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Aphaenogaster fulva Roger 1863

Aphaenogaster fulva, full face view of worker (click image to enlarge).
Aphaenogaster fulva,profile view of worker. Propodeal spine length is variable, but the spines pictured above are typical for this area as is the direction in which they point. Legs are colored similarly to the body color (click image to enlarge).

Aphaenogaster fulva, full face view of worker. (click image to enlarge)
Aphaenogaster fulva,profile view of worker (click image to enlarge).
Aphaenogaster fulva,full face view of queen (click image to enlarge).
Aphaenogaster fulva,profile view of dealate queen. Notice the striate mesopleural area (compare with queens of A. carolinensis) (click image to enlarge).
Aphaenogaster fulva,full face view of male (click image to enlarge).
Aphaenogaster fulva,profile view of male (click image to enlarge).
Aphaenogaster fulva, colony in rotting log (click image to enlarge).

Ants in the genus Aphaenogaster are medium sized to large, slender with long legs and antennae, usually have propodeal spines (a few species lack spines), have 12 segmented antennae with the last 4 segments forming a weak club. The genus is widespread in North America and species nest in rotting wood, under bark, and in soil.

Workers of A. fulva are variable in size, color, and length of the propodeal spines. Typical specimens in this area are light to dark brown with similarly colored legs and coxae; heads narrowed and much longer than wide; scapes are relatively short; and prododeal spines long and usually directed upward. The mesonotum is often abruptly raised above the pronotum and has a depression as seen from front to back (or back to front). The femora (especially the hind femora) are long and thin. The mesopleural area of the queen is striate and is quite different from A. carolinensis, which has a smooth mesopleuron. Workers of A. carolinensis differ from A. fulva by having shorter propodeal spines, generally lighter color, lighter colored legs and coxae, forecoxae not being obviously striate, and the mesonotum either not being raised above the level of the pronotum, or if so, then lacking a welt or depression as seen from front to back (or back to front). Both A. carolinensis and A. fulva are often found in the same habitats, although A. fulva tends to nest in rotting wood, whereas A. carolinensis usually nests in the soil. Both A. fulva and A. carolinensis are are much smaller than A. lamellidens or A. treatae, two other very common Aphaenogaster species in our area.

Biology and Economic Importance
Habitat: Aphaenogaster fulva is a very common species in forested areas in the Southeast. According to James Trager (pers. comm.), this species occurs in remnant and better-quality second-growth dry-mesic and mesic woodland, especially where oaks are present. It nests in soil and in wood that is in the mid to latter stages of decomposition, especially smaller diameter pieces lying on the ground. Trager has observed it nesting in the space between large poison ivy vines and the bases of mature trees. Likewise, I have found colonies in rotting wood either lying on the ground or at bases of live trees. Colonies may also extend into the soil, especially underneath rotting wood or at the bases of trees.

Natural History: [by James Trager] This abundant forest and woodland ant forages around the clock in clement weather, and is second only to A. rudis in abundance and conspicuousness among forest ants, especially south of the Missouri River. Readily attracted to proteinaceous and oily baits, the natural food of A. fulva consists of larvae, termites and virtually any other invertebrate prey they can capture. Larger prey may be subdued en masse by "spread-eagling". Elaiosome-bearing seeds are also harvested in numbers, and it is claimed this species and others of the fulva-rudis complex are among the most important dispersers of seeds of the spring ephemeral flora in the deciduous forest biome of eastern North America. I have never seen them seeking honeydew or nectar, though captive colonies eagerly take sugar water or honey, and they probably do lap up droplets from leaf litter surfaces. Brood of this and other soil-nesting Aphaenogaster species may constitute the primary prey item of Neivamyrmex nigrescens and perhaps other army ants.

Flight period: We have collected alates in MS from mid June to mid July.

Economic Importance: Although this species has the potential to sting, it is unlikely to pose any serious threat due to its non-aggressive behavior. I have handled thousands of this species and never received a sting, even when they were crawling all over me! Due to its abundance in the landscape, it could be an occasional nuisance pest in the home as workers forage for food.

In the Southeast, this species is known to occur in AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MO, MS, NC, SC, TN. Smith (1979) also gives its range as occurring from VT to FL, west to NE and CO.

Literature Cited
Smith, D. R. 1979. In Catalog of Hymenoptera in America north of Mexico. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D. C. Vol. 2, pp. 1323-1427.

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