2014 July 21-31 Borneo: Maliau Basin
Organized by the California Academy of Sciences
Application link
Pay Course fees before July 1 (Pay online)

Ant Course 2014 - Borneo


July 20 participants arrive in Kota Kinabalu
July 21 Depart Kota Kinabalu : 6-8  hour bus ride to Maliau Basin
July 31 Depart Maliau Basin to Kota Kinabalu

COURSE OBJECTIVES. – ANT COURSE is designed for systematists, ecologists, behaviorists, conservation biologists, and other biologists whose research requires a greater understanding of ant taxonomy and field techniques.  In 2014, emphasis is on the identification of the ant genera and species occurring in the Asian tropics.  Lectures will include background information on the ecology, life histories and evolution of ants.  Field trips emphasize collecting and sampling techniques, and associated lab work focuses specimen preparation, sorting and labeling.  Information on equipment, literature, and myrmecological contacts are also presented.

COURSE SIGNIFICANCE. – Ant Course is a unique opportunity to acquire training that is unavailable elsewhere.  This course will provide students with 1) the confidence and skills to identify Southeast Asian tropical ant genera; 2) an understanding of modern specimen processing and curation techniques; 3) an appreciation for the biological diversity of ants; and 4) experience keying to the species level.

SPONSORED BY. – California Academy of Sciences and The Arthur Lawrence Green Memorial Fund, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

LOCATION. – ANT COURSE will be based at the Maliau Basin Studies Centre in in Sabah, Malaysia.  The Centre is part of the Maliau Basin Conservation Area that includes 12 forest types, comprising mainly lower montane forest dominated by Agathis trees, montane heath forest and lowland, and hill diperocarp forest.

PARTICIPANT ACCEPTANCE CRITERIA. – ANT COURSE is open to all interested individuals, including students, professors and motivated amateurs (citizen scientists). Priority will be given to those students for whom the course will have a significant impact on their research with ants. We aim to include students with a diverse interest in biology, including ant systematics, ecology, behavioral biology, genetics, and conservation.  An entomological background is not required.  The high instructor to student ratio will allow students to receive individual attention. ANT COURSE is presented in English and limited to 30 participants

COSTS. – Course fees for the 10-day COURSE are $975 for current students (undergraduate and graduate) and $1275 for non-students (postdocs and professionals).  Transportation costs between home and Koto Kinabalu, and hotel fees in Kota Kinabalu are to be borne by all participants. Pay course fees by July 1 at:

FELLOWSHIPS. – Those interested in attending the course should seek all possible avenues to secure funding on their own for the course.  Each year we strive to raise funds to support a few students by offering discounted tuition fees. You should only apply for the Ant Course fellowship if you cannot find other support and it is essential for your participation in the course. Please notify the course if your funding request status changes before the application due date.

COURSE APPLICATION. – Application and course information at  The first step is to fill out a form at:

Note this form requires a short statement of your research interests and future plans and a statement of your reasons for wishing to participate in the course. Also requires is one letter of reference from a professor or colleague familiar with your work to be submitted by the referee at:

You will be notified of your acceptance to the Course around APRIL 15-20.

ANT COURSE is limited to 30 participants.  Selection of participants will be carried out by committee, based on your reasons for wishing to take the course at this time.  Priority will be given to those students for whom the course will have a significant impact on their research with ants.  Because the Course is offered yearly, and because many well-qualified candidates are not accepted because of limited capacity, we urge applicants not selected for this session to apply again the following year.


Brian Fisher (Coordinator), Leeanne Alsonso, Himender Bharti, Katsuyuki Eguchi , Flavia Esteves, Brian Fisher, Benoit Guénard , Roberto Keller, Laurent Keller, Jack Longino, Corrie Moreau, Chrstian Peeters, Simon Robson, Eli Sarnat, Steve Shattuck, Andy Suarez, Phil Ward

Malaysian Collaborators

Dr. Charles Varaippan, Director & Dr. Bakhtiar Yahya, Institute for Tropical Biology & Conservation, University of Malaysia, Sabah; Dr. Arthur Y. C. Chung, Forest Research Centre, Sabah Forestry Department

New line drawings for undescribed Fijian Pristomyrmex

Here are a few line drawings I am working on for the description of an undescribed species of Fijian Pristomyrmex. In the Ants of Fiji monograph, this species is listed as Pristomyrmex sp. FJ02.

