Taxonomic placing: Insecta, Holometabola, Hymenoptera, Formicidae.

Common name: Ants.

Commonly known as ants, the Formicidae is a large family (ca 8,000 species) in the order Hymenoptera. All are social, living in nests constructed in the soil, in trees or in other habitats, including houses. Each nest may contain thousands of individuals. Ants often occur in castes: queens (usually one per nest), workers and soldiers. A well-known pest is the Argentine ant, Iridomyrmex humilis (Mayer)`.

Geographical distribution: Cosmopolitan.

Host plants: Ants occur on most nectar-producing plants or on those infested by honeydew-excreting insects, as well as on the seedlings of various plants.

Morphology: Many ants are blackish, although red and red-brown forms are also known. The second (sometimes also the third) segment of the [abdomen] is constricted, scale-like, and the antennae are elbowed, its first segment being the longest.

Economic importance: Ants, such as Tetramorium signatum Menozzi, may gnaw at the roots of citrus seedlings, causing wilting and death. Other, albeit minor damage, is caused by feeding on the foliage by Acantholepis frauenfeldi Smith and Cataglyphis bicolor Andre. Losses may also be due to the harvesting (and thus disappearance) of seeds, often by the harvester ant, Messor semirufus E. Andre. Indirect damage is caused by Crematogaster jehovae Forel and Camponotus compressus Fabricius, which feed on the honeydew excreted by various scale insects and aphids, thereby hindering the control of these pests by their natural enemies.

Life cycle: Ants live in annual or perennial nests. The males and young queens, which occur only once or twice a year, fly out of the nest in a nuptial flight, after which the queens shed their wings and the males usually die. The queen then begins to lay eggs from which the larvae emerge, tended by worker ants. Some of the latter also forage for food. A few species have a special soldier caste, whose members possess enlarged mandibles.


Chemical control: Pesticide dustings of the nests or around tree trunks usually hinders the appearance and activities of the ants. Control measures may also be aimed at honeydew producing pests, such as mealybugs that infest the host plants. Organophosphates, applied as dusts or in microencapsulated form, limit ant’ access to mealybugs, thus promoting the activities of their natural enemies.


Avidov, Z. and Harpaz, I. 1969. Plant Pests of Israel. Israel Universities Press, Jerusalem, pp. 549.

Gross, S., Birati, Y. And Gal, S. 2001. The application of pesticides as dusts and in microencapsulated form to limit the dispersal of ant populations on citrus trees. Alon Ha’Notea 55: 212-214 (in Hebrew).

Hőlldobler, B. and Wilson, E.O. 1990. The Ants. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp. 732.

Kugler, Y. 1989. Formicidae. In: Alon, A. (Ed.) Plants and Animals of the Land of Israel, Vol. 3, pp. 371-389 (in Hebrew).

Vonshak M. and Ionescu-Hirsch, A. 2009. A checklist of the ants of Israel. Israel Journal of Entomology 39: 33-55.

Websites: http://www.antweb.org/