Crematogaster cerasi

Geographic Range

Crematogaster cerasi, a species of acrobat ant, is native to the Nearctic region. It is found in southern Canada, throughout much of the United States, and into northern Mexico. In the United States, it ranges west to the Rocky Mountains and New Mexico, east to the eastern coastal states, and as far south as Florida. It is particularly common in the Midwest and in the northeastern states. (Johnson, 1988; Smith, 1965)

Habitat

Crematogaster cerasi builds its nests primarily in trees such as under bark, in hollow stems, or other cavities, but also lives in logs and stumps or under leaf litter and stones. These ants also nest inside houses and other buildings, usually in tight spaces such as between shingles and in or around doors and windows. They are most common in forests, but can also be found in grasslands, pastures, bogs, and marshes. They are even occasionally found in mountain regions, as high as 2,350 m. In the southern portion of their range, they tend to live in drier, riparian habitats, while in the north they are more frequent in wetter woodlands and fields. (Ellis, et al., 2000; Jander, 1990; Johnson, 1988; Kannowski, 1959; Mackay and Mackay, 2003; Rice, 2013; Smith, 1965; Thompson, 1990)

  • Range elevation
    2350 (high) m
    7709.97 (high) ft

Physical Description

Workers of Crematogaster cerasi are typically 2.6 to 4.0 mm in length. Queens are larger at 7.0 to 8.0 mm in length. These ants range from reddish-brown to dark brown to black in color. Ants of genus Crematogaster have unique heart shaped gasters, with the gaster flattened dorsally and convex ventrally. This genus has 11 segmented antennae, with 3 segmented antennal clubs. The dorsal face of the petiole is flattened, while the post-petiole has two lobes separated by a crevice, the post-petiole attaches to the dorsum of the gaster. While genus Crematogaster is reasonably easy to identify, especially due to the distinct gaster, individual species are more difficult to distinguish. Crematogaster cerasi can be distinguished from other Crematogaster species by one or two long, erect hairs on each corner of the pronotum. Males and reproductive females have wings, while workers do not. Queens lose their wings after mating. Larvae are 1.0 to 1.1 mm in length when they have first hatched and can grow to 1.9 mm long. The larval body is curved and segmented and the integument grows smooth when the larva nears molting. (Ellison, et al., 2012; Mackay and Mackay, 2003; Rice, 2013; Smith, 1965; Thompson, 1990; Wheeler and Wheeler, 1973)

  • Range length
    2.6 to 4.0 mm
    0.10 to 0.16 in

Development

Ants are holometabolous. Eggs hatch into larvae, which require significant care from the adults to survive. They then develop into pupae, which eventually develop into adults. For a short period time after the pupal stage, the adult ants are in a callow stage, where the ant is white in color, weak, and less active. Most offspring develop into female workers. Males and alate females are present in the nest in late summer. (Kannowski, 1959)

Reproduction

Mating takes place in late summer, after male and alate female broods hatch and develop in the nest. Adult reproductives are present starting in July. Nuptial flights occur from late July to early September. During the nuptial flights, swarms can occur, typically with males seeking out female mates. Females mate only once in their lives, with males dying shortly after mating. (Kannowski, 1959; Marshall, 2006)

After mating, the queens go out in search of a suitable location to begin a new colony. Queens often take shelter in abandoned beetle or termite galleries in branches of trees, as well as other locations, and they remove their wings. Some may overwinter before producing a brood, while others begin egg production soon after. Queens have a very high mortality rate at this point in their lives, with only a small fraction of mated females successfully founding colonies. The first batch of eggs develops into the first workers that tend the queen and future broods. When the colony is established, reproductive females and males are produced. Queens store sperm and lay eggs throughout their lives. Although the workers are female, they do not mate. Crematogaster colonies can last 10 to 15 years. Some reports suggest this species may be polygynous, with multiple queens per nest, as nests are often found with several dealate females. (Kannowski, 1959; Mackay and Mackay, 2003; Rice, 2013)

  • Breeding interval
    Queens mate only once in their lifetime and males die shortly after mating.
  • Breeding season
    Mating takes place during late summer, but brood production continues throughout a queen's life.

