Glossary of Ant Terms


  • A |
  • B |
  • C |
  • D |
  • E |
  • F |
  • G |
  • H |
  • I |
  • J |
  • K |
  • L |
  • M |
  • N
  • O |
  • P |
  • Q |
  • R |
  • S |
  • T |
  • U |
  • V |
  • W |
  • X |
  • Y |
  • Z

A

Abdomen: the third section of the insect body (head, thorax, abdomen). In ants, the abdomen consists of the propodeum and metasoma (the petiole + gaster).

Alate: in ants and termites a winged, sexually mature individual.

Altitrunk (al-ti-trunk): the region formed by the fusion of the thorax and propodeum and is the second visible region of the ant body; consists of the pro-, meso- and metathorax plus the propodeum.

Antennae (an-ten-nee; singular: antenna): a pair of segmented sensory appendages located on the head.

Apterous (ap-ter-us): wingless.

Arboreal (ar-bor-ee-ul): nesting above ground in trees or shrubs.

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B

Bilobed: divided into two lobes.

Brood: the immature members of the colony including eggs, larvae and pupae.

Budding: starting a new colony without swarming whereby reproductive(s) and a group of workers leave the original colony.

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C

Carina (ca-rye-na; plural: carinae [ca-rye-nee]): an elevated ridge or keel.

Caste (cast): within a colony, any set of individuals having both a distinct form and specialized behaviors.

Club: enlarged antennal segments at the end of the antenna in some species.

Clypeal (cly-pee-ul): refers to the clypeus - a sclerite (plate) on the lower part of the face located above the labrum.

Convex: curved outward.

Coxa : the first segment of the insect leg.

Cuticle: the non-cellular outer covering of the body wall of an insect.

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D

Declivity (de-cli-vi-tee): a downward-sloping surface.

Dimorphic (dye-mor-fic): having two distinct forms; example: major and minor workers.

Dolichoderinae (do-li-ko-de-rye-nee): a sub-family of Formicidae with petiole present, no sting or circlet of hairs at the tip of the abdomen and defensive chemicals discharged through a slit.

Dorsal: top or uppermost; referring to the back or upper side.

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E

Entomologist: a scientist who studies insects.

Entomology (en-toe-ma-lo-gee): the scientific study of insects.

Epinotal (eh-pee-no-tul): located on the dorsal surface of the propodeum.

Epinotum: the upper surface of the altitrunk.

Exoskeleton: the hardened integument of the insect that provides support for the muscles and body; literally an outer skeleton.

Extrafloral Nectary: a nectary (nectar-secreting structure) not associated with a flower.

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F

Family: one or more genera that share a common ancestor but are less closely related to each other than species within a genus.

Femur (fee-murr): the third segment of the insect leg.

Filiform (fi-li-form): a descriptive term for antennae that appear thread-like because the antennal segments are approximately the same diameter.

Flagellum (= Funiculus) (fla-jell-um; plural: flagella [fla-jell-ah]): the part of the antenna beyond the second segment (pedicel) consisting of 3-11 smaller segments.

Floral Nectary: a nectary associated with a flower.

Formic Acid: an acid (CHO2H) secreted from the poison gland of ants, used for defense.

Formicidae (for-mi-si-dee): the Ant family, in the Order Hymenoptera.

Formicinae (for-mi-sy-nee): a sub-family of Formicidae with sting replaced by glands that secrete noxious chemicals.

Frontal Carina (ca-rye-na; plural: carinae [ca-rye-nee]): an elevated ridge located in front of and, sometimes, above the eye, often forming the outer edge of the scrobe.

Funiculus (= Flagellum) (fu-ni-cue-lus): the part of the antenna beyond the second segment (pedicel) consisting of 3-11 smaller segments.

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G

Gaster: the remaining abdominal segments after the waist or pedicel; the enlarged part of the abdomen that is usually referred to as the abdomen, proper.

Genus (jee-nuss, plural: genera (jeh-ner-ah): a set of similar, related species having a single common ancestor.

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H

Honeydew: a sugar-rich fluid excreted by plant sap-sucking insects (such as aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs).

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I

Integument: the outer covering of the body.

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L

Labrum: the uppermost of the mouthparts.

Larva (plural: larvae [lar-vee]): the immature stage of insects with complete metamorphosis, it has a completely different form than the adult (examples: maggot/fly, caterpillar/butterfly).

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M

Mandibles (man-di-bulz): the second set of mouthparts in insects; in layman's terms: the jaws; used by ants for chewing, biting and manipulating objects.

Maxillae ([max-il-lee]; singular: maxilla): the paired mouthparts located behind the mandibles; the third of the four basic insect mouthparts.

Maxillary Palps: small, feeler-like structures arising from the maxilla.

Medial: towards the middle.

