A non-destructive method for identifying the sex of ant larvae

Clint Penick, J. Ebie, D. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The differences between adult male and female ants are often striking and obvious, yet both sexes appear virtually identical at the larval stage. Current methods for determining larval sex rely on genetic analyses or histology, both of which require killing all larvae examined. Here, we describe a method for identifying larval sex in vivo based on visible differences in genital imaginal discs. Using a light microscope, clear differences in genital disc morphology were observed between male and female larvae of the ponerine ant Harpegnathos saltator. Next, we investigated whether this technique could be broadly applied within ants and found similar differences in genital discs between male and female larvae of Aphaenogaster cockerelli and Camponotus floridanus. Taken together, our results show that genital discs can be used as a reliable indicator of larval sex in species from at least three major ant subfamilies. This technique should facilitate research into topics where information about larval sex is required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-55
Number of pages5
JournalInsectes Sociaux
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Development
  • Genital discs
  • Larval morphology
  • Research methods
  • Sex identification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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