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Introduction to the Genus

Ants in the genus Camponotus are collectively known as carpenter ants because some species nest in wood, including man-made structures. This genus includes some of the largest and most common ants in the world, and they are found in all biogeographical regions (Bolton, 1995).  More than 900 species of Camponotus are known worldwide, with 50 species reported from the United States (Hanson and Klotz, 2005), and 20 species found east of the Mississippi River (Deyrup, 2003; Smith, 1979). 

Species in this genus are variable in size with workers ranging in size from 3 to 15 mm or more in length and queens (also referred to as females) of some species attaining a length of 19 mm or more. Many species are polymorphic. Workers have a 12-segmented antenna that lacks an apical club. Antennal fossae do not touch the posterior border of the clypeus. Ocelli are not present on the heads of workers. The workers of most species have an indistinct metanotal suture between the promesonotum and the propodeum, although this suture is present in C. sexguttatus and some members of the subgenus Colobopsis.  Those species that lack the obvoius and deep metanotal suture have the shape of the mesosoma in a smoothly curved arc (as seen in profile). 

Key to Camponotus species in or possible in MS and AL

(from Creighton 1950, Snelling 1988; Mark Deyrup, pers. comm., William MacKay-Camponotus website)

The head of major abruptly truncated in front, circular in cross section, the truncated part consists of the clypeus and the adjacent parts of the cheeks; no intermediate sized workers present (medias)
...2 (subgenus Colobopsis)
  The head of major not truncated; medias present

The angle where the side of the head meets the truncated anterior face with a distinct flange or rim; the sculpture of the anterior face with small shallow punctures and fine reticulation; truncated face somewhat shining; metanotal suture shallowly or not impressed on both major and minor


The angle where the side of the head meets the truncated anterior face without a flange or rim, but instead either serrate or blunt; the anterior face coarsely punctate with heavy reticulation; metanotal suture shallowly to deeply impressed

3(2)  Major workers with large, coarse, and sharp reticulations or foveolate punctures present on side of head and on truncated area of head, with edges of punctures touching one another; numerous erect hairs present on top of head (best seen in profile); metanotal suture of mesosoma of major and minor shallowly impressed; propodeum angulate between dorsal and declivious faces; generally smaller in size, majors usually 3.75 mm or less in overall length
  Reticulations or foveolate punctures on head of major smaller, less deep, and not usually touching each other; few erect hairs present on posterior area of head; metanotal suture of both major and minor deeply impressed; propodeum usually rounded between dorsal and declivious faces; usually large, major workers 4.5 mm or more in total length
4(1)  The scapes and legs with long, coarse, brown or golden, erect hairs on all surfaces
...5 (subgenus Myrmothrix)
  Scapes and legs without long erect hairs
5(4)  Larger size, total length of major about 10 mm, TL of minors about 7 mm, TL of queen about 14 mm; mesosoma arched over entire length
....6 (subgenus Myrmothrix)
  Smaller, TL of major about 5 mm, TL of minor about 4 mm, TL of queen about 8 mm; mesosoma deeply impressed at metanotal suture
...sexguttatus (Fabricius) (subgenus Myrmosphincta)
6(5)  Head and mesosoma reddish colored with gaster dark brownish to blackish colored (found on the coast)

Head brownish red and the rest of the body a concolorous golden brown (Introduced ant, probably not established. I am not exactly sure what is going on with this group, there seems to be some confusion, but for now I'm going with this)

