Aphaenogaster fulva

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Aphaenogaster fulva
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Aphaenogaster
Species: A. fulva
Binomial name
Aphaenogaster fulva
Roger, 1863



Specimen Label


This species is found in mesic forests and meadows. Nests are found in logs and stumps or under stones. It is a temporary host of other members of the genus.

Photo Gallery

  • Worker. Photo by Tom Murray.
  • A foraging worker returning to her nest with a prey item.
  • Workers with an eliaosome bearing seed. Photo by Alex Wild.


This species is easily separated from all other species in the genus by the form of the mesonotum, which is abruptly elevated above the level of the pronotum. This structure is actually a welt, which is concave in the middle (as seen from behind), or may appear as two broad tubercles.

This species can be separated from the Florida species Aphaenogaster umphreyi by the larger eyes, larger propodeal spines, and the developed spurs on both the middle and posterior tibiae. Additionally, this species is much more common.

Aphaenogaster fulva is diagnosed by the spines pointing upward from propodeum and the anterior edge of pronotum above mesonotum. They are similar to Aphaenogaster umphreyi, but have larger eyes and larger hind tibial spurs. The last four antennal segments are lighter in color. (DeMarco, 2015)


Deyrup (2016) - Workers distinguished from the generally similar Aphaenogaster miamiana and Aphaenogaster carolinensis by the irregular, strongly raised ridge (sometimes with a saddle) running across the front border of the mesonotum. The base of the antennal scape is simple (unlike Aphaenogaster flemingi, Aphaenogaster treatae, and Aphaenogaster ashmeadi), the propodeal spines are well developed (unlike Aphaenogaster floridana), the postpetiole lacks a forward-projecting, ventral protuberance (unlike Aphaenogaster tennesseensis and Aphaenogaster mariae), and the frontal lobes are not notched (unlike Aphaenogaster lamellidens). The most similar species is Aphaenogaster umphreyi, a subterranean species with short propodeal spines and tiny eyes. The eye of umphreyi is about the same width as that of the last segment of the antenna. In Florida, fulva, which is not a subterranean species, is also darker than umphreyi, but elsewhere there are reddish forms of fulva. As with some other species of eastern Aphaenogaster, small individuals, which are often from young colonies, may not have some of the features of large individuals. In fulva, the head may be somewhat longer with respect to its width, the propodeal spines may be relatively short, and the sculpture may be less conspicuous.

Keys including this Species



Deyrup (2016) - Vermont south into Florida, west into Colorado and Louisiana (Smith 1979). In Florida, fulva is known from the northern part of the Peninsula through the Panhandle. It is not known from the swamp forests of the southern Peninsula, although it occurs in such habitats farther north.

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


This species is found in forested areas under rotten wood.


Deyrup (2016) - The following paragraph is summarized from Carroll (1975). In Florida, this species usually lives in densely forested areas. It often occurs in seasonally flooded swamp forests, foraging in hummocks, logs, and trees when the water is high. Nests are in rotten wood or in cavities near the base of live trees, sometimes extending into the surrounding soil. Foraging is diurnal. Arthropods are the principal prey, but foragers in wet areas also capture mollusks and oligochaetes, and collect seeds and pieces of fallen flowers. In north Florida, alates are in the nest by early May, and flights occur from early June to mid-July. Colonies contain up to approximately 800 workers.

