Open Access
How to translate text using browser tools
1 September 2004 A Survey of Ground-Dwelling Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Georgia
Reid M. Ipser, Mark A. Brinkman, Wayne A. Gardner, Harold B. Peeler
Author Affiliations +

Ground-dwelling ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) were sampled at 29 sites in 26 counties in Georgia with pitfall traps, leaf litter extraction, visual searching, and bait stations. We found 96 ant taxa including nine species not previously reported from Georgia: Myrmica americana Weber, M. pinetorum Wheeler, M. punctiventris Roger, M. spatulata Smith, Pyramica wrayi (Brown), Stenamma brevicorne (Mayr), S. diecki Emery, S. impar Forel, and S. schmitti Wheeler, as well as three apparently undescribed species (Myrmica sp. and two Stenamma spp.). Combined with previous published records and museum records, we increased the total number of ground-dwelling ants known from Georgia to 144 taxa.

The state of Georgia in the southeastern United States is characterized by a relatively wide range of soil, topographic and climatic conditions. The eight Major Land Resource Areas (MLRAs) identified in the state are (1) Atlantic Coast Flatwoods, (2) Southern Coastal Plains, (3) Carolina and Georgia Sand Hills, (4) Black Lands, (5) Southern Piedmont, (6) Southern Appalachian Ridges and Valleys, (7) Sand Mountains, and (8) Blue Ridge (USDA-SCS 1981). Each MLRA is characterized by a unique combination or pattern of soils, climate, water resources, and land use. These factors, in turn, affect the biotic communities and habitats as well as the floral and faunal characteristics of each.

The diversity and abundance of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Georgia are relatively unknown. Wheeler (1913) published a list of 72 ant species collected in Georgia by J. C. Bradley and W. T. Davis; taxonomic revisions have since decreased this list to 62 species. Since that publication, museum records and collections have been the primary sources of occurrence and distribution of ant species in the state; these data are limited in scope. With the exception of Florida (Johnson 1986; Deyrup 2003) and South Carolina (Smith 1934), surveys for ant species are also limited from areas bordering Georgia.

The objective of the study reported herein was to collect, identify, and catalog ground-dwelling ant species from representative MLRAs in Georgia. Undisturbed habitats were purposely sampled to avoid high population levels of two invasive ant species--Solenopsis invicta Buren and Linepithema humile (Mayr)--that occur throughout the state and reportedly compete with and displace other ant species (Porter & Savignano 1990; Holway 1999).

Materials and Methods

Sample Methods and Sites

Twenty-nine sites were sampled 1 to 4 times between June 2000 and September 2002 for ground-dwelling ants (Fig. 1). Most sites were located in state parks; others were on state-owned properties. The sites represented six of the eight MLRAs identified in Georgia. Information and characteristics of each collection site are listed in Table 1.

Each site was 600 m2 and was located in wooded areas and at least 60 m from any paths, roads, or right-of-ways. Sampling methods employed were pitfall trapping, extraction from leaf litter collections, visual searching, and baiting as described by Agosti & Alonso (2000) and Bestlemeyer et al. (2000). For each sampling event, 20 pitfall traps were placed individually at 1-m intervals along a transect. Traps were 40-ml plastic vials filled to 60% of container volume with propylene glycol. The vials were placed in the ground with the upper opening level with the soil surface. The traps remained in the ground for 7 d when they were removed, capped, and transported to the laboratory for processing. Leaf litter was gathered by hand from several locations within the 600 m2 site. These were combined and placed in a 50-L plastic bag, stored on ice, and transported to the laboratory. In the laboratory, litter samples were divided and placed in Berlese funnels (Agosti & Alonso 2000) for 24 h to separate ants. Bait stations used were those described by Brinkman et al. (2001). Tuna packaged in oil, was placed in a thin layer over the surface of a 2.5-cm diam filter paper disk (Whatman no. 1) in a plastic Petri dish (10 ¥ 35 mm). Ten stations were placed individually at 2-m intervals along a transect. The stations remained uncovered on the ground for 2 h. They were then covered, placed on ice, and transported to the laboratory for processing. The ground, tree trunks, fallen trees, and other surfaces were visually searched for ants at each sampling time. The total amount of time spent on visual searching was 1.5 h, but varied based on the number of individuals involved in the search. Ants discovered in the visual searches were collected, placed in 70% ethyl alcohol, and transported to the laboratory for processing.

