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Black Garden Ant

Lasius niger (Linnaeus 1758)

Brief Summary

    Black garden ant: Brief Summary
    provided by wikipedia

     src= Black garden ant with a spider's mandibles

    The black garden ant (Lasius niger), also known as the common black ant, is a formicine ant, the type species of the subgenus Lasius, found all over Europe and in some parts of North America, South America, Australia, Asia and Australasia. The European species was split into two species; L. niger is found in open areas, while L. platythorax is found in forest habitats. It is monogynous, meaning colonies have a single queen.

    Lasius niger colonies can reach in size up to around 40,000 workers in rare cases but 4,000–7,000 is around average. A Lasius niger queen can live up to around 15 years and it has been claimed that some have lived for 30 years. Lasius niger queens while in the early stages of founding can have two to three other queens in the nest. They will tolerate each other until the first workers come, then it is most likely they will fight until one queen remains. In certain circumstances, it is possible that there can be multiple queens in a single colony if they are founding somewhat near each other and eventually their two tunnels connect.[citation needed]. Under laboratory conditions, workers can live at least 4 years.

    Lasius niger is host to a number of temporary social parasites of the Lasius mixtus group including Lasius mixtus and Lasius umbratus.

Comprehensive Description

    Black garden ant
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    Black garden ant with a spider's mandibles

    The black garden ant (Lasius niger), also known as the common black ant, is a formicine ant, the type species of the subgenus Lasius, found all over Europe and in some parts of North America, South America, Australia, Asia and Australasia. The European species was split into two species; L. niger is found in open areas, while L. platythorax is found in forest habitats.[1] It is monogynous, meaning colonies have a single queen.

    Lasius niger colonies can reach in size up to around 40,000 workers in rare cases but 4,000–7,000 is around average. A Lasius niger queen can live up to around 15 years and it has been claimed that some have lived for 30 years. Lasius niger queens while in the early stages of founding can have two to three other queens in the nest. They will tolerate each other until the first workers come, then it is most likely they will fight until one queen remains. In certain circumstances, it is possible that there can be multiple queens in a single colony if they are founding somewhat near each other and eventually their two tunnels connect.[citation needed]. Under laboratory conditions, workers can live at least 4 years.[2]

    Lasius niger is host to a number of temporary social parasites of the Lasius mixtus group including Lasius mixtus and Lasius umbratus.

    Appearance

    Caste Monogyne Queen phenotype 9 mm long, glossy black colour but appears to have slight brown stripes on her abdomen. The queen can reach 6-9mm in length and is smaller as a new queen. When a queen is fertilised she removes her wings and digests her wing muscles as food over the winter. Male phenotype 3.5–4.5 mm long, slim, colour black. Only produced by queens when the nuptial flights are approaching. They appear with a dark glossy body with a different shape from the workers, almost resembling a wasp appearance. They have wing muscles which stand out from the rest of the body. They are 5-7mm long and have delicate wings Worker phenotype 3–5 mm long, workers are dark glossy black. As the colony gets older it has been known for workers to increase in size over generations Major phenotype N/A Nest building Nests underground, commonly under stones, but also in rotten wood, and under roots. Nutrition Nectar, small insects such as codling moth larvae, fruit, will farm aphids, cockroaches, beetles.

    Life cycle

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    L. niger queens with and without wings

    Mating flights

    Ants mate on the wing, so "flying ants" are alates (reproductive individuals), which includes males and gynes (virgin queens). The mating (or nuptial) flights of Lasius niger usually occur around June to September throughout the species' range; in North America flights usually occur during the autumn, whereas in Europe they generally take place during the hot summer months of July and August. Flights can contain thousands of winged males and females.[3]

    Disparities between local weather conditions can cause nuptial flights to be out of phase amongst widespread populations of L. niger. During long-lasting, hot summers, flights can take place simultaneously across the country, but overcast weather with local patches of sunshine results in a far less synchronised emergence of alates (winged individuals).

    Once the queens have mated they will land and discard their wings and begin to find a suitable place to dig a tunnel. Meanwhile, the males generally only live for a day or two after the mating flights and will then die.

    New nest

    After removing her wings, a queen will move quickly to find moist ground, then start digging a tunnel. Once the tunnel has been completed, the queen will block the entrance and retreat to the bottom. Subsequently, she will dig out a small chamber. This will serve as the claustral chamber of the new colony. Generally, a queen will begin to lay eggs immediately after the construction of the chamber, and the eggs will hatch after 8–10 weeks. Until the eggs hatch and the larvae grow to maturity, a Lasius niger queen will not eat, relying on the protein of her wing muscles to be broken down and digested. In some cases, a Lasius niger queen may eat her own eggs in order to survive.