Female workers of Crematogaster cerasi invest significant care in the brood produced by the queen. Since the larvae and pupae are helpless and confined to the nest, the workers must tend them and supply food. Workers feed the brood via trophallaxis, which is the mouth to mouth regurgitation of food. Workers also protect the brood from potential threats. The beetle Fustiger knausii often lives in the nests of Crematogaster cerasi, and if any beetles are present near the brood, the workers ants remove them. (Leschen, 1991; Marshall, 2006)

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Males live only a few weeks to a month, and die shortly after mating. While the specific lifespan is not available for Crematogaster cerasi, it is likely similar to many other ant species, with workers living several months. Colonies of Crematogaster can persist for more than 10 years, so queens likely live for several years. (Marshall, 2006; Rice, 2013)

Behavior

Crematogaster cerasi forages for food both during the day and night. Workers mark trails with pheromones for their nest mates to follow. They move in lines, with one ant following another. This species is mainly arboreal, constructing their nests and doing much of their foraging within trees. These ants are not strictly arboreal and can nest in leaf litter, under stones, or in buildings. Their colonies can be enormous, with 10 thousand or more individuals. Ants of genus Crematogaster perform a distinctive behavior when disturbed, which gives them the common name 'acrobat ants'. They have significant flexibility in the connection between the thorax and gaster, allowing them to hold their gaster up over their head and body, and wave it in the air when alarmed. As a eusocial insect, Crematogaster cerasi has a division of labor between the workers and reproductives. The role of alate females and males is to mate, and then for the females to found new colonies and produce offspring. Workers tend to the brood, forage, and protect the nest. The workers of most Crematogaster species are monomorphic, though some are slightly polymorphic. While Crematogaster cerasi is not specifically mentioned in the literature, workers are likely monomorphic with no or little division of labor. (Ellis, et al., 2000; Ellison, et al., 2012; Marshall, 2006; Rice, 2013; Thompson, 1990)

Home Range

There is currently no information available about the home range size of these ants.

Communication and Perception

Antennae are the main sensory organs of ants. They are used to detect chemicals and pheromones, to identify nest mates and reproductive mates, and also to feel the environment around them. Ants regularly groom their antennae to prevent buildup of chemicals and particles. Pheromones are an important method of communication between individuals. Crematogaster cerasi emits an alarm pheromone to alert its nest mates of a threat. Crematogaster ants also use trail pheromones to mark paths to food sources and other locations. Ants in this genus are unique, as the gland for trail chemicals is in their hind legs, not in their gaster. Most ants use the tip of their gaster to lay trail pheromones, but because of the unique shape of the Crematogaster gaster, they cannot put the tip of their gaster in contact with the ground. So instead, the gland is located in the hind legs, and the ants adopt a strange-looking run when marking the trail. (Boroczky, et al., 2013; Crewe, et al., 1972; Morgan, et al., 2004)

Food Habits

Crematogaster cerasi is omnivorous. Honeydew from insects such as aphids makes up a large portion of its diet, as well as nectar from extra floral nectaries. They also eat the edible parts of seeds. Crematogaster cerasi is also a predator. They prey on live insects and also scavenge dead insects. Ants that find their way inside homes and buildings readily eat whatever human foods they come across. (Beattie and Culver, 1981; Rice, 2013; Smith, 1965; Stephenson, 1981; Thompson, 1990)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • nectar

Predation

Crematogaster cerasi is preyed on by spiders, beetles, and other insects, as well as birds, small mammals such as mice, and occasionally black bears. (Noyce, et al., 1997; Rice, 2013)