In the laboratory, ant specimens were separated and placed in 95% ethyl alcohol. Identifications were made with keys by Bolton (1994); Bolton (2000); Buren (1968); Creighton (1950); Cuezzo (2000); Deyrup et al. (1985); DuBois (1986); Gregg (1958); Holldobler & Wilson (1990); Johnson (1988); MacKay (2000); Smith (1957); Snelling (1973); Snelling (1988); Snelling & Longino (1992); Taylor (1967); Trager (1984); Trager (1988); Ward (1985); Ward (1988); Wilson (1955); and Wing (1968), and by comparison with specimens housed in the University of Georgia Natural History Museum (Athens, GA). Stefan Cover (The Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard Univ., Cambridge, MA) and Mark Deyrup (Archbold Biological Station, Lake Placid, FL) confirmed species identifications. Voucher specimens have been deposited in the University of Georgia Natural History Museum and the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

Results and Discussion

Ninety-six species of ground-dwelling ants representing 33 genera were collected and identified in this 2-year survey (Table 2). Of those collected, 9 species have not been previously reported from Georgia. These are Myrmica americana Weber, M. pinetorum Wheeler, M. punctiventris Roger, M. spatulata Smith, Pyramica wrayi (Brown), Stenamma brevicorne (Mayr), S. diecki Emery, S. impar Forel, and S. schmitti Wheeler.

Of those previously unreported species, M. americana was collected from 3 sites, M. pinetorum was collected from 1 site, M. punctiventris was collected from 7 sites, and M. spatulata was collected from 2 sites. Ants of this genus nest in soil and in rotting wood and are primarily carnivorous, but they will feed on plant exudates such as nectar (Creighton 1950). In addition, P. wrayi and S. brevicorne were each collected from 1 site, S. diecki was collected from 8 sites, S. schmitti was collected from 5 sites, and S. impar was collected from 2 sites. All Stenamma species are carnivorous, and Pyramica are specialized predators of collembolans (Holldobler & Wilson 1990).

Eleven individuals of Myrmica and 3 individuals of Stenamma, possibly representing two species, were collected from Amicalola State Park in Dawson Co. (site 6) and represent as yet undescribed species (S. Cover, pers. comm.). Those specimens were collected on 2-V-2000, primarily by pitfall trapping and leaf litter collection.

A review of ant specimens deposited in the Archbold Biological Station (ABS), the University of Georgia Natural History Museum (UGANHM), the lists of ants published by Wheeler (1913), and a survey conducted by Jouvenaz et al. (1977) reveal that 48 species of ground-dwelling ants representing 21 genera have been reported from Georgia but were not collected in the survey reported herein (Table 3). To date, these two lists (Table 2 and Table 3) comprise the ground-dwelling ant species reported from Georgia. Species collected within the Aphaenogaster picea/rudis/texana complex and the Solenopsis molesta complex are footnoted in Table 2.

In terms of occurrence and distribution, Prenolepis imparis (Say) was collected from 17 of the 29 sites sampled, the Aphaenogaster picea/rudis/texana complex from 21 sites; the Solenopsis molesta complex from 17 sites, and Crematogaster ashmeadi Mayr from 16 sites in this survey. All other species were collected from less than one-half of the sites. Members of the genus Pheidole were most numerous with 2,765 individuals representing 10 species collected at 14 sites. Dorymyrmex burnei (Trager), D. insanus (Buckley), and Cyphomyrmex rimosus (Spinola) were collected only at southern sites, while Amblyopone pallipes (Haldeman), Ponera pennsylvanica Buckley, and Tapinoma sessile (Say) were collected from sites in northern Georgia. Pseudomyrmex ejectus (Smith) was collected from pitfall traps at one site. Pseudomyrmex spp. are characteristically arboreal in their habits. These specimens most likely dropped to the forest floor, and thus were collected as ground-dwellers. Three species--the seed harvester Pogonomyrmex badius (Latreille), the obligate slave raider Polyergus lucidus Mayr, and the generalist Aphaenogaster miamiana Wheeler--were recovered only on Sapelo Island, a barrier island on Georgia’s coast.

The survey reported herein provides a basis for various ecological studies and assessments. Ant assemblages, species composition, and community structure are important in terms of community ecology. For example, in Australia, ants are one of the most functionally important faunal groups (Matthews & Kitching 1984; Anderson 1992) and are model organisms for studies in community ecology (Anderson 1983, Anderson 1988, Anderson 1991; Greenslade & Halliday 1983). Ants also have been used as bio-indicators in mine site rehabilitation (Majer 1983, Majer 1985).

Schultz & McGlynn (2000) noted the many interactions that occur between ants and other organisms within habitats. They further postulated that if these interactions are understood, one could predict ecological conditions within a given habitat based upon the presence or absence of specific ants. Furthermore, one could correlate the presence of a specific ant species with specific ecological conditions, and these correlations could be used as predictors of ant biodiversity and interactions among ant species (Alonso 2000).

