This subterranean ant nests under stones. Very little is known of this rarely-collected species. It is thought to be a social parasite of the social parasite Lasius claviger. Although such social hyperparasitism is rare among ants, it does occur among other European and Asian Lasius species. (Ellison et al., 2012)
|At a Glance||• Temporary parasite|
- 1 Identification
- 2 Distribution
- 3 Biology
- 4 Castes
- 5 Nomenclature
- 6 References
All species in the claviger group smell like citronella when disturbed or crushed. The feather-tipped plumose hairs on the gaster and small body size of all castes of L. plumopilosus make this ant unmistakable.
Keys including this Species
- Key to Lasius-Nearctic Acanthomyops males
- Key to Lasius-Nearctic Acanthomyops queens
- Key to Lasius-Nearctic Acanthomyops workers
- Key to New England Lasius
- Key to North American Lasius Species
Lasius plumopilosus is an uncommon, patchily distributed species that has been collected from Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Long Island. It has not yet been collected from New England, but based on its general habitat and distribution, it could occur in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Cape Cod, or the Massachusetts Islands. (Ellison et al., 2012)
Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists
Distribution based on AntMaps
Distribution based on AntWeb specimens
Check data from AntWeb
The type nest was under a stone on a hillside. Another colony from the type locality was collected from a stage 3 log in a basswood-maple forest. The North Carolina collection was from a rotten stump. Queens and males of the type series were collected on Sept. 13; those from North Carolina were taken sometime during August. Flights may occur during both of these months. Collections of mixed colonies are lacking for plumopilosus, yet the small size and peculiar hairs of the queens strongly suggest that they are parasites. (Wing 1968)
This species belonged to what was long considered a separate genus (Acanthomyops). Wing (1968) published a revision of that taxon, summarizing some of their biology: These ants are exclusively subterranean in their habits, except for short periods of time just before and during nuptials. Nests are built in the soil, usually under the cover of objects such as stones or logs, but sometimes, especially in the Plains States, loosely compacted earthen mounds of varying size are made. Some taxa nest partially in rotted wood; these colonies are typically found in association with stumps and logs. Most taxa in the eastern states show a preference for fairly moist conditions, selecting fields, pastures, and woodlands as nesting sites. In the western states many taxa exhibit a greater tolerance for drier conditions in the selection of their nesting sites. Most myrmecologists believe that all species of Acanthomyops are temporary social parasites of Lasius. We have, however, very little evidence on the mode or modes of colony foundation in the genus - most of it being largely circumstantial. Work done by Tanquary (1911) represents the most determined effort to date to elucidate the nature of colony foundation in the genus. Methods of colony foundation in Acanthomyops are in critical need of solid evidence from field and laboratory studies. Many species of Acanthomyops are known to regularly attend subterranean aphids and coccids, which represent a wide variety of taxa. Probably the species whose biologies are unknown likewise subsist principally on the honeydew of these homopterous insects. At the time of the nuptial flights, which are more or less characteristic as to season for a given species, the workers in mature colonies of Acanthomyops open up the nest entrance widely by excavation. Nests in this condition are found readily even before the actual flights begin to occur. Flights occurring in natural surroundings often involve the participation of an extremely large number of alate individuals. The queens and males congregate on the ground, and, when the conditions are right, fly up into the air in large numbers. Later, many descend from their flight, often giving rise to large aggregations of ants in restricted local areas; this frequently leads to concern on the part of persons residing in the area. Nuptial flights sometimes originate from the basements of homes and stores. Confronted with the evidence of flights of the latter type, which usually take place during the winter months, occupants often fear that their buildings are infested with termites.
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- plumopilosus. Lasius (Acanthomyops) plumopilosus Buren, 1941: 231, fig. 1 (w.q.m.) U.S.A. Combination in Acanthomyops: Creighton, 1950a: 433; in Lasius: Ward, 2005: 13. See also: Wing, 1968: 132.
Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.
Wing (1968) - Standing body hairs fairly numerous, many with moderately plumose tips. Pubescence more or less sparse, body shining. Body and appendages yellow to brownish yellow.
Wing (1968) - Standing body hairs numerous, mostly with strongly plumose tips. Pubescence moderately sparse, body shining. Body color brown, legs lighter.
Wing (1968) - Standing body hairs moderate to sparse, a few of which have weakly plumose tips and are confined chiefly to occiput and dorsum of alitrunk. Pubescence sparser than in the female castes, cuticle finely sculptured, body surface only moderately shining. Body color very dark brown, almost black.
Wing (1968) described a hybrid form of this species.
Lasius subglaber × Lasius plumopilosus hybrid
A single sample collected by R. Sanwald in Selden, Suffolk Co., New York, August 1961, in sandy area.
Similar to subglaber in general appearance and size, but with standing body hairs much coarser, strongly barbulate, and pubescence on antennal scapes conspicuously suberect.
Crest of petiolar scale moderate, often faintly emarginate. Pubescence moderate to moderately dense over most of body and appendages, but that on posterior dorsum of gaster dilute. Color yellow to brownish yellow.
Resembles a small subglaber specimen with exceptionally low HW. Standing body hairs strongly barbulate, coarser, and a little more numerous than in subglaber. Dorsum of gaster with pilosity somewhat irregularly distributeq, but chiefly • confined to posterior edges of tergites.
Antennal scapes with pubescence loosely appressed to decumbent. Body and appendages with moderately dense pubescence except on posterior dorsum of gaster where it is fairly dilute. Crest of petiolar scale moderately blunt, not emarginate. Color brown, more or less like that of darker claviger queens.
Wing (1968) - Type locality: Backbone State Park, Delaware Co., Iowa. Location of types: Holotype female, National Museum of Natural History : paratypes In several collections including the Museum of Comparative Zoology.
- Buren, W. F. 1941b. Lasius (Acanthomyops) plumopilosus, a new ant with plumose hairs from Iowa. Iowa State Coll. J. Sci. 15: 231-235 PDF (page 231, worker, queen, male described)
- Creighton, W. S. 1950a. The ants of North America. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 104: 1-585 (page 433, Combination in Acanthomyops)
- Ellison, A.M., Gotelli, N.J., Farnsworht, E.J., Alpert, G.D. 2012. A Field Guide to the Ants of New England. Yale University Press, 256 pp.
- Ward, P.S. 2005. A synoptic review of the ants of California (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 936: 1-68 (page 13, revived combination in Lasius (Acanthomyops))
- Wing, M. W. 1968a. Taxonomic revision of the Nearctic genus Acanthomyops (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Mem. Cornell Univ. Agric. Exp. Stn. 405: 1-173 (page 132, see also)