Ecosystem Roles

In some forest habitats, Crematogaster cerasi can be one of the dominant ant species. It is a predator of other insects, and can serve as prey to a variety of other animals including spiders, birds, bears, and other insects. These ants likely have a minimal impact on seed dispersal. The ants transport seeds and eat the edible part, the elaiosome, and leave the rest, allowing the seed to germinate in a new location. These ants also form mutualistic relationships with honeydew excreting insects such as aphids and scale insects. In turn for eating the honeydew these insects produce, the ants provide care and protection from predators and parasitoids. Some of the aphid species they tend include Sipha flava, Aphis pomi, Aphis spiraecola, and Neoceruraphis viburnicola, as well as scale insects such as Eulecanium cerasorum and Neolecanium cornuparvum. Nests of acrobat ants are often inhabited by other organisms, forming commensal relationships, in which the ants are largely unaffected. The beetle Fustiger knausii is one species that can be found in the nests. The ants do not seem bothered by the beetles, though the workers will remove beetles if they are near the brood. Workers will groom the beetles, and vice versa. The beetles will also ride on the ants; the ants do not respond and appear unaffected. There has also been some evidence of trophallaxis between the species. Crickets of genus Myrmecophilus also often inhabit the nest, with no effect on the ants. There are also several species of phoretic mites that attach themselves to workers of C. cerasi and essentially hitch a ride to another location. The mites are not parasitic and the ants are not bothered. Crematogaster cerasi does have one recorded parasitoid species, phorid flies, the larvae of which develop inside the ant's head, eventually killing it. (Beattie and Culver, 1981; Bradshaw, et al., 2010; Campbell, et al., 2013; Ellis, et al., 2000; Ellison, et al., 2012; Leonard, 1971; Leschen, 1991; Rice, 2013; Smith, 1965; Steyskal, 1944; Vanek and Potter, 2010)

Mutualist Species
Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known positive effects of Crematogaster cerasi on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Crematogaster cerasi can be a household pest, and is especially common as a home invader in the northeastern United States. These ants have been known to live inside tight spaces within households and just outside buildings, venturing inside to feed on household foods. It does not appear to cause much damage, but can be a nuisance. They are described as strangely difficult to squish; those that are stepped on or hit seem merely stunned, before straightening themselves out and going back to work. Crematogaster cerasi is said to inflict a painful bite. It may also nest in wood that has been damaged by other species, and often enlarges the cavities a bit, causing more damage. Since it tends honeydew producing insects, many of which are crop pests, Crematogaster cerasi is often indirectly responsible for crop damage. Since it protects aphid populations and other pests from predators, it allows the pests to continue feeding. This species may be an intermediate host for the poultry tapeworm, Raillietina tetragona, as it has been observed carrying segments of tapeworm into its nest, which would then infect any bird that eats an infected ant. There has been little research conducted about this method of infection and it may not be a huge concern, but it has the possibility of causing domestic animal losses. (Bradshaw, et al., 2010; Marshall, 2006; Rice, 2013; Smith, 1965; Thompson, 1990)

  • Negative Impacts
  • household pest

Conservation Status

Crematogaster cerasi has no special conservation status.

Other Comments

Crematogaster cerasi was formerly known as Crematogaster lineolata var. cerasi. It may also be referred to as the cherry ant, since it was first found tending aphids on a cherry tree. However, this name is not used with enough regularly to be considered this species' common name. (Ellison, et al., 2012; Gaddy, 1986)

Contributors

Angela Miner (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

bog

a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

colonial

used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

eusocial

the condition in which individuals in a group display each of the following three traits: cooperative care of young; some individuals in the group give up reproduction and specialize in care of young; overlap of at least two generations of life stages capable of contributing to colony labor

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pheromones

chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sperm-storing

mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.

suburban

living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5? N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Beattie, A., D. Culver. 1981. The Guild of Myrmecochores in the Herbaceous Flora of West Virginia Forests. Ecology, 62/1: 107-115.