This survey is the first published listing of ground-dwelling ants in Georgia since Wheeler (1913). This compilation will serve to support biodiversity, systematics, and ecological studies for Georgia and surrounding environs.


Stan Diffie, Vanessa Hammons, and Jeremy Davidson provided technical support. Georgia Department of Natural Resources provided permission to use state parks for collection sites. Stefan Cover (The Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University) and Mark Deyrup (Archbold Biological Station, Lake Placid, FL) verified species identifications, and Cecil Smith of the Georgia Natural History Museum supplied equipment and allowed access to ant specimens.

References Cited


D. Agosti and L. E. Alonso . 2000. The ALL protocol: a standard protocol for the collection of ground-dwelling ants. pp. 204-206 In D. Agosti, J. Majer, L. E. Alonso, and T. Schultz [eds.], Ants: Standard Methods for Measuring and Monitoring Biodiversity. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. Google Scholar


L. E. Alonso 2000. Ants as indicators of diversity. pp. 80-88 In D. Agosti, J. Majer, L. E. Alonso, and T. Schultz [eds.], Ants: Standard Methods for Measuring and Monitoring Biodiversity. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. Google Scholar


A. N. Anderson 1983. Species diversity and temporal distribution of ants in the semi-arid mallee region of northwestern Victoria. Aust. J. Ecol 8:127–137. Google Scholar


A. N. Anderson 1988. Immediate and longer-term effects of fire on seed predation by ants in sclerophyllous vegetation in southeast Australia. Aust. J. Ecol 13:285–293. Google Scholar


A. N. Anderson 1991. Sampling communities of ground-foraging ants: Pitfall catches compared with quadrat counts in an Australian tropical savanna. Aust. J. Ecol 16:273–279. Google Scholar


A. N. Anderson 1992. Regulation of “momentary” diversity by dominant species in exceptionally rich ant communities of the Australian seasonal tropics. American Natur 140:401–420. Google Scholar


B. T. Bestlemeyer, D. Agosti, L. E. Alonso, C. Roberto, F. Brandao, W. L. Brown Jr., J. H C. Delabie, and R. Silvestre . 2000. Field techniques for the study of ground-dwelling ants: an overview, description, and evaluation. pp. 122-144 In D. Agosti, J. Majer, L. E. Alonso, and T. Schultz [eds.], Ants: Standard Methods for Measuring and Monitoring Biodiversity. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. Google Scholar


B. Bolton 1994. Identification Guide to the Ant Genera of the World. Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge MA. 222 pp. Google Scholar


B. Bolton 2000. The Ant Tribe Dacetini. Mem. Amer. Entomol. Inst. American Entomological Institute, Gainesville, FL. 1028 pp. Google Scholar


M. A. Brinkman, W. A. Gardner, R. M. Ipser, and S. K. Diffie . 2001. Ground-dwelling ant species attracted to four food baits in Georgia. J. Entomol. Sci 36:461–463. Google Scholar


W. F. Buren 1968. A review of the species of Crematogaster, sensu stricto, in North America (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Part II. Descriptions of new species. J. Georgia Entomol. Soc 3:91–121. Google Scholar


W. S. Creighton 1950. The Ants of North America. Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College, Cambridge, MA. Google Scholar


F. Cuezzo 2000. Revision del genero Forelius (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Dolichoderinae). Sociobiology 35:197–277. Google Scholar


M. Deyrup, J. Trager, and N. Carlin . 1985. The genus Odontomachus in the Southeastern United States (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Ent. News 96:188–195. Google Scholar


M. Deyrup 2003. An updated list of Florida ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Florida Entomol 72:91–101. Google Scholar


M. B. DuBois 1986. A revision of the native New World species of the ant genus Monomorium (minimum group) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Univ. Kansas Sci. Bull 53:65–119. Google Scholar


P. J M. Greenslade and R. B. Halliday . 1983. Colony dispersion and relationships of meat ants Iridomyrmex purpureus and allies in an arid locality in South Australia. Insect. Soc 30:82–99. Google Scholar


R. E. Gregg 1958. Key to the species of Pheidole (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the United States. J. New York Entomol. Soc 66:7–48. Google Scholar


B. Holldobler and E. O. Wilson . 1990. The Ants. Belknap Press, Cambridge, MA. Google Scholar


D. A. Holway 1999. Competitive mechanisms underlying the displacement of native ants by the invasive Argentine ant. Ecology 80:238–251. Google Scholar


C. Johnson 1986. A north Florida ant fauna (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Insecta Mundi 1:243–246. Google Scholar


C. Johnson 1988. Species identification in the Eastern Crematogaster (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J. Entomol. Sci 23:314–332. Google Scholar


