'histoire des fourmis de la France. Brive: F. Bourdeaux, 50 pp. (page 36, worker, queen, male described)
  • Mayr, G. 1861. Die europäischen Formiciden. Nach der analytischen Methode bearbeitet. Wien: C. Gerolds Sohn, 80 pp. (page 49, Combination in Lasius)
  • Müller, G. 1923b. Le formiche della Venezia Guilia e della Dalmazia. Boll. Soc. Adriat. Sci. Nat. Trieste 28: 11-180 (page 132, Combination in Lasius (Dendrolasius))
  • Novgorodova, T. A. 2015b. Organization of honeydew collection by foragers of different species of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): Effect of colony size and species specificity. European Journal of Entomology. 112:688-697. doi:10.14411/eje.2015.077
  • Ruzsky, M. 1912. Myrmecological notes. Uch. Zap. Kazan. Vet. Inst. 29: 629-636 (page 630, Combination in Lasius (Dendrolasius))
  • van Elst, T., Gadau, J. 2018. Temporal variation in social structure and worker reproduction in the temporary social parasite Lasius fuliginosus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News, 27: 75-85.
  • Wilson, E. O. 1955a. A monographic revision of the ant genus Lasius. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 113: 1-201 (page 138, Combination in Lasius (Dendrolasius); Senior synonym of nipponensis and orientalis:)
  • Yamauchi, K. 1979 [1978]. Taxonomical and ecological studies on the ant genus Lasius in Japan (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). I. Taxonomy. Sci. Rep. Fac. Educ. Gifu Univ. (Nat. Sci.) 6: 147-181 (page 171, see also)