In North Carolina, Carter (1962) found fulva most commonly in mesic forests, especially in bottomlands and moist mountain forests. A few colonies were collected in xeric sites as well, including sandhills and xeric oak and pine stands. Colonies were in rotten logs and stumps, and in soil under stones. It is possible that some of these colonies were some other species, although the characters used to separate fulva in Creighton should work well in North Carolina, as far as is known. In Putnam County, Florida, Van Pelt (1958) found fulva common in floodplain swamps and rarer in scrub, flatwoods, wet hammocks, and marshes. He observed that fulva tends to replace ashmeadi in wet areas. Nests were found under logs, in deep litter, in dense mats of roots, and in rotten logs and stumps. Males were found from May through July. Foragers were attracted to peanut butter and oatmeal baits. Colonies were sometimes near colonies of the termite Reticulitermes flavipes, and foragers were seen carrying live termites. In Connecticut forests, Weseloh (1994) found fulva as one of the three commonest ants, the others being Formica subsericea and Formica neogagates. All three of these species had superficial nests under leaf litter and were randomly distributed with respect to each other. In tests of the efficiency of finding gypsy moth larvae on the forest floor, A. fulva was not even mentioned, so this ant probably does not attack these larvae. In Maryland, Fellers and Fellers (1976) studied "tool use" in four species of Aphaenogaster, including A. fulva. The ants carried bits of debris to jelly bait, allowed the fragments to absorb and accumulate jelly, and then carried the jelly-coated material back to the nest. Work on the chemistry of the poison gland of fulva (Wheeler et al. 1981) may be pertinent to the tool-using study. Disks of paper treated with poison gland extract (anabaseine) produced by fulva were attractive to ants, who picked them up and carried them into the colony or around the foraging area. It is possible that this compound might be used to organize tool-using. On the other hand, when the normal food of the colony was laced with anabaseine, it was attractive to the ants, but prevented feeding. Mandibular glands of fulva produce a chemical, methyl anthranilate that appears to function as an alarm pheromone (Duffield et al. 1980).

This species is a host for the ant Aphaenogaster tennesseensis (a temporary parasite).






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

  • fulva. Aphaenogaster fulva Roger, 1863a: 190 (w.) U.S.A.
    • Mayr, 1886d: 445 (q.m.).
    • Combination in Stenamma (Aphaenogaster): Emery, 1895c: 303.
    • Combination in Aphaenogaster: Mayr, 1863: 458; Wheeler, W.M. 1913c: 114.
    • Combination in Aphaenogaster (Attomyrma): Emery, 1921f: 57.
    • Status as species: Roger, 1863b: 30; Mayr, 1886d: 445; Dalla Torre, 1893: 102; Emery, 1895c: 303; Forel, 1901h: 82; Wheeler, W.M. 1904e: 303; Wheeler, W.M. 1906b: 5; Wheeler, W.M. 1916m: 586; Dennis, 1938: 285; Brown, 1949a: 49; Creighton, 1950a: 143; Smith, M.R. 1951a: 796; Smith, D.R. 1979: 1361; Bolton, 1995b: 69; Umphrey, 1996: 557 (in key); Mackay & Mackay, 2002: 74; Coovert, 2005: 46; Ellison, et al. 2012: 228.
    • Senior synonym of rubida: Brown, 1949a: 49.
    • Senior synonym of aquia: Shattuck & Cover, 2016: 13.
    • Senior synonym of pusilla: Mackay & Mackay, 2017: 254.
  • rubida. Aphaenogaster fulva var. rubida Enzmann, J. 1947b: 147, pl. 8 (w.) U.S.A.
    • Junior synonym of fulva: Brown, 1949a: 49.
  • aquia. Myrmica (Monomorium) aquia Buckley, 1867: 341 (w.q.) U.S.A.
    • Combination in Aphaenogaster: Mayr, 1886c: 365.
    • Junior synonym of fulva: Mayr, 1886c: 365; Mayr, 1886d: 445.
    • Subspecies of fulva: Emery, 1895c: 304; Wheeler, W.M. 1904e: 303; Wheeler, W.M. 1906b: 5; Wheeler, W.M. 1916m: 586; Wheeler, W.M. 1917a: 517; Emery, 1921f: 57; Smith, M.R. 1928b: 246; Dennis, 1938: 286; Smith, M.R. 1951a: 796.
    • Unidentifiable taxon; incertae sedis in Aphaenogaster: Creighton, 1950a: 148; Smith, D.R. 1979: 1363; Bolton, 1995b: 68.
    • Junior synonym of fulva: Shattuck & Cover, 2016: 13.
  • pusilla. Aphaenogaster fulva var. pusilla Enzmann, J. 1947b: 150 (w.) U.S.A.
    • [First available use of Stenamma (Aphaenogaster) fulvum subsp. aquia var. pusillum Emery, 1895c: 306; unavailable name.]
    • Unidentifiable taxon: Creighton, 1950a: 151.
    • Incertae sedis in Aphaenogaster: Smith, D.R. 1979: 1364.
    • Junior synonym of fulva: Mackay & Mackay, 2017: 254.

Type Material



  • 2n = 36 (USA) (Crozier, 1977).