Camponotus auriventris - A common shiny exotic which has been popularised by the Asian antkeeping community for the past decade and has now grown into lots of people's hearts. It is getting recommended as a beginner exotic all over the internet, being a middle sized fast growing species of Camponotus from southeast Asia.
While everything seems to be correct, there is one simple fact that will likely change your view about this topic: Camponotus auriventris has almost never been sold.
Let me explain below.
Searching this species up on the internet gives the following results:
Do you see anything suspicious about these images? No..? Well the answer is more simple than one would think: none of these photos are actually showcasing Camponotus auriventris, except Antwiki and Antweb (more about these two websites later).
In fact, all of the above include a number of related or similar species all belonging to the subgenus Myrmosericus. The same applies for Camponotus parius. And it is also the same subgenus as the bigger popular European Camponotus cruentatus and the less known European Camponotus micans of smaller size. To learn more about the subgenera of Camponotus, check out my other article here.
Continuing our research about Camponotus "auriventris" we can find information about their body size, seemingly:
While I am not going to call out shops in particular, I find this image a good example of the 'C. auriventris rabbit hole' that every person has got stuck in and only a handful of people have managed to come out more educated than when they got pulled into it. In this example, not only is the size of the fake auriventris exaggerated a little, this is far from being the actual size of Camponotus auriventris. How?
For the simple fact being that Camponotus auriventris is NOT of the same subgenus as the fake auriventris. Each subgenus includes species of related morphology and of similar body size. With a quick search we can find out that Camponotus auriventris belongs to the subgenus Myrmosaulus. Carpenter ants of this subgenus are commonly called "monster-head carpenter ants". Now what does that remind you of?
Ah, that's right... Camponotus singularis! Characteristic for their big body and very large head; a "monster-head", if you will.
Earlier I have mentioned the Camponotus subgenera Myrmosericus and Myrmosaulus. Clicking this link will send you to an Antwiki page titled 'Camponotus species by subgenus'.
Searching up Camponotus singularis we can indeed confirm that it belongs to the subgenus Myrmosaulus as such:
Each described species has its own Antwiki and Antweb page where scientific information, oftenly with photos of specimens included, gets published on. These websites are strictly controlled by myrmecologists. Thus, the information on them is trusted.
Some curious minds will now figure out an answer to the previous question:
"But what does this have to do with the Camponotus auriventris topic?"
Here it is: same subgenus! Related morphology! Similar body size! But wait a second...
Camponotus singularis is much bigger than "auriventris" - I think you can now spot the fake one easily.
Big thanks to @tomas_kopal_ for taking this comparison photo.
I could continue this topic further in story-format but now I will simply show you the facts.
The following images are of the real Camponotus auriventris photographed once in captivity and a few times in the wild nature:
In a comparison side by side we can see how much Camponotus auriventris resembles Camponotus singularis. In the photo collage below there are numerous photographs taken of Camponotus auriventris in the wild.
Their latin name refers to their golden colour. Auriventris means basically "covered in gold". We can also say that auriventris is basically a golden-black version of the red head singularis, being just a little bit smaller. There are a few variations as well, but the size stays the same.
With this knowledge we can assemble the following comparison photo:
The Camponotus sp. were sold as 'auriventris'. Oftenly when looked upon closer, using determination keys it turns out to be Camponotus parius or a similar species of also the subgenus Myrmosericus. While Camponotus auriventris, together with Camponotus singularis and numerous other similar species (e.g. Camponotus holosericeus, commonly called "Camponotus chinensis" - a fully black version of Camponotus auriventris) belongs to the subgenus Myrmosaulus. These two are completely different subgenera and have nothing in common other than both being Camponotus - It's like comparing Formica fusca to Formica rufa :P
Many years ago someone either made an identification mistake, although in strange circumstances considering the large size differences and different body shape, or sold an unknown species under the wrong name on purpose just to make quick money. The latter is unfortunately more common than one would think, on the bad side of the antkeeping community..
The reason why we should stop this from happening is simply to avoid the spread of misinformation, which leads to the rabbit hole closing in more tightly on itself. People trapped in it have a difficult time reconsidering their knowledge learned over the past several years. It is bad for this beautiful species' reputation and it oftenly leads to toxic discussions. We should stop this and finally convince others about the truth.
But now the mystery has finally been solved for you!