False Honey Ants – Prenolepis imparis

False Honey Ants – Prenolepis imparis
Order Hymenoptera – Bees, Wasps, Ants & Sawflies

Live adult male and female false honey ants photographed in the wild at Winfield, Illinois

False Honey Ants - Prenolepis imparis

Ants in the genus Prenolepis are commonly known as "false honey" ants. They range over much of North America, into southern Canada. This is the only species in this genus. The false honey ants are very well adapted to foraging in the cold, and are seen in conditions where other ant species are absent; they forage even at freezing temperatures. Males and females both overwinter in underground nest; they are first ants to make nuptial flights in the spring: this queen and drone were photographed on April 14th, very early in the year for such activity.

These ants become less active as the weather warms, and appear to have very little foraging during the hot days of summer. They mobilize again with the return of cooler temperatures in the autumn. I'm thinking this behavior may be an adaptation to ice age conditions. If this is true, these ants will probably disappear from the earth very soon, thanks in part to the idiotic ideas and policies of the Bush administration.

Ants are distinguished from other insects by the combination of elbowed antennae, a strongly constricted second abdominal segment forming a distinct node-like petiole, a wingless worker caste, and the presence of a metapleural gland. They can sense with organs located on the antennae, which can detect pheromones and hydrocarbons on the outer layer of the body. The latter is highly important for the recognition of nestmates from non-nestmates. Also, they communicate with sound in the form of vibrations moving through the ground.

They live in colonies with well-defined castes that typically comprise a worker caste of sterile females and a reproductive caste of winged males and females. Most queens and male ants (drones) have wings, which they eat after nuptial flight; however wingless queens (ergatoids) and males can occur.

False Honey Ants - Prenolepis imparis
False Honey Ant Queen and Drone

This queen ant is still attached to the drone after their nuptial flight. The male ant has fulfilled his purpose (fertilizing the queen) and is no longer of any use to the colony-to-be. He will die and drop off, and the new queen will search for a hole in the ground to begin laying her eggs.

Drone false honey ant on Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

Order Hymenoptera: Bees, Wasps, & Ants

Hymenoptera (Latin for membrane wing) is a vast assemblage of insects second only to Coleoptera (beetles) in the number of described species. Hymenoptera number some 115,000 species – of which 18,000 live in North America. Hymenopterans inhabit a wide variety of habitats, and show an incredible diversity in size, behavior, structure and color.
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