Boroczky, K., A. Wada-Katsumata, D. Batchelor, M. Zhukovskaya, C. Schal. 2013. Insects groom their antennae to enhance olfactory acuity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110/9: 3615-3620.

Bradshaw, J., J. Prasifka, K. Steffey, M. Gray. 2010. First Report of Field Populations of Two Potential Aphid Pests of the Bioenergy Crop Miscanthus × Giganteus. Florida Entomologist, 93/1: 135-137.

Campbell, K., H. Klompen, T. Crist. 2013. The diversity and host specificity of mites associated with ants: The roles of ecological and life history traits of ant hosts. Insectes Sociaux, 60/1: 31-41.

Crewe, R., M. Blum, C. Collingwood. 1972. Comparative analysis of alarm pheromones in the ant genus Crematogaster. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Comparative Biochemistry, 43/3: 703-716.

Ellis, L., M. Molles, Jr., C. Crawford, F. Heinzelmann. 2000. Surface-Active Arthropod Communities in Native and Exotic Riparian Vegetation in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist, 45/4: 456-471.

Ellison, A., N. Gotelli, E. Farnsworth, G. Alpert. 2012. A Field Guide to the Ants of New England. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Gaddy, L. 1986. Twelve New Ant-Dispersed Species from the Southern Appalachians. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 113/3: 247-251.

Jander, R. 1990. Arboreal search in ants- search on branches (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Journal of Insect Behavior, 3/4: 515-527.

Johnson, C. 1988. Species identification in the eastern Crematogaster (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Entomological Science, 23/4: 314-332.

Kannowski, P. 1959. The flight activities and colony-founding behavior of bog ants in southeastern Michigan. Insectes Sociaux, 6/2: 115-162.

Leonard, M. 1971. More Records of New Jersey Aphids (Homoptera: Aphididae). Journal of the New York Entomological Society, 79/2: 62-83.

Leschen, R. 1991. Behavioral observations on the myrmecophile Fustiger knausii (Coleoptera: Pselaphidae: Clavigerinae) with a discussion of grasping notches in myrmecophiles. Entomological News, 102/5: 215-222.

Mackay, W., E. Mackay. 2003. The Ants of New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press.

Marshall, S. 2006. Insects - Their Natural History and Diversity. Buffalo, New York: Firefly Books Inc.

Morgan, E., J. Brand, K. Mori, S. Keegans. 2004. The trail pheromone of the ant Crematogaster castanea. Chemoecology, 14/2: 119-120.

Noyce, K., P. Kannowski, M. Riggs. 1997. Black bears as ant-eaters: seasonal associations between bear myrmecophagy and ant ecology in north-central Minnesota. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 75/10: 1671-1686.

Rice, E. 2013. "Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants" (On-line pdf). Your Wild Life. Accessed December 28, 2013 at http://www.yourwildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/BCA_demo.pdf.

Smith, M. 1965. House-infesting ants of the eastern United States: their recognition, biology, and economic importance. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Stephenson, A. 1981. Toxic Nectar Deters Nectar Thieves of Catalpa speciosa. American Midland Naturalist, 105/2: 381-383.

Steyskal, G. 1944. A new ant-attacking fly of the genus Pseudacteon, with a key to the females of the North American species (Diptera, Phoridae). Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, 489: 1-4.

Thompson, C. 1990. Ants that have pest status in the United States. Pp. 51-70 in R Vander Meer, K Jaffe, A Cedeno, eds. Applied Myrmecology. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, Inc.

Vanek, S., D. Potter. 2010. Ant-Exclusion to Promote Biological Control of Soft Scales (Hemiptera: Coccidae) on Woody Landscape Plants. Environmental Entomology, 39/6: 1829-1837.

Wheeler, G., J. Wheeler. 1973. The ant larvae of six tribes: second supplement (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae). Journal of the Georgia Entomological Society, 8/1: 27-39.