    Egg to ant

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    Lasius niger nest

    Lasius niger have four stages of development: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Lasius niger lay tiny, white, kidney-shaped eggs with a smooth sticky surface which helps them to be carried in a group instead of one by one. After hatching Lasius niger proceed onto the larva stage resembling tiny maggots. The larvae need to be fed by the queen (or workers in the case of an established colony) if they are to mature; as they feed the larvae grow, shedding their skin, doing so usually three times in total. With each molt, the larvae grow hooked hairs which allow them to be carried in groups. When Lasius niger larvae reach the last molt they are generally too big to be carried as part of a group and so are carried singly. Once the larva grows big enough it spins a cocoon around itself. To aid this process a queen (or workers) may bury the larva so that it can spin its cocoon undisturbed, and begin a process of metamorphosis. Once the process is complete the Lasius niger worker emerges from the cocoon. At this stage Lasius niger is completely white but will darken over the course of an hour until it has turned black.

    Colony established

    The first worker ants that emerge are very small compared to later generations. At this point the workers immediately begin to expand the nest and care for the queen and brood; they eventually remove the seal from the entrance to the nest and begin to forage above ground. This is a critical time for the colony as they need to gather food quickly to support future growth and particularly to feed the starved queen, who would have lost around 50% of her body weight. From this point on the queen's egg laying output will increase significantly, becoming the queen's sole function. The later generations of worker ants will be bigger, stronger and more aggressive because there is more nutrition for them at the larval stage. The initial brood being fed only by the scarce resources available to a queen will be much smaller than brood supported by a team of foraging and nursing workers. Provided workers are able to find food, at this stage the colony will see an exponential rise in population. After several years, once the colony is well established, the queen will lay eggs that will become queens and males. Black ants often make large nests with extensive tunnel connections.

    Long-lived queens

    Although worker ants live for at least four years, queens can survive for almost 30 years.[4] Understanding the basis for the greater longevity of queens has a bearing on the general unsolved problem in biology of the causes of aging. In the study of long-lived queen ants it was found that queens have a higher expression than genetically identical workers of genes involved in processing damaged macromolecules.[4] Genes with higher expression included those that are necessary for repair of DNA damage (see DNA damage theory of aging) and genes involved in proteasome-mediated, ubiquitin-dependent, protein catabolic processes.

    Mutualism

    Plebejus argus lays eggs near nests of L. niger, forming a mutualistic relationship.[5][6] This mutualistic relationship benefits the adult butterfly by reducing the need for parental investment.[5] Once the eggs hatch, the ants chaperone the larvae, averting the attacks of predatory organisms like wasps and spiders as well as parasites. In return, the ants receive a saccharine secretion fortified with amino acids from an eversible gland on the larvae’s back.[5][6] As first instar larvae prepare to pupate, the ants carry the larvae into their nests.[5] Once the larvae become pupae, the ants continue to provide protection against predation and parasitism.[6][5] The butterfly leaves the nest when it emerges in June.[6]

    As a pest

    In the garden

    This type of ant is a problem for some gardeners. They will farm aphids and scale for the honeydew they excrete, bringing them from host plant to host plant spreading these other garden pests to new healthy plants. The ants will also eat ripe fruits, especially fruits like strawberries that lack a thick protective skin. Lasius niger also feed on insects and spiders, and other small invertebrates.

    In some parts of the world

    In Ireland they are usually referred to as pismires, an archaic term for an ant.[citation needed]

    In the home

    Black garden ants often explore their surroundings quite extensively during early summer months in an effort to increase the food supply to their queen and her young, and also as a way of testing new ground in preparation for the nests' summer flight. In some cases, these explorations lead to a burrowing through mortar and brick.[citation needed]

    As a pet

    Black garden ants are very easy to keep, this makes them an incredibly popular choice for the casual ant farmer.

    References

    1. ^ Klotz, John H. (2008). Urban Ants of North America and Europe: Identification, Biology, and Management. Cornell University Press. pp. 39–44. ISBN 0801474736..mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"""""'"'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
    2. ^ Czaczkes, T. J. (2017). "unpublished data".
    3. ^ http://biology.arizona.edu/sciconn/lessons2/Shindelman/teacher/Page2.htm
    4. ^ a b Lucas ER, Privman E, Keller L (2016). "Higher expression of somatic repair genes in long-lived ant queens than workers". Aging. 8 (9): 1940–1951. doi:10.18632/aging.101027. PMC 5076446. PMID 27617474.
    5. ^ a b c d e Seymour, Adrian S.; Gutiérrez, David; Jordano, Diego (2003-10-01). "Dispersal of the lycaenid Plebejus argus in response to patches of its mutualist ant Lasius niger". Oikos. 103 (1): 162–174. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0706.2003.12331.x. ISSN 1600-0706.
    6. ^ a b c d Jordano, D.; Rodríguez, J.; Thomas, C. D.; Haeger, J. Fernández (1992-09-01). "The distribution and density of a lycaenid butterfly in relation to Lasius ants". Oecologia. 91 (3): 439–446. doi:10.1007/bf00317635. ISSN 0029-8549.

