Photo Synthesis

An Ant Diversity Sampler

With 12,000 described species, ants dominate global terrestrial ecosystems. Here are a few of them.


Name: Nothomyrmecia macrops
Distribution: Australia
Famous for: The story of its rediscovery (As told by Bill Bryson- scroll down)


Name: Dinoponera australis
Distribution: South America
Famous for: being the largest ant in the western hemisphere


Name: Polyergus sp.
Distribution: North America
Famous for: piracy, taking of prisoners


Name: Dorylus helvolus
Distribution: Africa
Famous for: terrorizing subterranean arthropods, taking of no prisoners


Name: Pogonomyrmex maricopa
Distribution: North America
Famous for: the most venemous sting of any North American insect


Name: Thaumatomyrmex atrox
Distribution: South America
Famous for: beguiling rarity, and amazing teeth


Name: Pseudomyrmex pallidus
Distribution: North & Central America
Famous for: its slender good looks


Name: Cephalotes atratus
Distribution: Central & South America
Famous for: gliding


Name: Atta sp.
Distribution: North, Central & South America
Famous for: monopolizing nature documentaries


Name: Solenopsis invicta
Distribution: North & South America
Famous for: general mayhem and loss of life


Name: Myrmecia piliventris
Distribution: Australia
Famous for: endangering Australians


Name: Odontomachus sp.
Distribution: South America
Famous for: general awesomeness involving jaws


Name: Oecophylla longinoda
Distribution: Africa
Famous for: exotic textiles, child labor, and organized torture of enemy combatants


Name: Amblyopone oregonensis
Distribution: North America
Famous for: drinking their children’s blood


Name: Solenopsis geminata
Distribution: worldwide
Famous for: having a big head for a reason


Name: Linepithema oblongum
Distribution: South America
Famous for: nothing, yet. But her sister is famous, so just you wait.


  1. #1 Noah Gray
    April 12, 2009

    I think the ant just became my new favorite creature. Nice Thaumatomyrmex atrox!

  2. #2 John Lynch
    April 12, 2009


    Really sweet photos. I’m going to have to spend more time with the social insect folks here at ASU.

  3. #3 gbruno
    April 12, 2009

    Australian Bull ants: they say enough bites will kill you??
    I slept out once, near Mildura, home of the biggest raisins.
    I awoke to bull ants on my sleeping bag. They were not hostile.
    I carefully and respectfully dressed and left, without dissing those ants. One ant could carry off one Mildura raisin.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    April 12, 2009

    That is one kickass macro lens, man.

  5. #5 Ed Yong
    April 12, 2009

    There really ought to be a Top Ten Favourite Ants meme.

    Well done Alex – these were beautiful and I loved the links.

  6. #6 Eric
    April 12, 2009

    Stunning images and great links too! All these are with the MPE and your modified flash ?

  7. #7 Carol H
    April 12, 2009

    Wonderful ant sampler! However, the wikipedia link you give for Polyergus includes the following extraordinarily bogus statement: “Polyergus males (raiders) will emerge from their nest (a mixed nest where Formica workers are already enslaved) and forage for a suitable raid target. If one is found, the male will return to the nest, rally the other Polyergus.” It would be nice if someone could edit that article.

  8. #8 jes3ica
    April 12, 2009

    Beautiful photos and I love your captions!

  9. #9 Pranav Peshwe
    April 13, 2009

    Amazing photos! What camera & lens is this ?
    And more importantly, how did you manage to make them stand still while you took the snaps ?


  10. #10 Adrian Thysse, FCD
    April 13, 2009

    That’s one kick-bum photographer, man!

    (Apologies to Greg Laden)

  11. #11 Milena
    April 13, 2009

    They are terrifying and beautiful at the same time. Gorgeous images. Liked the captions best of all. What an interesting blog. I’ll visit again.

  12. #12 Onkel Bob
    April 13, 2009

    Wonderful pictures, intriguing captions, interesting links – everything the reader wants!

    A scale bar would be useful addition. I’d like to know the size of these guys and gals.

  13. #13 Julie Stahlhut
    April 13, 2009

    They’re gorgeous! And the Odontomachus is striking a beautiful pose! I kept seeing them running around in Panama. It took me a few sightings to realize that I recognized the genus of ants that seemed to have little letter Ts for heads.

  14. #14 eff
    April 14, 2009

    Has anyone ever done any work on studying the ant colony as a meta-organism? I am not a biologist, but I’m especially interested in work involving the ant colony’s “mind” – the idea that the hive is more intelligent than the individual. If anyone knows about this, please let me know:

  15. #15 Keith Holley
    April 14, 2009

    You took that photo at 3.00am in the morning and temperature around zero it was cold.

  16. #16 James C. Trager
    April 14, 2009

    Absolutely lovely ant portraits, Alex! I only aspire to this level of artistry (and focus!).

    To Carol H.:
    I am working on a taxonomic revision and behavior/ecology review of Polyergus, and once edited the material on the genus at Wikipedia. Some angry fellow then edited it back and made editors’s comments along the lines that I was a know-it-all, discrediting the work of knowledgeable amateurs, blah, blah, blah. I welcome someone else to make the effort. If you want to change the link, Alex, you could use my discussion of a common Mississsippi Valley species at

  17. #17 paul o'sullivan
    April 14, 2009

    “eff”. this might be what you’re looking for, or atleast a start to what you’re looking for.

    if you’re very interested you might want to look up a man named Edward Wilson. pretty much the ‘guru’ of social insects.

  18. #18 Alex
    April 14, 2009

    Thanks James, I’ve changed the Polyergus link.

  19. #19 Martijn
    April 16, 2009

    So many amazing ants and all we have is boring Lasius Niger

  20. #21 Hank Fox
    April 25, 2009

    Thinking about childhood experience with insects: Most of them were creepy untouchables (Eww! Get it off me!). Only three seemed friendly and harmless – june bugs, cicadas … and ants.

  21. #22 Michael J. McFadden
    May 5, 2009

    Alex, absolutely incredible work, these pics, your pics of mosquito larvae, and others! Beautiful beautiful stuff… and I love your captions and stories as well.

    When I was a kid about all I had was Jean Henri Fabre to fly with but that was enough to inspire a lifelong fascination with insects. If I’d had your photos who knows where I would have ended up? LOL!

    Many thanks!


  22. #23 manos
    August 26, 2009

    this is sheer quality photographic art. beyond its natural history/educating purposes. Well done & thank you!


  23. #24 hisse senedi
    August 7, 2010

    this is sheer quality photographic art. beyond its natural history/educating purposes. Well done & thank you!

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