For real? Forelius pruinosus doesn’t have a common name?

Today, we have a new challenge for you. It’s rather a fun one. If you don’t think so, then you can blame Dr. Eleanor (of the Common Book of Ants fame).

You see, as Dr. Eleanor was writing a new chapter about the ant, Forelius pruinosus, she took note that this very common, dare we say ubiquitous, ant had no common name. It lacked a snazzy moniker to set it apart from all the other common ants with interesting and descriptive names – ants like the big-headed ant, the carpenter ant, or the thief ant.

And while, yes, it’s the formal Latin name that is most important for discussing species in scientific circles, it’s really the common name that we use to chat about a species at cocktail parties and outreach events with public audiences.

So Dr. Eleanor has decided that we need to help this ant out. We couldn’t agree more!

Today, we’re launching a little contest. We want YOU to suggest a common name for Forelius pruinosus. Learn a little bit about this common ant by reading the poster and Dr. Eleanor’s chapter (excerpt below) and suggest a name in this blog’s comments. We’ll be asking visitors to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on Darwin Day to do the same in person. Then, our School of Ants team will compile all the suggestions, select our top five, and the put them up for an online vote. We’ll submit the winning candidate to the Entomological Society of America (the organization that officially coordinates the common names of insects) to become the official common name of Forelius pruinosus.

We can’t wait to hear and read your suggestions!

An excerpt from Dr. Eleanor’s new chapter on Forelius pruinosus

The first time I ran into a Forelius pruinosus worker I’ll admit I was underwhelmed. I was ant hunting in a grassy park, laying bait to see which ant species lived in this anty jungle. I’d brought along the perfect enticement: tuna fish mixed with honey. I measured out this ant catnip onto an index card in a tiny spoonful, which I placed on a spot of bare ground under an oak tree. Then I lay in wait to see who would show up.

Before long, many of my old friends came nosing around. A rusty red field ant with speedy long legs was the first to arrive at the party, bending down, legs spread wide like a horse, to drink in the buffet. She was followed by a small flock of odorous house ants, who were chased away by a steady throng of shiny little black ants. A few acrobat ants briefly lurked around the index card’s borders, considering the feast and returning to their tree, evidently thinking better of it.

As the little black ants began to scatter, a collection of tentative ant workers I didn’t recognize loitered in a tidy line on the sidelines. Plain-Jane, brownish-red and about half the size of an apple seed, these ladies were otherwise unremarkable in appearance. Unlike the frantic field ants or the spirited little black ants, they were a bit boring.

Watching these austere, drab ladies as they efficiently carried off the remaining bits of index card bounty, I almost felt sorry for them. Where are the great spines of winnow ants? The gargantuan size of wood ants? The giant noodles of big-headed ants? The happy, heart-shaped bottoms of acrobat ants? Unembellished at best, Forelius pruinosus, very common ants with no common name (Klotz and Hansen 2008; Whitford 1999), don’t make a knockout first impression.

Read more

**UPDATE – 2/18/2013** WOW! We’ve been impressed with the MANY suggestions contributed in the comments of the blog and in-person by attendees at Darwin Day at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences this past Saturday (February 16, 2013). Here’s a pic of some of the suggestions – Keep ’em coming here on the blog, on Facebook, or via Twitter (#namethatant) – We’ll post a compilation here shortly and work on selecting our five finalist candidates soon!

By |2016-11-22T13:47:29-05:00February 15th, 2013|

About the Author:

Holly Menninger
As Director of Public Science, Holly coordinates our empire of citizen science projects and manages the online science communication here at Your Wild Life. An entomologist by training, she’s a science communicator by passion and practice.


  1. […] North Carolina’s Your Wildlife group has noticed that Forelius, among the most abundant ants in sun-baked habitats across the southern United States, does not have a common name. If you think you can pen a snazzy, memorable moniker for this perky dolichoderine, leave a comment over at their site. […]

  2. Avatar
    tom linton February 15, 2013 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    The Party Ant

    • Avatar
      Deborah Brown March 1, 2013 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      Our class would love to participate. We will begin our name search on Monday when we return to school.

  3. Avatar
    anonymyrmica February 15, 2013 at 8:58 pm - Reply

    The common heat tolerant ant
    The tolerant ant (broad ecological, that is)
    The ecologically amiable ant
    The amiable ant
    (The list could go on.)

