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Prenolepis imparis

What do they look like?

False honey ants workers are 2.5-3.5 millimeters long. Queens are about 8 millimeters long and males are 3-4 millimeters long. They are light to dark brown colored. Queens are reddish-brown and males are black in color. The head and abdomen are often darker than the midsection. Their bodies are shaped like an hourglass. Reproductive ants have wings. (McLeod, 2014)

Eggs are small, white, and shaped like tubes. Larvae look like maggots. They are small, curved, and covered in hairs. (Williams and Lucky, 2020)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range length
    2.5 to 8 mm
    0.10 to 0.31 in
  • Range wingspan
    2.5 to 8 mm
    0.10 to 0.31 in

Where do they live?

Prenolepis imparis, commonly known as false honey ants, are found across most of the United States. Their range stretches from southern Ontario in the North to Mexico in the South. False honey ants are native to this range. (McLeod, 2014)

What kind of habitat do they need?

False honey ants live in wooded areas, under logs and rocks, and in shady areas near the bottoms of trees. They may live in soil that contains clay or sand. Workers build nests deep underground. The nests have many dead-end tunnels and can stretch 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) underground. The nests may be so deep so that the ants may stay cool. The nests in Florida are deeper than those in the northern parts of their range. (McLeod, 2014; Tschinkel, 1987)

  • These animals are found in the following types of habitat
  • temperate
  • Range depth
    2.5 to 3.6 m
    8.20 to 11.81 ft

How do they grow?

False honey ants grow from egg to larvae, to pupa, and then to adult. Like other ants, false honey ants undergo complete metamorphosis. This means that the adults are very different from the larvae. (Williams and Lucky, 2020)

How do they reproduce?

Male false honey ants mate with multiple females. All queens lay eggs. This species is the first North American species of ant to form a mating swarm in the spring. (Williams and Lucky, 2020)

In late August to September, queen false honey ants lay a single batch of eggs. The eggs contain workers and reproductive ants. After waiting out the cold season, the reproductives will leave the colony in early spring for their mating flight. The reproductives form mating swarms. Swarms tend to gather on vegetation and on the trunks of trees. (Williams and Lucky, 2020)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    False honey ants breed yearly.
  • Breeding season
    False honey ants breed in the spring.

False honey ants use female reproductive care. (Williams and Lucky, 2020)

How long do they live?

Workers live for 1-2 years. Colonies can contain from 560-10,000 workers. Colonies last from 7 to 9 years. (Tschinkel, 1987)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 to 2 years

How do they behave?

False honey ants are suited for foraging in cold temperatures. They forage at temperatures between 45° and 60°F. They may be found gathering food at near-freezing temperatures. During the warmer months, they will close off the entrance to the nest and become dormant. They will not leave the nest until the temperatures lower again. Depending on where they live, their active period changes. In the southern parts of their range, they are active between November and early April. False honey ants that live near the northern parts of their range are active all year, except for the summer months. (McLeod, 2014; Williams and Lucky, 2020)

Reproductive false honey ants are able to fly. Once a food source has been found, workers will move out and defend it from predators. They live in colonies of up to 560-10,000 workers. (McLeod, 2014; Tschinkel, 1987)

How do they communicate with each other?

Not much information is known about the communication and perception of false honey ants. They likely use tactile, visual, and chemical channels of perception. Tactile, visual, and chemical methods of communication are possible.

What do they eat?

False honey ants are omnivores that like diets with a lot of proteins and fats. They eat a large variety of foods. Workers eat flowers that drip sap, honeydew, rotting fruit, and waste from galls, earthworms, and arthropods. (McLeod, 2014; Williams and Lucky, 2020)

  • Animal Foods
  • carrion
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

No information about predators was found.

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

False honey ants cause soil to aerate when they build their nests. This means that they dig and break up the soil, which allows air and water to get in. They consume flowers that drip sap, honeydew, rotting fruit, and waste from galls, earthworms, and arthropods. (McLeod, 2014; Williams and Lucky, 2020)

Do they cause problems?

False honey ants are not a pest species, but they may enter buildings. (Williams and Lucky, 2020)

How do they interact with us?

False honey ants do not have any positive economic impacts.

Are they endangered?

Some more information...

Prenolepis imparis are known as small honey ants, false honey ants, or native winter ants. (Williams and Lucky, 2020)


Deena Hauze (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


McLeod, R. 2014. "Species Prenolepis imparis - False Honey Ant" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed July 10, 2020 at

Talbot, M. 1943. Population studies of the ant, Prenolepis imparis (Say). Ecology, 24(1): 31-44. Accessed July 12, 2020 at

Tschinkel, W. 1987. Seasonal life history and nest architecture of a winter-active ant,Prenolepis imparis. Insectes Sociaux, 34: 143–164. Accessed July 10, 2020 at

Wheeler, W. 1930. The Ant Prenolepis Imparis (Say.). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 23(1): 1-26. Accessed July 12, 2020 at

Williams, J., A. Lucky. 2020. "Common name: winter ant, false honey ant" (On-line). Featured Creatures Entomology & Nematology. Accessed July 10, 2020 at

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Hauze, D. 2020. "Prenolepis imparis" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 27, 2024 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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