Ant and Related Entomology Terms

(terms restricted to the study of social insects; such as, ants and words that apply generally to entomology)

abdomen (s) (noun), abdomens; abdomina (pl)
In anatomy, the third, posterior most major division of the body; belly, tummy: The abdomen is that part of a person's body between the thorax and the pelvis, but not including the back
aciculate (adjective). more aciculate, most aciculate
Finely striate (thin, narrow groove or channel), as if scratched by a needle: Sandy viewed the aciculate spines of the plant that the botany teacher showed the students in class.
In formicine ants, the circular exit of the poison gland formed by the margin of the terminal gastral sternite.
active space
The space within which the concentration of a pheromone (or any other behaviorally active substance) is at or above threshold concentration.

The active space of a pheromone is, in fact, the signal itself.

A reference to the Aculeata, or stinging Hymenoptera, a group including the bees, ants, and many of the wasps.
Tapering to a fine point.
adaptive demography
Programed schedules of individual birth, growth, and death resulting in frequency distributions of age and size in the worker caste that promote survival and reproduction of the ant colony as a whole.
adaptive radiation
The process of evolution by which species multiply, diverge into different niches; for example, species that are predators on different kinds of prey, and come to occupy the same or at least overlapping ranges.
adoption substance
A secretion presented by a social parasite that induces the host insects to accept the parasite as a member of their ant colony.
adult transport
The carrying or dragging of one adult social insect by a nest mate, usually during colony emigrations.

In ants, adult transport is a very frequent and stereotypical form of behavior.

adventitious ant shelters
1. Adventitious refers to something that is added from an outside and often unexpected source rather than being an intrinsic element.
2. Incidental or adventitious ant-nest sites are associated by chance and are not an integral part of plants.

Such incidental nest sites can be divided into convenient categories as follows:

  1. Preformed cavities in live branches and stems, excavated by wood-boring beetles and other insects and then later occupied by ant colonies.
  2. Cavities in stems and branches that are naturally hollow or contain a pith soft enough to be easily excavated by ants which includes grasses, sedges, composites, and other herbaceous and shrubby plant forms and so a great variety of ants occupy them.
  3. Natural or preformed cavities in the bark of trees; such as, pine trees in the southern United States that shelter an entire fauna of ant genera that nest adventitiously in the bark.
  4. Roots of epiphytes or the tangled root systems of orchids, gesneriads (mostly tropical herbs or shrubs), and other tropical epiphytes are ideal nest sites for ants.
  5. Galls (abnormal swelling of plant tissue) formed by cynipid wasp larvae, or Cynipidae, a family of gall wasps, hymenopteran insects in the super-family Cynipoidea that produce galls on oaks, which have been observed in Europe and North America.
  6. Earthen or carton nests constructed vertically against the sunken portions of tree trunks by a few ant species in the New World tropics because the trees provide a partial wall of solid wood which provides some protection for the ant colonies.

None of these diverse structures appears to be "designed" to accommodate ant colonies and all of them are ordinary anatomical features of the plants that the ants exploit, apparently in a unilateral manner.

In contrast, the domatia do appear to serve as ant nests because they are featured by cavities that form independently of the ants.

So, it is adventitious when roots and tubercles absorb nutrients from waste material carried onto the cavities, and even holes or thin windows of tissue through which ants can more conveniently enter and leave their colonies are essentially provided naturally by the plants, but not to entice ants as with the domatia.

—Compiled from information provided by
The Ants by Bert Holldobler and Edward O. Wilson;
The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press;
Cambridge, Massachusetts; 1990; pages 534-535.
age polyethism, temporal polyethism
The regular changing of labor roles by colony members as they age.
A group of individuals, comprising more than just a mated pair or a family, that has gathered in the same place but does not construct nests or rear offspring in a cooperative manner; as opposed to colony.
alarm pheromone
A chemical substance exchanged among members of the same species that induces a state of alertness or alarm in the face of a common threat.
alarm-defense system
Defensive behavior which also functions as an alarm signaling device within the colony.

Examples include the use by certain ant species of chemical defensive secretions that double as alarm pheromones.

Here are two additional word units that deal directly with "ants": formic- and myrmeco-.

Index of additional Scientific and Technological Topics.

Bibliography of Entomology or Insect Terms (The Ants).