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Mound Ant (Formica spp.)

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

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Image Credit: Jerry Gildemeister, OR
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Mound ants use doses of formic acid to defend their colony, spraying it at intruders.

Updated: 07/07/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Mound ants are found all over the continent. They form hills, or mounds in the ground and build the nest deeper underneath. Workers are often seen swarming the mound when it is approached. Like other ants in the Formica genus, they can spray the noxious chemical, formic acid, from the tip of the abdomen. It is not highly toxic, but serves as a deterrent to intruders. In high concentrations, it can be caustic.

This species of Mound Ant is mostly red and has a black abdomen. The ?waist? has only one hump, or node, which is an indication that it does not sting, and instead relies on its formic acid chemical defense and large population size. They vary in size depending on their role in the colony. Look for this type of ant in woodlands and fields. Mounds may be under leaf litter or exposed out of wood chips. This is typically a forest-dwelling ant so it is not a likely to be found indoors.

General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers


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): Forest Ant; Field Ant; Wood Ant
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 4mm to 13mm (0.15" to 0.51")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: red; black
Descriptors: red head; red waist; black butt; black abdomen; swarm; hill; mound; heap; active; formic acid

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 4mm (0.2in) and 13mm (0.5in)
Lo: 4mm
Md: 8.5mm
Hi: 13mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Mound 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 Mound Ant. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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