Dolichoderus mariae Forel, (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) is an uncommon, monomorphic but locally abundant, reddish-brown ant of peculiar nesting habits, whose range includes most of the eastern USA. In north Florida the ant excavates soil under wiregrass clumps or other plants with fibrous roots to form a single, large, shallow, conical or ovoid chamber broadly open to the surface around the plant base. Colonies are highly polygyne and, during the warm season, inhabit multiple nests connected only by above ground trails, over which nests exchange workers. Although monomorphic, worker size may differ significantly between colonies. The colony cycle is dominated by strong seasonal polydomy. From one or two over-wintering nests, the colonies expanded to occupy up to 60 nests by late summer, then retract once more to one or two nests by mid-winter. The worker-to-queen ratio changed greatly during this cycle, with over two thousand workers per queen during fall and winter, dropping to a low of about 300 during midsummer. Most of these summer queens probably die during the fall. Colonies reoccupy roughly the same area year to year even though they contract down to one or two nests in winter. Observation of fights in the contact zone between colonies suggested that the colonies are territorial. The ants subsist by tending aphids and scale insects for honeydew and scavenging for dead insects within their territories.
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