D. P. Jouvenaz, G. E. Allen, W. A. Banks, and D. P. Wojcik . 1977. A survey for pathogens of fire ants, Solenopsis spp., in the southeastern United States. Florida Entomol 60:275–279. Google Scholar


W. P. MacKay 2000. A review of the new world ants of the subgenus Myrafant (Genus: Leptothorax) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 36:265–444. Google Scholar


J. D. Majer 1983. Ants: bio-indicators of minesite rehabilitation, land-use, and land conservation. Environ. Manag 7:375–383. Google Scholar


J. D. Majer 1985. Recolonization by ants of rehabilitated mineral sand mines on North Stradbroke Island, Queensland, with particular reference to seed removal. Australian J. Ecol 10:31–48. Google Scholar


E. G. Matthews and R. L. Kitching . 1984. Insect Ecology. Univ. Queensland Press, Brisbane. Google Scholar


S. D. Porter and D. A. Savignano . 1990. Invasion of polygyne fire ants decimates native ants and disrupts arthropod community. Ecology 7:2095–2106. Google Scholar


T. R. Schultz and T. P. McGlynn . 2000. The interaction of ants with other organisms. pp. 35-44 In D. Agosti, J. Majer, L. E. Alonso, and T. Schultz [eds.], Ants: Standard Methods for Measuring and Monitoring Biodiversity. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. Google Scholar


M. R. Smith 1934. A list of the ants of South Carolina. J. New York Entomol. Soc 42:353–361. Google Scholar


M. R. Smith 1957. Revision of the genus Stenamma Westwood in America north of Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Amer. Midl. Nat 57:133–174. Google Scholar


R. R. Snelling 1973. Studies of California ants. 7. The genus Stenamma (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Contrib. Sci 245:1–38. Google Scholar


R. R. Snelling 1988. Taxonomic notes on Nearctic species of Camponotus, subgenus Myrmentoma (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). pp. 55-78 In J. C. Trager [ed], Advances in Myrmecology. E. J. Brill, Lieden. Google Scholar


R. R. Snelling and J. T. Longino . 1992. Revisionary notes on the fungus-growing ants of the genus Cyphomyrmex, rimosus group (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Attini). pp. 479-494 In D. Quintero, and A. Aiello [eds.], Insects of Panama and Mesoamerica: Selected Studies. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Google Scholar


R. E. Taylor 1967. A monographic revision of the ant genus Ponera Latreille (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pac. Ins. Mon 13:1–112. Google Scholar


J. C. Trager 1984. Revision of the genus Paratrechina (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the continental United States. Sociobiology 9:51–162. Google Scholar


J. C. Trager 1988. Revision of Conomyrma (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from the southeastern United States, especially Florida, with keys to the species. Florida Entomol 71:11–29. Google Scholar


U.S. Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service 1981. Land resource areas and major land resource areas of the United States, Agricultural Handbook 296. Washington, DC. Google Scholar


P. S. Ward 1985. The Nearctic species of the genus Pseudomyrmex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Quaest. Ent 21:209–246. Google Scholar


P. S. Ward 1988. Mesic elements in the western Nearctic ant fauna: Taxonomic and biological notes on Amblyopone, Proceratium, and Smithistruma (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J. Kansas Entomol. Soc 61:102–124. Google Scholar


W. M. Wheeler 1913. Ants collected in Georgia by Dr. J. C. Bradley and Mr. W. T. Davis. Psyche 112–117. Google Scholar


E. O. Wilson 1955. A monographic revision of the ant genus Lasius. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool 113:1–201. Google Scholar


W. M. Wing 1968. Taxonomic revision of the Nearctic genus Acanthomyops (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Mem. Cornell Univ. Agric. Exp. Stn No. 405:1–173. Google Scholar


Fig. 1.

Georgia sites sampled for ground-dwelling ants, 2000-2002.


Table 1.

Locations and characteristics of sites sampled for ground-dwelling ants in Georgia, 2000-2002. All study sites were in state-owned property (state parks or University of Georgia).


Table 2.

List of ground-dwelling ants collected in Georgia 2000-2002 survey with collection site (s) noted.


Table 2.

(Continued) List of ground-dwelling ants collected in Georgia 2000-2002 survey with collection site (s) noted.


Table 3.

Species of ground-dwelling ants previously reported to occur in Georgia but not collected in the 2000-2002 state survey.

Reid M. Ipser, Mark A. Brinkman, Wayne A. Gardner, and Harold B. Peeler "A Survey of Ground-Dwelling Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Georgia," Florida Entomologist 87(3), 253-260, (1 September 2004).[0253:ASOGAH]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 September 2004
ground-dwelling ants
Back to Top