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Formica Ant (Formica spp.)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Formica Ant



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Image Credit: Elizabeth and Desmond L. taken in Bon Echo Provincial Park, ON
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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Formica Ants do not sting, but they do have a few good defensive tricks up their sleeve thanks to internal chemistry and jagged 'teeth'.



Updated: 03/23/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Ants in the Formica genus have only one knob (bump) between the thorax and abdomen. They feed on honeydew, a term for the sweet liquid excrement created by aphids. The Formica Ant actually seems to act as a shepherd to the smaller aphids, moving them to different areas of the plant over time in order to keep the aphids fed. The ant can then have a somewhat sustainable supply of the honeydew for itself and its colony.

This group of ants does not sting, but it can bite using strong mouth parts. These types of ants also spray formic acid from the tips of their abdomens at predators or perceived threats (like human fingers). The formic acid can cause mild to severe irritation depending on the proximity of the target. Colonies form in open grassland or under stones. Professional exterminators should be contacted in the event of an indoor infestation because only the death of the queen can create a permanent destruction of a colony.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Formicidae
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          Genus: Formica
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            Species: spp.
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Formica spp.
Other Name(s): Black Ant, Silky Ant, Red Ant
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 3mm to 12mm (0.11" to 0.47")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; brown; red
Descriptors: small, biting, colony, infest
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 3mm (0.1in) and 12mm (0.5in)
Lo: 3mm
Md: 7.5mm
Hi: 12mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Formica Ant may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Formica Ant. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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