Ant Terminology

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A dictionary of ant-related terms, in alphabetical order.


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A

  • acrobat ant – a type of ant, belonging to the genus Crematogaster, which can raise its heart-shaped gaster up and over its own body.
  • alate – a winged reproductive adult ant.
  • arboreal ant – any type of ant that nests in trees.
  • army ant – a type of ant which engages in predatory group foraging (raids).

B

  • big-headed ant – a type of ant, belonging to the genus Pheidole, whose soldier caste has disproportionately large heads.
  • bivouac – a temporary nest constructed out of living army ants.
  • brood – young, developing ants in the form of eggs, larvae, and pupae.
  • bull ant – a type of ant, belonging to the genus Myrmecia, characterized by its large size, excellent vision, aggressive behavior, and painful sting.

C

  • callow – a newly-eclosed ant whose exoskeleton has not yet fully hardened and is lighter in color.
  • carpenter ant – a type of ant, belonging to the genus Camponotus, which often builds nests inside wood.
  • cocoon – a pupal casing spun from silk by the larvae of some ant species.
  • compound eye – a multifaceted eye made up of ommatidia, present in most ants.
  • crop – the pouch in an ants gaster, also known as a social stomach, which stores food prior to digestion. Food stored in the crop can be shared with other ants through trophallaxis.

D

  • dealate – a reproductive adult ant that has shed its wings.
  • dichthadiigyne – an ergatoid queen with a very large gaster well-developed ovaries, found in some army ants.
  • dimorphic – describes an ant species in which there are two distinct variations, in body size or shape, within the worker caste.
  • dinergate – an ant caste, in polymorphic ants, consisting of infertile females that are distinct from ergates and usually specialize in colony defense. Also known as a soldier.
  • drone – a reproductive adult male ant.

E

  • eclose – the act of emerging as an adult ant from the pupa.
  • ergate – an ant caste consisting of the infertile females which form the majority of a colony’s population and perform a wide range of tasks. Also known as a worker.
  • ergatoid – a reproductive adult ant that does not develop wings.

F

  • fission – the process of a single ant colony splitting into two or more colonies.
  • formic acid – an acid secreted by some types of ants for attacking and defense.

G

  • gamergate – a mated worker ant that can function as a queen by laying fertilized eggs.
  • gaster – the bulbous hind part of an ant, part of the abdomen.
  • gyne – an adult reproductive female ant, also known as a queen.

H

  • harvester ant – a type of ant which collects and stores seeds.
  • hell ant – a type of extinct trap-jaw ant, belonging to the subfamily †Haidomyrmecinae, which had mandibles that opened vertically rather than horizontally.
  • honeypot ant – a type of ant known for its repletes, which have rotund, swollen gasters filled with food.

I

  • inquiline – a permanent parasite of ants, without slavery, that lives in the nest of a host ant species.
  • instar – a developmental stage of ant larvae between molts. Ants have three to five larval instar stages before pupation.

J


K


L

  • larva – the immature, worm-like form of an ant which has hatched from its egg but has not yet pupated.
  • leaf-cutter ant – a type of ant which farms fungus by cutting up plant matter and feeding it to the fungus housed within its nest.

M


N

  • nanitic – a worker ant from a queen’s first batch of eggs. Nanitics are usually smaller than typical workers.
  • nuptial flight – the period when alates take flight in search of a mate.

O


P

  • pheromone – a chemical signal used by ants to communicate.
  • phragmosis – a defensive technique wherein ants used specially adapted body structures to block nest entrances.
  • polygynous – describes an ant colony that has more than one queen.
  • polymorphic – describes an ant species in which there is clear variation, in body size or shape, within the worker caste.
  • princess – a female alate.
  • pupa – the final, immature form of an ant before it develops into an adult. The larvae of some ants construct protective cocoons prior to pupation.
  • pupate – the act of a larva developing into a pupa.

Q

  • queen – an adult reproductive female ant, also known as a gyne.

R

  • replete – an adult worker ant with a swollen gaster that functions as a living storage vessel, filling its crop with food.

S


T

  • trap-jaw ant – a type of ant which can open its mandibles wide and snap them shut, similar to a bear trap.
  • trophallaxis – the transfer of food between two ants via mouth-to-mouth regurgitation of food stored in the crop.
  • trophic egg – a nonviable egg, produced for the purpose of consumption.
  • turtle ant – a type of ant, belonging to the genus Cephalotes, whose soldier caste can plug nest entrances with their large, phragmotic heads.

U


V


W

  • weaver ant – a type of ant, belonging to the genus Oecophylla, which weaves arboreal nests by binding leaves together with silk produced by their larvae.
  • worker – an ant caste consisting of the infertile females which form the majority of a colony’s population and perform a wide range of tasks. Also known as an ergate.

X


Y


Z


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