Formica uralensis

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Formica uralensis
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Formicini
Genus: Formica
Species: F. uralensis
Binomial name
Formica uralensis
Ruzsky, 1895

Formica uralensis casent0906303 p 1 high.jpg

Formica uralensis casent0906303 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels


This is a boreal species which constructs small mounds from plant material. In some areas of Russia it is associated with bogs (Zryanin & Zryanina, 2007).

At a Glance • Polygynous  • Temporary parasite  



Head entirely black, dark area on dorsum of promesonotum dense black, gaster black, rest of alitrunk and appendages yellowish to brownish red. Head as broad as long, antennal scape broad and short. Frontal triangle sculptured and dull. Bristlelike hairs on dorsum of head, gula, alitrunk and gaster usually present but variable in number. Length: 4.5-8.0 mm (Collingwood 1979).

Keys including this Species


Northeast Europe including N. Germany, Baltic States and West USSR; one record from Swiss Alps. Widely distributed in Mongolia and Central Siberia (Collingwood 1979).

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Palaearctic Region: Belarus, China (type locality), Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Norway, Poland, Russian Federation (type locality), Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


In Europe F. uralensis is typically found on lowland open mosses with scattered trees, more occasionally on drier heath. Nests may be isolated or in groups and are built up of leaf litter and twigs into rounded dome. The nest surface is of fine material which covers a large brood incubation chamber resting on a surface of coarse long twigs. Rosengren (1969) has studied its habits in South Finland; unlike members of the Formica rufa group, this species does not go deep within the nest to hibernate but the ants clump together under peat moss or among tree roots away from the summer nest. Food is mainly honey dew from surrounding betula scrub or pines. Although this species has superficial similarities to F. rufa group species it is morphologically well differentiated with its broad black head, short thick antennae and wide coarsely sculptured frontal triangle.

Nests are usually polygynous and may reproduce by colony fission but fresh colonies may also originate from adoption of fertile queens by Formica transkaucasica. Alatae occur in July. Its marshy habitat in Europe contrasts with the dry steppe habitat in Asia and may be related to the inability of this species to survive aggressive competition from other wood ant species since according to Rosengren (1969), although F. uralensis defends its territory it is easily overwhelmed by other ants such as Formica sanguinea and Myrmica rubra.

This species is a host for the ant Formicoxenus nitidulus (a xenobiont) (Holldobler & Wilson 1990; Busch 2001; Martin et al. 2007).

Life History Traits

  • Queen number: polygynous
  • Compound colony type: temporary parasite
  • Colony founding: social parasite
  • Nest site: thatch mound



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

  • uralensis. Formica uralensis Ruzsky, 1895: 13 (w.q.m.) RUSSIA. [Also described as new by Ruzsky, 1896: 69.] Senior synonym of superba: Wu, 1990: 4. See also: Emery, 1909b: 189; Wheeler, W.M. 1913f: 448; Karavaiev, 1936: 249; Stitz, 1939: 325; Dlussky, 1967a: 79; Kutter, 1977c: 274; Collingwood, 1979: 135; Kupyanskaya, 1990: 189.
  • superba. Formica pratensis var. superba Wheeler, W.M. 1933c: 65 (w.) CHINA. Raised to species: Santschi, 1941: 278. Junior synonym of uralensis: Wu, 1990: 4.

Type Material

  • Formica uralensis: Syntype, Russian Federation.
  • Formica pratensis superba: Syntype, 6 workers, Eastern Tomb, near Beijing, China, Chi Ho.

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



Wheeler (1933) as Formica pratensis superba - Length 5-6.5 mm.

Head, including the frontal area, thorax and abdomen opaque; mandibles and legs, including the coxae, distinctly shining. Eyes not hairy. Erect hairs golden yellow, very few on the head, gula and promesonotum; border of petiole ciliate; gaster with sparse, blunt, apparently deciduous hairs; pubescence grey, very fine, dense on the coxae and legs; more dilute and not concealing the opaque surface on the gaster. Thorax and petiole rather rich red; mandibles dark brown; entire head, center of pronotum and anteromedian portion of mesonotum and the gaster deep black, decidedly darker than the similar regions in the typical pratensis of Europe, which are really dark brown or brownish black. First gastric segment with a large, transverse red spot just above the petiolar articulation; antennae nearly black; legs dark brown, coxae and trochanters somewhat paler and more reddish; border of petiole not infuscated.


  • n = 26 (Finland) (Rosengren et al., 1980).