Distribution

    Distribution
    provided by Catalog of Hymenoptera in America North of Mexico
    Que., Maine s. to Fla. w. to Idaho, Wyo., Colo., N. Mex.; Calif. (Sierras); Alaska (?).

Diagnostic Description

    Diagnostic Description
    provided by Plazi (legacy text)

    [[ worker ]]. L. 3 a 3,5 mill. Pilosite dressee du corps, des pattes et des scapes, ainsi que la grandeur des yeux identiques au niger typique. Mais la sculpture est plus faible, surtout sur la tete, qui est luisante, ponctuee, l'epistome meme tres luisant, plus luisant encore que chez le flavus . Les mandibules sont aussi luisantes et tres faiblement sculptees. La couleur varie d'un jaune brunatre aussi clair que chez les exemplaires fonces du Lasius flavus d'Europe a un brun plus clair que celui des exemplaires les plus clairs des Lasius niger et alienus , a peu pres comme chez les formes bruneo-emarginatus et brunneus , mais uniforme (le thorax n'etant pas plus clair que l'abdomen et la tete), et plus luisant

    Du reste identique au L. niger . Les variations de couleur de cette forme rappellent celles de l´alieno-flavus Bingham, do l'Inde septentrionale, mais la pilosite, les yeux plus grands et la taille plus grande l'en distinguent.

    Buchara oriental (Schugnan, fl. Gunt, Sardym, 10 [[ worker ]], 16. VIII; Kara-gurum-Mazar, 3 [[ worker ]], 24. VII; Roschan, Col de Mardzanai, 4 [[ worker ]], 19. VIII. 1897. Kaznakov!).

    Diagnostic Description
    provided by Plazi (legacy text)

    Transcaucasie orient. (Gouv. Baku, gorge de Bum, 1 [[ worker ]], 1892. Schelkovnikov!); Region transcaspienne (As'chabad, 1 [[ queen ]], 1896. Ahnger!).

    Diagnostic Description
    provided by Plazi (legacy text)

    Lasius niger var. alienoniger Forel, 1874: Forel 1892 , Atanassov 1936 , 1952 (see Notes below)

    Records

    (Map 55): Bulgaria ( Agosti and Collingwood 1987a , Atanassov and Dlusskij 1992 , Seifert 1992 ); Western Predbalkan: Krapets vill. [ Atanassov 1936 (as Lasius alieno niger )]; Central Predbalkan: Dermantsi vill. (Lukovit) [ Atanassov 1934 , 1936 (as Lasius alieno niger )]; Western Stara Planina Mts: Chepan (Dragoman) ( Borisova et al. 2005 ); Eastern Stara Planina Mts: Sliven ( Forel 1892 ); Zemen Gorge: Skakavitsa waterfall ( Atanassov 1936 ); Vitosha Mt. [ Atanassov 1952 (as Lasius niger L. var. alieno-niger Forel), Hlaváč et al. 2007 ]; Sofia Basin: Sofia [ Atanassov 1936 (as Lasius alieno niger ), Antonova 2004 , 2005 , Lapeva-Gjonova 2004b , Lapeva-Gjonova and Atanasova 2004 , Antonova and Penev 2006 , 2008 , Hlaváč et al. 2007 ], the surroundings of Sofia near Vladaya vill. ( Antonova and Penev 2006 , 2008 ); Plana Mt.: Pasarel vill. ( Vagalinski and Lapeva-Gjonova in press ); Podbalkan Basins: Rose valley ( Atanassov et al. 1955 ); Lozenska Planina Mt. ( Vassilev and Evtimov 1973 ): near German monastery ( Antonova and Penev 2008 ); Belasitsa Mt. ( Atanassov 1964 ); Krupnik-Sandanski-Petrich Valley: around Mitino vill., Petrich plain ( Atanassov 1964 ); Rila Mt.: the valley of Rilska river [ Forel 1892 (as Lasius niger Rasse alienus var. alieno-niger)]; Western Rhodopi Mts: Asenovgrad [ Forel 1892 (as Lasius niger Rasse alienus var. alieno-niger)], Devin, Peshtera, Batak ( Lapeva-Gjonova in press (a) ); Southern Black Sea coast: Burgas, Sozopol [ Forel 1892 (as Lasius niger Rasse alienus var. alieno-niger)], Veselie vill. ( Forel 1892 ).

