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Acanthomyops claviger (Roger)
Life   Insecta   Hymenoptera   Formicidae   Acanthomyops

Acanthomyops claviger, queen
© Alex Wild, myrmecos.net, 2004 · 1
Acanthomyops claviger, queen

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Acanthomyops claviger, worker, head
© Alex Wild, myrmecos.net, 2004 · 1
Acanthomyops claviger, worker, head
Acanthomyops claviger, worker
© Alex Wild, myrmecos.net, 2004 · 1
Acanthomyops claviger, worker

Acanthomyops claviger, worker
© Alex Wild, myrmecos.net, 2004 · 1
Acanthomyops claviger, worker
Acanthomyops claviger, top, CASENT105572
© Dan Kjar, 2004-2008 · 1
Acanthomyops claviger, top, CASENT105572

Acanthomyops claviger, head, CASENT105572
© Dan Kjar, 2004-2008 · 1
Acanthomyops claviger, head, CASENT105572
Acanthomyops claviger, side, CASENT105572
© Dan Kjar, 2004-2008 · 1
Acanthomyops claviger, side, CASENT105572

Acanthomyops claviger, head
© Copyright Gary Alpert, 2005-2008 · 0
Acanthomyops claviger, head
Acanthomyops claviger, side
© Copyright Gary Alpert, 2005-2008 · 0
Acanthomyops claviger, side

Acanthomyops claviger, gynosex, head
© Copyright Gary Alpert, 2005-2008 · 0
Acanthomyops claviger, gynosex, head
Acanthomyops claviger, side
© Copyright Gary Alpert, 2005-2008 · 0
Acanthomyops claviger, side

Acanthomyops claviger, worker, head
© Copyright Gary Alpert, 2005-2008 · 0
Acanthomyops claviger, worker, head
Acanthomyops claviger, worker, head
© Copyright Gary Alpert, 2005-2008 · 0
Acanthomyops claviger, worker, head

Acanthomyops claviger, worker, side
© Copyright Gary Alpert, 2005-2008 · 0
Acanthomyops claviger, worker, side
Natural history
In Missouri
This is the most widely distributed and common of the eastern species of "citronella ants" (a.k.a. "lemon ants"). With their pale, yellow-orange color and the strong lemon-verbena smell they emit when handled or disturbed, it is difficult to mistake this ant for any other ant, except perhaps for the other citronella ant species.

The most likely place to find Acanthomyops claviger in Missouri is in moist forests, under small logs or flat rocks. One may also encounter them while digging holes in garden soil for tree planting, etc. There are often exposed roots visible in the nest, and these have subterranean aphids (link), which feed on the sap of the roots. The aphids excrete a sweet liquid called honeydew (link) that is gathered by the ants. Honeydew apparently provides the ants' primary source of nutrients (in addition to the occasional immature aphid consumed for extra protein!).

The mating flights of Acanthomyops claviger occur on warm, sunny afternoons in October. The dark reddish-brown mated queens may be found wandering about slowly, or hiding under logs or rocks, throughout the fall, winter and early spring. Presumably, they use the cool weather to their advantage to find, enter and gain acceptance in the nests of the related ant Lasius alienus. The colonies of this host species of ant serve as a ready-made work force that, if all goes well, helps to raise the first workers of the citronella ant usurper queen. It is not known if the citronella queen kills the Lasius queen, or if she somehow induces the Lasius workers to do so, or if the two queens coexist until the citronella ant workers that come along kill the host queen.

This and other unknown aspects of the natural history of citronella ants could be answered, possibly even in a single school year by a diligent science class, who are interested enough and can successfully rear captive ants. Lasius alienus is among the easier American ant species to keep alive and well in captivity.


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