  4. Avatar
    MrILoveTheAnts February 15, 2013 at 10:58 pm - Reply

    What about Bompa Ants?

  5. Avatar
    Michael-Forest February 16, 2013 at 2:16 am - Reply

    How about the Greedy Ant? Seems like they’ve got a few tricks to help ensure they keep all the goodies to themselves!

  6. Avatar
    Michael-Forest February 16, 2013 at 2:17 am - Reply

    How about the “Greedy Ant”? Seems like they’ve got a few tricks to help them keep all the goodies for themselves!

  7. Avatar
    Joachim Moog February 16, 2013 at 2:56 am - Reply

    teensy ant, feeble ant, mousy ant

  8. Avatar
    Stephen Beban February 16, 2013 at 3:20 am - Reply

    Entomber Ant?

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    Jamie McMillan February 16, 2013 at 4:53 am - Reply

    ‘pruinosus’ means frosted. It likes sugar…you’re there already: Frostie Ant! Sponsored by Kelloggs?

  10. Avatar
    Jonathan R February 16, 2013 at 5:22 am - Reply

    Can we call the forelius pruinosus the Thants?

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    Amanda February 16, 2013 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Sugie Boogie ant – Amanda, Edwin’s mom.

    Ander ant – Edwin, age 4.

    • Avatar
      Donna February 24, 2013 at 1:00 am - Reply

      I like it!

  12. Avatar
    Elizabeth Jane Herman February 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    I think she already named it well. I suggest the Plain-Jane Ant.

  13. Avatar
    Jonathan Hartley February 16, 2013 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    How about the vanilla ant. It’s sweet yet considered plain.

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    Twinbug February 16, 2013 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    How about the Sugarstep Ant?

    Refers to their love of dancing, their love of sweet stuff, and, well, the sweet smell you get when you step on one!

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    ZEL February 17, 2013 at 9:35 am - Reply

    I’m thinking the ‘high-noon ant’ or ‘noon ant.’ I know that Forelius are very well adapted to heat (they’re often described in the literature as thermophilic, e.g. Ward 2005) and in summer in the Southwest, I’ve observed that they are typically the only ants actively foraging at noon when the sun is the highest. I also like the dusty western-town imagery of ‘high noon’; I picture two Forelius having a standoff as the vultures (antlions?) wheel overhead. To me, their thermophily is more distinctive than their sugar-eating (shared with most ants), adaptability (many generalist ants), scent (most dolichoderines), and even dancing (also seen in, e.g., Myrmecocystus) and tool use (cf. Dorymyrmex).
    So long story short, I vote ‘high noon ant’ or the shorter ‘noon ant.’

  16. Avatar
    George Sims February 17, 2013 at 10:51 am - Reply

    “Eleanor’s rufous ant”

  17. Avatar
    Alexandra Glauerdt February 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    I second Twinbug’s ‘Sugarstep’ Ant! Great suggestion!

  18. Avatar
    Benjamin Blanchard February 17, 2013 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    Brown Sugar Ant

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    Piotr Naskrecki February 18, 2013 at 12:06 am - Reply

    How about “Forelius”? It was named after Auguste Forel (I am guessing), why not keep the patronymic of the famous myrmecologist. Does the name of the ant need to have the word “ant” in it? Nobody calls a starling a “starling bird” or a squirrel a “squirrel rodent.” If this sounds too radical, why not Forel’s ant?

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    TJ February 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm - Reply

    Crafty dancing ant!

    (Although I also like sugar-step, and ZEL the high-noon person makes a compelling case for hers/his)

  21. Avatar
    Samantha Watson February 18, 2013 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Party pAnts.

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    Courtney February 18, 2013 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Shirley Temple Ants…they are sweet and can dance!

  23. Avatar
    Courtney February 18, 2013 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    Or Oompa Loompa Ant

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    DWG February 18, 2013 at 10:42 pm - Reply

    Sweet Ant.

    Like “Sweet Aunt” but sweeter, and antier.


    “Sweetheart dancing ant”, because they dance, and if you smush them they smell sweet, and they love sweets.

    Like “Sweetheart Dance”.

  25. Avatar
    MAC February 18, 2013 at 11:03 pm - Reply


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    Ben P February 19, 2013 at 1:33 am - Reply

    The epithet “pruinosa” means “frosty”, according to my Latin dictionary. So how about the Frosted Ant?