    Notes:

    Some of the above mentioned records most probably include also closely related Lasius platythorax . Lasius niger alienoniger Forel, 1874 has been considered by different authors to be a separate species or a junior synonym of Lasius niger , but Seifert (1992) proposed it should be considered as incertae sedis in Lasius (for details see Bolton 1995 , Bolton et al. 2006 ).

    Diagnostic Description
    provided by Plazi (legacy text)

    Transcaucasie (Borzom, Likani, attires par la lumiere electr., l [[ male ]], 1 [[ queen ]], 12. VII; Gouv. Elisabethpol, Geok-tapa, 14 [[ worker ]], 26. VII. 1901. R. Schmidt!).

    Diagnostic Description
    provided by Plazi (legacy text)

    Himalaya (Smythies); 6,000 ' a 9,000 '.

    [[ worker ]]: - L: 3, 6 a 4, 2 mill. Sillon frontal tres distinct. Beaucoup plus large et plus robuste que lu precedent. Plus robuste et plus grand que la forme typique d'Europe. Pubescence un peu plus grossiere, comme chez le L. alienus . D'un brun assez fonce, avec les joues, les mandibules, les scapes, la base des funicules, les tarses, une partie du dessous de la tete et les articulations des pattes d'un jaunatre sale plus ou moins rougeatre on brunatre (chez le L. brunneus , i. st., la couleur est d'un rouge brunatre avec l'abdomen brun).

    Diagnostic Description
    provided by Plazi (legacy text)

    — Canaria, Tenerife (M. Noualhier). Forme typique a scapes et tibias tres poilus.

    Ces deux especes sont tres communes en Europe; la deuxieme a ete trouvee aussi dans le nord de l'Afrique, ou elle a ete probablement importee d'Europe.

    Diagnostic Description
    provided by Plazi (legacy text)

    [[ worker ]] et [[ queen ]] recoltes a Hakodate, Japon, par M. Hilgendorf (Musee de Berlin). Ces exemplaires sont absolument identiques a ceux d'Europe. — Comme cette espece si commune est deja connue comme habitant toute l'Europe, le Turkestan, le nord de l'Afrique, Madere et les Etats-Unis, on peut bien admettre maintenant qu'elle habite tout l'hemisphere nord jusqu'a environ 30 degres de latitude au sud.

    Diagnostic Description
    provided by Plazi (legacy text)

    Tébessa (jardins).

    Diagnostic Description
    provided by Plazi (legacy text)

    Pas de longs poils epais, couches, jaunes sur l'abdomen.

    Diagnostic Description
    provided by Plazi (legacy text)

    Chine occidentale (Sze-tschwan, fl. Pasyn-kou, pres de Tschzumse, 2 [[ queen ]], 19. VII; vallee de Maon-jukou, 1 [[ queen ]], 20. VII. 1893. Potanin!); Ussuri merid. (Sidemi, 4 [[ worker ]], 20 - 30. VII. 1897. Jankovsku!); Region transcaspienne (As'- chabad, 1 [[ queen ]], 1896. Ahkger!); Transcaucasie (Borzom, Likani, attires par la lumiere electr., 3 [[ queen ]], 8 [[ male ]], 12. VII. 1901. R. Schmidt!; Gouv. Kutais, Artvin, 2 [[ worker ]], 23. VI. 1898. Derjugin!).

    Diagnostic Description
    provided by Plazi (legacy text)

    Syst. Piez. 415,1. Formica minor, Ray , Hist. Ins. 69.

    Swamm. Bill. Nat. t. 16, f. 1 - 11. The small black Ant, Gould, Eng. Ants, ii. 5. La Fourmi toute noire, Geoff. Ins. Par. ii. 429, 6. Hab. - Britain, Banks.

General Ecology

    General Ecology
    provided by Catalog of Hymenoptera in America North of Mexico
    Nests almost exclusively in open areas, either under stones or in crater nests. One of the dominant ants found in lawns, cultivated fields, grassy road strips, and prairies. A common house and lawn pest and also fosters honeydew-excreting insects.

Life Expectancy

    Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
    provided by AnAge articles
    Maximum longevity: 28 years Observations: Like in other species of ants, there are major differences in longevity between queens and workers. Workers normally live up to 1-2 years while queens have can live up to 28 years (Parker et al. 2004).