Full face view of Pristomyrmex sp. FJ02. Line drawings can allow for better representation of important taxonomic features compared to specimen photographs. For example, the mandibular tooth structure is essential for Pristomyrmex species identification. The mandibular teeth on the specimen photograph used as a template for this illustration were obscured and difficult to see. The line drawing shows them quite clearly.

Rendering the characteristic foveae (circular depressions) of Pristomyrmex was a bit challenging, and I am sure my method could use some improvement. I began by using the Ellipse Tool to get the basic shapes, and then rotated them according to the template specimen. Next I used the eraser tool to break the foveae that appeared somewhat shallow. I then selected all the ‘broken’ foveae and applied a stroke profile that tapers strongly on both ends. For the ‘unbroken’ foveae I selected each individually and used the Width Tool to constrict the ellipses at a single point.

Profile of Pristomyrmex sp. FJ02. Of the over 50 known species of Pristomyrmex, this is only the second that lacks propodeal spines. The other, P. inermis, occurs in New Guinea.

I also used a new technique for the hairs on this illustration. I decided to use the Outline Stroke function for all of the hairs, and selected a white outline stroke. This allows for a white break where hairs overlap the ant profile and other strokes.

The Ants of Fiji – Print and PDF out now

Figure 1. Photographs of Fijian ants. A) Acropyga sp. FJ02 (endemic) carrying mealybug. B) Hypoponera eutrepta (endemic) carrying larva. C) Tetramorium lanuginosum (introduced). D) Camponotus dentatus (endemic). E) Odontomachus simillimus (Pacific native). F) Camponotus polynesicus (endemic).

The print and full color, open-access pdf versions of the Ants of Fiji (Sarnat & Economo, 2012) are now available. The 400-page monograph reviews the entire known Fijian ant fauna, and includes the results of a recently completed archipelago-wide biodiversity inventory. A total of 187 ant species representing 43 genera are recognized here with an illustrated key to genera, synopses of each species, keys to species of all genera, and a species list. The work is heavily illustrated with specimen images, distribution maps, and habitat elevation charts.


Sarnat, E.M. & Economo, E.P. (2012) Ants of Fiji. University of California Publications in Entomology, 132, 1-398. [pdf]


Expert from the introduction section

Biologists have long sought to document and understand the unique evolution and ecology of island biotas. Oceanic archipelagos are often adorned with spectacular evolutionary radiations and unique ecosystems. These distinctive faunas, however, are highly vulnerable to human activities, climate change, and introduction of exotic species. Among island ant faunas, perhaps nowhere are these themes so prominently on display as in the Fijian archipelago.

The Fijian terrestrial biota was assembled during approximately 20 million years of over-water colonization, in situ evolution and speciation, and more recently through the arrival of species as stowaways on canoes, galleys and battleships (Figure 1). Today’s Fijian ant fauna is characterized by extreme geographic isolation from source areas, differentiation and pattern formation among islands, and contemporary invasions. The list of species occurring in Fiji, which continues to grow, includes both widespread dominant species and rare taxonomic oddities.

The motivation of this study is to provide an update to W. M. Mann’s (1921) monograph The Ants of the Fiji Islands, published 89 years ago. At the time, Mann lamented that the insect fauna of Fiji had been almost entirely neglected, and the limited knowledge accrued in the years since his publication is even more lamentable. With the recent collection of a large number of ant specimens in recent years, and a surge of interest in biodiversity research and conservation in Fiji, the opportunity has arrived to synthesize the taxonomy of the Fijian ant fauna for new generations of biologists. Our goal is to provide a resource that will allow a scientist to collect an ant specimen anywhere in Fiji and connect it to information on its taxonomy, geographic distribution, habitat distribution and natural history. With 187 species distributed over seven islands of moderate size, and hundreds of smaller islands, the system represents a diverse yet tractable fauna that can be useful for testing hypotheses in evolutionary biology, island biogeography, community ecology, invasion biology and other disciplines.

