Another photo from this spring…I just thought this winged ant was pretty!
It reminds me of a story too…back when I was training undergraduates to identify members of the insect order Hymenoptera to the family level (remember orders are divided into families). Some of the undergraduates were fantastic and some of them were… not so much.
I had one undergrad that I was trying to train who was just not into it. She thought insects were icky and so this task was just fundamentally unappealing to her. I ran through the first levels of identification, and gave her some tips on the basics. Hymenoptera have four wings, except for ants (and velvet ants, which we never catch in the traps). The Symphyta, or sawflies, lack a constriction between the thorax and abdomen (or metasoma for sticklers), but all other Hymenoptera have a “wasp-waist”, or a constriction. So we can pretty much assume that any individuals with a wasp-waist but no wings are ants.
I let her know that sometimes we catch the reproductive ants, which look a lot like wasps because they have wings.
To which, she responded, “Can’t I just assume they are all ants?”