Mesoepinotal (me-zo-e-pee-no-tul): located midway on the propodeum.

Mesopleuron (me-zo-plu-ron): a sclerite (plate) located on the side of the middle section of the thorax (mesothorax).

Metamorphosis (me-ta-mor-fo-sis): a change in form during insect development.

Metasoma (me-ta-so-ma): the body region consisting of the petiole and abdomen.

Monomorphic (mah-no-mor-fic): having only a single form; for example - ant species with all workers having the same form.

Molt: the casting off of the outgrown skin (exoskeleton) during growth.

Myrmecology (murr-meh-cah-lo-gee): the scientific study of ants.

Myrmecologist (murr-meh-cah-lo-jist): a scientist who studies ants.

Myrmicinae (murr-mi-sy-nee): sub-family of Formicidae with petiole and post-petiole (2 nodes), workers rarely have ocelli.

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N

Nectar: a sweet fluid secreted from a gland in flowers.

Nectary: a gland in flowers that secretes nectar, a sweet fluid.

Nocturnal: active at night.

Node: a swollen or enlarged knob- or knot-like or rounded segment(s) between the gaster and propodeum.

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O

Ocellus (oh-sell-us; plural: ocelli [oh-sell-ee]): the simple eye of some insects, sensitive to light but does not form visual images.

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P

Pathogen (pa-tho-jen): a disease-causing organism or agent.

Pedicel (pe-di-sel): the waist of an ant; made up of either one segment (the petiole) or two segments (the petiole plus post-petiole); also, the second part of the antenna from the scape outward.

Petiole (pe-tee-ole): the second abdominal segment; the segment directly behind the propodeum; followed by the post-petiole in some species.

Pheromone (fair-oh-moan): a chemical substance or blend of substances secreted by an organism and elicits a response by a member of the same species.

Pilosity (pie-lah-si-tee): longer, stouter hairs or setae standing above the smaller, finer hairs.

Plumose (plu-mose): feather-like in appearance.

Polymorphic (pah-lee-mor-fic): having more than two distinct forms.

Ponerinae (pah-nur-eye-nee): sub-family of Formicidae with body heavily sclerotized (hardened with a protein called sclerotin), first gastral segment constricted.

Post-petiolar (post-pe-tee-oh-ler): immediately following the petiole.

Propodeum (pro-po-dee-um): the first abdominal segment of ants; it is fused to the thorax and is immovable.

Protuberance: a non-cellular formation arising from a flat surface; a bulge or bump.

Pseudomyrmicinae (su-doe-murr-mi-sy-nee): sub-family of Formicidae with petiole and post-petiole (2 nodes), sting present and usually strongly developed.

Pubescence (pyew-beh-sense): exceptionally short, fine hairs on the body surface.

Pupa (pyew-pa; plural: pupae [pyew-pee]): inactive stage of insects with complete metamorphosis during which development into the final adult form is completed.

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Q

Queen: the principal female reproductive of the colony (in some species).

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S

Satellite Colony or Satellite Nest: colony forming away from the main body of the colony but still remaining connected with it.

Scape: the first segment of the antenna; the elongated antennal segment that is attached to the head.

Sclerite (sclair-ite): a general term for any single plate of the exoskeleton.

Scrobe: the groove or impression, on either side of the head, above or below the eye where the scape and sometimes the entire antenna can be protectively placed or folded.

Serrate (sair-rate): with teeth along the edge; saw-like.

Seta (see-ta; plural: setae [see-tee]): stout hair that is set in a socket in the cuticle.

Soldier: a member of the caste within the colony that is specialized for colony defense.

Species: a group of similar organisms whose members can breed with one another to produce fertile offspring.

Sub-family: genera within a family sharing similar characteristics and forming a natural division - but not different enough to form a distinct family.

Sub-petiolar Process: a projection arising from the underside of the petiole.

Swarming: in ants, colony reproduction in which alates fly from the nest to mate and establish a new colony.

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T

Tagma (plural: tagmata [tag-mah-tah]): unit of a body; part of the section of the body that is separated from other body regions; example - the head, thorax and abdomen are the three tagmata of the insect body.

Tarsus (plural: tarsi (tar-see): the "foot" of an insect consisting of from 1 to 5 segments attached to the tibia.

Trochanter (tro-can-ter): the short, second segment of the insect leg, between the coxa and femur.

Thorax: the second section (tagma) of the insect body.

Tibia: the fourth segment of the insect leg, located between the femur and tarsus.

Trophic Egg (tro-fic): a special type of egg, usually non-fertile, produced for consumption; used by the White-Footed Ant.

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V

Vector: an organism that transmits a pathogen from one host to another.

Ventral: referring to the underside or bottom surface.

Vertex: the top of the head, between the eyes.

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W

Waist: another term for the petiole.

Worker: a member of the non-reproductive, laboring caste.

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