It would be remiss to conclude this introduction without a note of recognition and thanks to the people of Fiji. Mann (1921) wrote in the introduction of his own treatise on Fijian ants, “I shall remember the native Fijians…as the kindliest, most hospitable folk I have known.” Eighty-nine years later, we both share those sentiments and add our admiration for the Fijians’ thoughtful stewardship of their native lands. We hope this small study will be useful for scientific discovery and conservation of Fiji’s fascinating natural heritage in the generations to come.

Antkey release

Andy Suarez and I are excited to announce the release our project. The project was funded by USDA-APHIS-PPQ-CPHST and the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) Rubenstein Fellowship program to provide an online identification guide to invasive, introduced and commonly intercepted ants.

Download USDA Antkey Announcement

Frontpage of the site


Over 15,000 species of ants have been described, and more than 200 have established populations outside of their native ranges. A small subset of these have become highly destructive invaders including five which are currently listed among the world’s 100 worst invasive species. Unfortunately, detection of non-native ants is hampered by the taxonomic specialization required for accurate species identification.  Antkey seeks to mitigate the spread of established introduced ants and prevent the incursion of new introductions by providing quarantine personnel, inspectors and conservation biologists with a user-friendly identification resource specifically designed for non-specialists.

Antkey focuses on over 115 ant species that are introduced, invasive or commonly intercepted in North America and the Pacific Islands. Features include an interactive Lucid key, dynamically generated species pages, a searchable media collection of over 1150 images, over 70 live video clips of introduced ants, a fully illustrated glossary with over 400 terms, a searchable database of introduced ant literature, over 12,000 specimen records of introduced ants imported from Antweb (, and community features such as blogs, discussion forums and comment options.

Tabbed species page for Linepithema humile on

The interactive Lucid key allows users to start at multiple entry points, skip ambiguous or difficult characters, and keep track of the choices already made. Novice users can use the ‘best’ feature to determine which available characters will lead to the most parsimonious pathway. More advanced users can skip straight to subfamily or genus. The characters are illustrated with original line drawings and link to glossary definitions and additional specimen photographs.

The Antkey taxonomic classification includes 8 subfamilies, 43 genera and 116 valid species. Taxon pages include tabs for overview, descriptions, media, maps, literature and specimens. In addition to original diagnostic descriptions and overview sections, all the species pages dynamically import relevant articles from the Encyclopedia of Life ( and specimen images from Antweb. The Google maps are dynamically generated from specimen data imported from Antweb and distribution data imported from GBIF.

The media feature contains over 1150 images and uses a faceted search tool that allows users to filter images by media gallery, taxonomic name, keywords, description and creator. Each thumbnail links to a lightbox window that displays the standard scaled image and associated metadata, and also offers a link to download the original, full-sized image. All images tagged with a taxon name automatically appear on that taxon’s species page.

Media feature in Antkey allows users to filter their searches based on morphological terms, taxonomic names, image type, media galleries and keywords.

The site includes approximately 75 video clips of 22 species. There are many important identification characters for ant species that are only possible to detect while the ant is alive. The standardized thirty-second video clips feature ants feeding at and recruiting to baits, foraging in natural environments, and entering and exiting their nests. The videos can be downloaded by users or embedded in other webpages.

A fully illustrated glossary of over 400 terms, including all the character states used in the Lucid key, allows users to quickly learn the important morphology needed to make accurate identifications. The terms are integrated throughout the site so that whenever one appears in the text the user can point to it and the definition will automatically display.

One of the greatest strengths of Antkey is that it was developed using the Scratchpads platform.  Scratchpads ( is a social networking platform that allows communities to bring taxonomic information together without the limitations of traditional paper-based publications. Web systems and content can be developed and updated in minutes so websites can reflect the latest knowledge of a particular group. The platform also allows multiple authors to create and edit content without using any html code. The Scratchpads platform relies on the content management system Drupal ( for its underlying architecture.

Revisiting the ants of Melanesia and the taxon cycle: historical and human-mediated invasions of a tropical archipelago

Evan Economo and I have a new paper out on the Taxon Cycle. The taxon cycle is a hypothesis advanced by E.O. Wilson that predicts a process in which successive waves of widespread disturbance-tolerant species from continental systems colonize marginal habitat on islands, expand into less disturbed forest interiors, radiate into isolated high-elevation endemics, and then either colonize a new island island or go extinct. Evan Economo and I found strong support for the hypothesis by analyzing the distributions of 183 Fijian ant species belonging to four endemism classes across disturbance and elevation gradients. Evan, Lacey Knowles and I recently received an NSF grant to build upon this work and the Pheidole research I published with Corrie Moreau.