  27. Avatar
    Rachael February 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    The West Side Ant

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    Greg P February 19, 2013 at 9:48 pm - Reply

    the common sweet-toothed craftydancer

  29. Avatar
    Mary Matthews February 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    name for ant:
    Waltzing Matilda
    (after the Australian song)

  30. Avatar
    Mary Matthews February 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    name for ant:

    Waltzing Matilda

    (after the Australian folk song)

  31. Avatar
    Kenneth D. February 20, 2013 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    I think we can dispel the tradition of ___ ant and name it Be-Ant-cé in honour of Beyoncé Knowles. She is a stellar dancer, unbelievably determined to succeeded, and is great in any venue. Her last concert even had some football game lead into it. She is a queen of an empire so it seems like a fitting title for this widely successful ant.

  32. Avatar
    Alex Wild February 20, 2013 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    I’d like to suggest “Highway Ants”, for their tendency to form thick, busy trails.

  33. Avatar
    Stephen Beban February 21, 2013 at 8:06 am - Reply

    *Entomber Ant? Why: It seems relatively unique to the species (as opposed to the sweet-tooth common to ants) given that it blocks other ants nests for food. And it indicates/reveals something about the behavior (which is a good thing for a common name to do – that or their identifying physical features).

  34. Avatar
    joey simonton February 21, 2013 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Tiger Ant
    Lots of stripes, from antannea to abdomen

  35. Avatar
    Mrs. Caligan's Chameleons February 21, 2013 at 10:05 am - Reply

    Sweet Tooth

    This ant loves sweet things, just like us!

  36. Avatar
    maelynn dwyer February 22, 2013 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    I think the name of the ant should be The Sweet Sweet because it has a sweet tooth and when you step on it it smells good.

  37. Avatar
    Ashari Lyons February 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    I think that The Cavitizer Ant is a good name because it says it loves sweet treats and it sounds like it has lots of cavities so I named it the Cavitizer Ant.

  38. Avatar
    Guadalupe Vazquez February 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    The sweet sugar ant because when you squish it smells really, sweet like sugar.

  39. Avatar
    Danilo Babchenko February 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    food terminator because it eats a lot of food and it doesn’t miss any food.

  40. Avatar
    Miranda Russ February 22, 2013 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    i would name that species of ants The Dancing Honey Backpack Ant because no ant dances mostly
    the ants fight and also the reason that it has the word Honey in the name is that the abdomen
    looks like a bees back where it has black and yellow strips, also the article said it had a backpack like to put the sugar that it eats in that special place

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    Allen Barnett February 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm - Reply

    The backpack ant because it looks like t has a backpack on its back.

  42. Avatar
    Kobe Thompson February 22, 2013 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    I think the name should be sugar sugar ant because of their love of sugar. The name is a fun name. People will love it.

  43. Avatar
    Sara Lennon February 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm - Reply


    I think the common name for the F.Pruinosus ant should be the dancing ant because they dance instead of fighting.

  44. Avatar
    Beth Coleman February 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    From a first grade class:
    Small Guy
    Super Ant
    Fun Eye Ant
    Dance Ant
    Dancer Ant
    Funny Ant
    Big Foot
    Dance Dance Sugar Tooth
    Fruit Bat
    Spider Ant
    Fancy Nancy
    Sugar Tooth

  45. Avatar
    Ms. B February 22, 2013 at 2:48 pm - Reply

    This is from one of the second grade classes at our school:

  46. Avatar
    Ms. B February 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    From some of our fourth graders:

    “Dancing Sweet Tooth Ant. It’s a good name because of their craving for sweets and they dance for every part of their body and they do it for a reason.” –Maya

    “name: Let’s Dance Ant. Because it dances to scary its enmey [enemy] away stomp your legs and shake your booties and it really scarys its enmey.” –Summer

    “I think it should be the Danceing ant because it is interesting that they dance instead of fihiting [fighting].” –Claudia

  47. Avatar
    Samantha Graves February 22, 2013 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    The Brown Ant – Because it resembles a brown color and it is normal. Brown is the color for normal.

  48. Avatar
    Isabelle Wosinski February 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Backpack Ant
    I think it should be called the backpack ant because Dr. Elmore said they look like they have a backpack to hold their food. (A spot on the back). The name sounds good.

