Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Hymenoptera

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L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz



Adults minute to medium sized; (1.5–)2–10 mm long. Social insects forming organized communities; the adult populations including specialised, sterile females constituting ‘workers’ (most communities comprising winged males, a deciduously winged or wingless (‘queen’) female, and wingless sterile-female (‘worker’) castes, the latter sometimes represented by two or more specialised forms).

Head. Antennal segments (10–)12 (females), or (10–)13 (males). Antennae geniculate.

Thorax. Thorax black, brown, orange or yellow. Pronotum long, extending back to the tegulae. Cenchri absent. Wings present, or absent (workers). Fore-wings with a conspicuous pterostigma; with the venation well developed (sometimes reduced apically). Closed fore-wing cells 6–10. Hind-wings with closed cells. Hind femur without a well defined trochantellus. Hind tibiae with spurs specialised for a cleaning rôle, or without specialised spurs.

Abdomen. The abdomen with a marked basal constriction; long petiolate. The ‘waist’ with scales or nodes. Visible abdominal segments 6 (females), or 7 (males). The gaster concolorous; black, brown, orange or yellow. Ovipositor of females not visibly protruding; modified as a retractable sting (Myrmicinae), or greatly reduced (the rest, which propel their poison by means of a squirt).

Larvae. Larvae legless or the legs vestigial; socially parasitic on hosts selected by the mother and predacious (some parasitizing other ants), or feeding on prey collected and stored by the adults, or feeding on material manufactured by the adults.

British representation. Species in Britain 50; Anergates, Crematogaster, Formica, Formicoxenus, Hypoponera, Iridomyrmex, Lasius, Leptothorax, Monomorium, Mymecina, Myrmica, Paratrechina, Pheidole, Ponera, Sipholinia, Solenopsis, Stenamma, Strongylognathus, Tapinoma, Tetramorium (Formica, Lasius, Leptothorax and Myrmica being the most strongly represented native genera, with most of the rest representing non-established introductions).

Classification. Suborder Apocrita; Series Aculeata; Superfamily Formicoidea.

Illustrations. • Formica rufa (Red, Hill or Horse Ant, or Pismire): B. Ent. 752. • Formica rufa: B. Ent. 752, legend+text. • Formica rufa: B. Ent. 752, text cont.. • Myrmecina graminicola (Isle of Wight Ant: B. Ent. 265). • Myrmecina graminicola (detail: B. Ent. 265). • Myrmecina graminicola (dissections: B. Ent. 265). • Myrmecina graminicola (generic type description): B. Ent. 265, legend+text. • Myrmecina graminicola: B. Ent. 265, text cont.. • Formica exsecta, F. fusca, F. rufa, F. sanguinea (Saunders II). • Lasius alienus, L. fuliginosus, L. mixtus, and Tapinoma (Saunders III). • Formicoxenus, Myrmecina, Ponera, Tapinoma (Saunders IV). • Leptothorax, Tetramorium (Saunders V). • Myrmeca, Solenopsis, Stenamma (Saunders VI). • Ponera coarctata: as P. contracta, Stephens 1846.

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: the families of Hymenoptera. Version: 16th May 2016.’.