Economo & Sarnat, 2012

Economo, E.P. & Sarnat, E.M. (2012) Revisiting the ants of Melanesia and the taxon cycle: historical and human-mediated invasions of a tropical archipelago. American Naturalist, 180, E1-E16. [pdf]

Commonly intercepted attines

Of the records I’ve seen, three attine species appear most frequently on port intercept lists: Acromyrmex octospinosus, Atta cephalotes, and Atta sexdens. I’ve had difficulty finding publications or even online resources detailing characters separating the minor worker caste of these latter two Atta species. I’ve drawn up a few preliminary characters myself, based on Antweb images and a few specimens of each I borrowed from Phil Ward, but would like to get them confirmed by folks more familiar with these taxa.

Can anyone out there who knows the attines give a thumbs up or down to the last two characters in this chart?


Atta cephalotes
Atta sexdens
Acromyrmex octospinosus
pairs of spines on promesonotum


gaster with tuberclesNoNoYes
head of soldier covered in long fine overlapping hairs giving a woolly appearanceYesNo
head covered in hexagonal microsculpture giving it a dull appearanceNo (smooth & shiny)
cephalic dorsum with two small teeth anterior to posteriorly projecting spines (UNVERIFIED)NoYes
pronotal spines strongly arching anteriorly (UNVERIFIED)YesNo

Video tutorial for tracing specimen images in Adobe Illustrator

Here is a four part video tutorial I’ve made explaining how to trace specimen photographs using Adobe Illustrator CS5 for producing high quality, scaleable line drawings. This procedure is basically the same as the one described in a previous post on illustrating ant heads. Here I trace the profile of Nylanderia bourbonica. Enjoy, and please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions for improvements!

Part 1 of 4. Importing the specimen image and tracing the mesosoma.

Part 2 of 4. Tracing the head.

Part 3 of 4. Tracing the waist and gaster.

Part 4 of 4. Tracing the hairs and adjusting their width profiles.

Introduced Nylanderia of the United States

I’ve spent the last couple of days parsing the differences among the many introduced species of Nylanderia. I still haven’t gotten a good look at the Rasperry Crazy Ant or Caribbean Crazy Ant or the Hairy Crazy Ant or whatever folks are calling the species that has been spreading across the southeastern United States, but apparently it is close to N. fulva and N. pubens. Hopefully John LaPolla’s revision of the Nearctic Nylanderia will be out soon, and I’ll be able to update my provincial key characters.

In the meantime, here’s a link to an illustrated comparison chart of Nylanderia introduced to the United States (including Hawaii).

And here’s a gallery of the various illustrations I’ve put together thus far for the key.

Selected references and resources of introduced Nylanderia species. (Note that all these species of Nylanderia were treated as Paratrechina prior to LaPolla et al. (2010)).

Trager, J.C. (1984) A revision of the genus Paratrechina (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the continental United States. Sociobiology, 9, 49-162. [Includes keys and descriptions of N. bourbonica, N. flavipes, N. guatemalensis, N. fulva, N. vividula all in addition to the native species].

LaPolla, J. S.; Hawkes, P. G.; Fisher, B. L. 2011. Monograph of Nylanderia (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the World, Part I: Nylanderia in the Afrotropics. Zootaxa 3110:10-36. [PDF] [Covers three spp. of Nylanderia purportedly introduced to the Afrotropics, including N. bourbonica, N. vaga and N. vividula.]

LaPolla, J.S., Brady, S.G. & Shattuck, S.O. (2010) Phylogeny and taxonomy of the Prenolepis genus-group of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Syst. Entomol., 35, 118-131. [PDF]

Ivanov, K. & Milligan, J. (2006) Paratrechina flavipes (Smith) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), a new exotic ant for Ohio. Proc. Entomol. Soc. Washington, 110, 439-444. [Nice small paper on N. flavipes and how to distinguish it from N. vividula.]

Ants of the Southeastern United States – key to species of Nylanderia. [Excellent website of Joe MacGown with a key adapted from Trager (1984).]