7(4)   The thorax stout, no longer than the head excluding mandible; the pronotal humeral angles are well marked
  The thorax longer and much longer than head; humeral angles are rounded
8(7)  The anterior margin of the clypeus feebly projecting and depressed in the middle with a narrow, median notch, behind which is a short, triangular impression; the total length of the major does not exceed 8 mm
...9 (subgenus Myrmentoma)
  The anterior margin of the clypeus not projecting and usually without notch medially, but if there is a notch present then there is no triangular impression behind it; the length of the major rarely less than 8 mm and usually much more
9(8)  The malar area with conspicuous suberect to erect hairs that arise from coarse and somewhat elongate foveae
  Malar area without suberect or erect hairs (sometimes a few near the base of mandibles) and malar area punctate, but without elongate foveae
10(9) Clypeus with usually less than 12 long, erect hairs which are found along and adjacent to margins of clypeus (none of these hairs as short as those found on malar area) with few on clypeal disc (0-3); the gaster usually with transverse light and dark brown stripes (in woods under rotting logs, etc.)
...subbarbatus Emery
  The clypeus with more than 20 (usually) erect hairs, many of these (especially those found in mid-clypeal region) as long as erect hairs on malar area; gaster usually colored dark brown to black
11(10) Erect hairs on clypeus of varying lengths with the shortest hairs being about the same length as those on the malar region; color light to dark brown
  Erect hairs on the clypeus of two distinct lengths, long and short, with the short hairs being shorter than those on the malar region; the head, mesosoma, petiole, and appendages red, and the gaster blackish
Note:  Some consider C. caryae and C. discolor to be a single species, C. caryae
12(9) Color either completely black or brownish-black, or head, mesosoma, petiole, and first to second gastral tergites yellowish to yellowish-red with the rest of the gaster blackish
  Head, mesosoma, and petiole reddish colored, gaster black
13(12) The head and mesosoma dark brownish-black to black
  The head, mesosoma, appendages, and the first 1 or 2 gastral tergites yellowish to yellowish-red
Note:  Some taxonomists consider C. decipiens, nearcticus, and snellingi to be a single species, C. nearcticus.
14(8) The occipital corners (posterior edge of head) with numerous erect hairs; gaster opaque or shining
  Occipital corners lacking or with few erect hairs; gaster usually shining (at least feebly) to opaque
15(14) Color reddish-brown with gaster sometimes darker and usually with transverse dark bands; gaster completely opaque
...socius Roger (subgenus Tanaemyrmex)
  Bicolored with head and mesosoma orangish-brown and gaster blackish-brown; gaster shining
...tortuganus Emery (subgenus Tanaemyrmex)
16(14) mesosoma black or with some reddish color, gaster either entirely black or black with some reddish color near base where it joins with the petiole; gaster with dense pubescence, not shining in appearance
  Both mesosoma and gaster uniformly orangish-brown or yellowish-brown colored; gaster with sparse pubescence, shining
17(16) Body usually black, but occasionally some reddish color at base of legs or legs may be mostly reddish-brown; the short appressed hairs (pubescence) on the gaster are less numerous and barely overlap the posterior edges of the gastral tergites, usually much less than a third of the total hair length extends past the edge, hairs more silvery-white in color (common)
...pennsylvanicus (DeGeer) (subgenus Camponotus)
  The posterior part of propodeum, the petiole, the base of gaster, and legs usually reddish, the rest of the body black (color is variable, sometimes there is less red present); the appressed hairs (pubescence) found on gaster are more numerous and long, they overlap the posterior edges of the gastral tergites (best seen in dorsal view) by at least half of their lengths and are golden in color (common)
...chromaiodes Bolton (subgenus Camponotus )
18(16) Color a uniform oranish-red, occasionally the head is a darker shade than the rest of body, but not black; cheeks with few or no erect hairs (if present then usually restricted to the area just above the mandible)
...castaneus (Latreille) (subgenus Tanaemyrmex)
  Head black to brownish-black, mesosoma and gaster yellow-brown; cheeks with or without erect hairs
19(18) Cheeks with numerous erect hairs (especially in majors); scape extends beyond pastor edge of head by more than diameter of scape, at least the distance of the first funicular segment or more; scape not flattened at base; head of major longer than wide; dorsum of mesosoma often with brown infuscation
...americanus Mayr (subgenus Camponotus)
  Cheeks lacking or with few erect hairs; scape flattened at base and often lobe-like; scape barely reaching posterior edge of head or only by the length of less than one funicular segment (majors); head of major wider than long; mesosoma dorsum usually without infuscation (AR, LA)
....sansabeanus (Buckley) (subgenus Tanaemyrmex)

Literature Cited

Bolton, B. 1995. A new general catalogue of the ants of the world. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Creighton, W.S. 1950.  The Ants of North America. Bulletin: Museum of Comparative Zoology 104:  1-585. 

Hansen, L. D., and J. H. Klotz. 2005.  Carpenter ants of the United States and Canada.  Cornell University Press.  Ithaca, N. Y.  i-xii+204 pp.

Deyrup, M. 2003. An updated list of Florida ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Florida Entomologist 86: 43-48. 

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

Snelling, R. R. 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: New York, New York, USA.