The Cornfield Ant (Lasius neoniger) is a small, light to dark brown ant that often lives in cornfields and lawns, and is very abundant outdoors, in general. It is perhaps also known as the “Lawn Ant” in some circles. You can find them nesting in the soil under large stones, bricks, sidewalks and the like, as well as in and around rotting logs and stumps. L. americanus is another species in the same genus that is also sometimes referred to as the Cornfield Ant and both species are very similar in appearance but tend to be found in different habitats. Some overlap occurs, especially under rocks, but in general, the bulk of neoniger populations are found in open, and exposed settings such as around roads, driveways and sidewalks. The americanus species, however, is more intimately associated with rotting tree stumps, logs, branches and deep leaf litter found in woodland settings (on the forest floor) where there is more shade.
Cornfield ants feed on dead insects and sweets, including honeydew that is secreted by aphids. They may find their way into homes in search of food, but they very rarely nest in homes. It is distributed throughout nearly all of North America, except for the extreme southern and southwestern portions, and is believed by some to be the most abundant ant on our entire continent.
Stephen A. Forbes, Former State Entomologist (Urbana, Illinois, December, 1908): “The little brown ant notorious for its injuries to corn, and called by us, consequently, the corn-field ant, is not by any means limited to corn fields, but is abundant in all cultivated lands, in pastures and meadows, in dense forests, along hard pathways, and in the sandy soil of dry sunny roads. One sometimes finds it nesting in rotten wood or under bark, logs, or stones, and even opening up its underground burrows to the surface between the bricks of sidewalks and pavements.”
Additional Information and Photos:
- Habits and Behavior of the Corn-field Ant (By Stephen A. Forbes) (University of Illinois – library archives)
- Cornfield Ants (Lasius neoniger) (BugGuide.net)
- Similar species also commonly referred to as cornfield ants: Lasius americanus (University of Minnesota Extension)
- Cornfield Ant – photo (L. neoniger worker) (antweb.org)
- Cornfield Ant (males and queens) – photo (queens together with some male drones which are smaller) (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
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