Illustrating ant heads

Two symmetric sides of head are moved and joined to become one full head.

Here’s a brief tutorial on my technique for tracing ants heads from specimen photographs using Adobe Illustrator (AI) CS5. If you aren’t very familiar with AI, the best thing you can do  is to read the AI help chapters on Drawing, Layers, and Selecting and Arranging objects. The bread and butter of AI is the pen tool, so make sure to read everything having to do with it. The pen tool is not particularly intuitive, and following whatever examples the help tutorials give will get you comfortable with paths and anchor points before diving into your first illustration. Also, mastering a few of the more common keyboard shorts for hand tool, pen tool, select, direct select, arrange, convert anchor points, etc. will save plenty of time in the long run. I’ll put shortcuts in parentheses throughout this post.

Step 1. Open the specimen photograph you plan to trace in AI. This will serve as your drawing template. Double click on the layer with the photo in the Layer Panel, and name the layer something like ‘Photo’ or ‘Specimen image’. Before closing the dialog box, also click the ‘Dim Images to’ box and put a number in between 80%-70%. Also, make sure you click the ‘Lock’ layer box. CS5 also has an option for selecting ‘Template’, which is a good idea, but not essential. When selecting your template image, look for ones with all the parts you plan to illustrate clearly showing (at least on one side of the face). For example, choose one with the full antennae showing (or at least all of one scape). Also, try for images that are positioned correctly. For example, notice on the Camponotus planatus specimen image I’m using, the right eye breaks the head outline while the left eye does not. Ideally, that discrepancy wouldn’t exist. Also, notice that the scapes block both the eyes. That’s one reason I like moving the antennal scapes down when I image my own specimens.

Specimen image of Camponotus planatus imported as a template layer into Adobe Illustrator


Step 2. Make a vertical guideline running down the middle of the face. To do this make sure the rulers are showing, then click and drag on the y-axis ruler to bring a guide out to where you need it. You can unlock the guide if you need to move it. If your specimen image is not perfectly level, unlock the photo template and rotate (r) the image until it is level, then lock it again.

Guideline running down the middle of the head.

Step 3. Create a new layer and call it something like ‘Face’.

Step 4. Draw the outline of one half of the face. For some reason, I always do the right side, perhaps because it is not obscured by the paper point. The drawing is all done using the pen tool (p). I like to draw with a 1 point stroke with rounded ends (both of which options are available in the Stroke Panel).

Start at the mid-point top at the top of the head. Drop an anchor point while holding Shift to keep the handles perpendicular to the guide, and drag the anchors out a bit towards the sides of the head. This technique keeps a nice natural curve across the head when the two halves are joined later.

Now drop your anchor point, remembering to draw out the anchor handles each time.  Drop as few anchor points as possible to make the most natural and smooth lines. You can adjust the curves as you go by using the direct select tool (a) and the convert anchor points tool (Shift+c). To continue your line, hover over the anchor point with your pen tool until you see the ‘/’ symbol, then click on it (or click and hold to draw out anchor handles).


Drawing the first curve.


Continue tracing along the outside of the face. If the eyes break the outline of the head, I just ignore them. I don’t include the mandibles until later in the process, preferring instead to follow the anterior margin of the clypeus until I hit the vertical guideline.


Step 5. Next I like to do the eyes. I use the Ellipse tool (L) while holding the Control button (to expand the ellipse from the midpoint) for the first rough approximation. Then I select the four anchor points with the direct select tool (A) and move them into place and make whatever other minor adjustments with anchor handles as necessary. Once I’m satisfied with the shape, I fill it with a gradient, then use the Gradient tool to approximate a 45 degree angle.


Drawing the eye using the Ellipse tool and Gradient tools.


Step 6. Next I draw whatever interior characters seem appropriate. In this case I do the median and lateral potions of the clypeus and the frontal carinae. For the frontal carinae, I’ve started experimenting with different width profiles available in the Stroke panel, and with the Width tool (Shift+W) to make my own custom profiles. This allows the line to taper quite elegantly.

Drawing interior characters such as the frontal carinae and the clypeus. Notice the fine tapering of the frontal carinae achieved by a custom width profile available in CS5.