  49. Avatar
    Daniel Lapann February 22, 2013 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    The Sugar Ant
    It should be called the sugar ant because it smells good when you squish it and it likes sweet stuff like sugar.

  50. Avatar
    Joshua Frank February 22, 2013 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    The Sugar Ant
    I think the F. Pruinosus common name should be the Sugar ant becuase it has a sweet tooth for sugar.

  51. Avatar
    James C. Trager February 22, 2013 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    I’ve had a lot of experience with this ant in southern (especially southwestern) USA, and a little in Mexico, where it is abundant. Noonday ant seems very appropriate, and has the advantage of easy rendering in Spanish, spoken over much of where this ant lives, namely hormiga mediodía, hormiguita mediodía.

    Another possibility is to use a combination including one of English’s two other synonyms for ant, emmet or pismire. I love the sound of “the frosted emmet”.

  52. Avatar
    Ms. Noack's class February 22, 2013 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Here are the suggestions from our class.

  53. Avatar
    Jeanette Lawlor February 23, 2013 at 10:18 am - Reply

    “Sweet Forager Ant” because it forages for sweets and can help folks remember its scientific name Forelius Pruinosus.

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    Kevin February 23, 2013 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    Swayback Ant – for the conspicuous dip between thorax and abdomen giving the appearance of a swayback horse.

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    Rick February 25, 2013 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Tender Ant….works for the aphid milking and for the slow dances

  56. Avatar
    Danny February 26, 2013 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    Tiny Dancer
    Tiny dANTser
    Sugar Shaker

  57. Avatar
    Aurora February 28, 2013 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    “Perfume ant” (because I think they smell pretty good!)

  58. Avatar
    RM March 1, 2013 at 9:12 am - Reply

    Blockade ant fits since it blocks other nests up.

  59. Avatar
    Scot Waring March 1, 2013 at 9:33 am - Reply

    Amontillado ant (in reference to the Poe’s story)

  60. Avatar
    Scot Waring March 1, 2013 at 9:35 am - Reply

    … or Montresor ant, in the same sense.

  61. Avatar
    nathan March 1, 2013 at 9:58 am - Reply

    i think it should be called the SuGaR aNt

  62. Avatar
    Faloin March 1, 2013 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    Sugar Block Ant

    It loves sugar, it smells sweet, and it blocks up enemy ant holes.

  63. Avatar
    robbie March 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    I think it should be “sir-lance o lot” or sugar baby

  64. Avatar
    Jack March 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    I think it should be called the black tailed ant or the wasp tailed ant. (it looks like there are little yellowish black ring between the black rings on it’s tail like a wasps)

  65. Avatar
    CC March 2, 2013 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Midway ant:

    1) active at high noon, which is midway through the day
    2) in search of sweet treats and a knapsack full of treasures to carry home, just like us humans on the midway of the state fair

  66. Avatar
    Myron March 3, 2013 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    I think it should be called Sticky Ant since it is very fond of sugar and sweet sap in trees. Or maybe the Caterpillar Ant since it is said to be having sticky situations with caterpillars.

  67. Avatar
    DC March 8, 2013 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Blocker Ants. For their tendency to block other ant species from foods.

    I also like Hiker Ants. For their backpacks.

  68. Avatar
    V Berthelsdorf March 28, 2013 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    The corporate ant. They are greedy, they work together as a corporation, and they dance around a lot of issues.

  69. Avatar
    Riley Caffey May 23, 2013 at 10:33 am - Reply

    IN LINE ant…..the ant that will wait and travel behind the one in front of it, 100’s and 100’s of ants long….just to get some food.

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    Mary April 27, 2015 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    When I was 5 years old and lived in CO, I used to call them “Orange Food Sacks” or “Red Ants with Orange Food Sacks.” Referring to the bright orange abdomens.

    That’d be a silly name I know, but I am so excited to have finally after years of searching found what those ants were! I spent hours on the ground watching them, catching them, finding their movements interesting. I don’t remember much of of their dance, only that I saw their their abdomens waving upward a lot.

    Since I moved to the Midwest, I’ve never seen them anywhere. In southern WI, I’ve seen a similar species. I think orange meadow ant that also has an alarm scent – like lysol.

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