Step 7. The antennae are next. In general, it is best practice in AI to draw complete closed shapes when possible. That’s what I do with the antennal condyle and torulus and whatever that part is that is basal to the condyle. Sometimes I’ll do all the antennal segments, but more often I’ll just do the scape and leave it at that.

Drawing the antennal scape.


Once I’ve outlined and closed all the shapes of the antennae, I fill them with white and arrange them forwards (Control+]) and backwards (Control+[) to get them in the right order.

Step 8. Rotate (R) the antennal scape to horizontal position. I usually group the parts that I want to rotate together. This is my personal preference, but many other illustrators seem to prefer the scape aimed towards the posterolateral corner of the head. Up to you!

Scape rotated to horizontal position. This keeps it from obstructing the face, but doesn't allow you to see how much it exceeds (if at all) the posterior margin of the head.


Step 9. Copy and flip your artwork. Select all your artwork, copy it, paste it to back (Control+B), and flip it across its vertical axis (Transform > Reflect).

Artwork is copied, pasted and flipped.


Step 10. Then, while the copy is all selected, drag it while holding down Shift (to keep it on the same axis) until the midpoints of the head line up exactly. Select pairing points where they meet at the midline with the direct select tool (A) and join them, each in turn. This is essential for when the shapes are filled with color.

Sometimes the outline will be narrower than the actual specimen image. When this happens, I select everything with the regular selection tool (V) then drag one of the sides out. This makes all the shapes wider proportionally, so it introduces a little discrepancy (of the eyes for example) in return for a more accurate head width.

Two symmetric sides of head are moved and joined to become one full head.


Step 11. Now I like to do the mandibles. I’ll do whichever is in front, then copy, paste and reflect it for the back one. Again, make sure to close the shape. Don’t worry about the inner margin overlapping the clypeus — that will get sorted out later.

Mandibles drawn as closed shapes.


Step 12. Hide the photo template layer.

Photo template layer is hidden. Notice the I also made a new layer for the scale bar.


Step 13. Fill in the head and mandibles with white (or a different color if you prefer). Then arrange different elements backwards and forwards within the layer to achieve the proper order.

Now you’re done! At this point you can adjust the artboard (CS5 only), add text, etc. If you want to add hairs, follow the directions of my illustrating ant hairs post.

All done!

Illustrating ant hairs


One of the most satisfying things to do when illustrating ants with Adobe Illustrator (AI) is to turn rather dull hairs into elegant tapered masterpieces. Hairs, or ‘setae’ as the traditionalists prefer, can be excellent characters for identification. For my introduced ant key, I need to come up with characters for distinguishing Camponotus planatus from Camponotus atriceps. I’ve coded both as having abundant long erect hairs on the head, mesosoma and gaster. But the quality of the hairs is different between these two. Those of C. planatus are stiff and thick, while those of C. atriceps are slender and flexuous. Here’s a quick post on how I drew the hairs for C. atriceps.


First thing was to import a photograph of C. atriceps from Antweb. I had to rotate it to the standard position where the back two coxae are level with each other.

Screenshot of Adobe Illustrator with specimen photo of C. atricpes placed as the first layer.


Next I created new layers for the head, mesosoma, waist and gaster, and drew the outlines using the Pen tool. I hope to post more on these basic steps of tracing specimen images in the near future.

The outlines of the specimen have been traced with the pen tool, and filled in with white.


Now I create a new layer for the hairs, and lock all of the other layers.

New 'hairs' layer is created and I zoom in a bit.


The next step is to trace the hairs. There are a few ways to do this, but the trick is to achieve a nice smooth curve. With hairs, I like to use the Pencil tool and trace on my x200 Thinkpad tablet. Before I had my tablet, though, I would probably stick with the Pen tool for these type of long flexuous hairs. If you do opt for the Pencil tool, make sure to double click on it and select a nice smoothness (I used 75%) and get rid of the ‘edit paths’ option for sure.


Hairs are traced using the Pencil tool with a tablet, but the Pen tool works well for these as well.

Once I’ve traced all the hairs on the profile outline, I hide the specimen photograph layer to see how it looks.


Here comes the cool part: making a new hair type.

  1. Use the pen tool to draw a straight line approximately as long as one of the longer hairs. Change the stroke to 0.25.
  2. Select the line and copy it (Control+C).
  3. Paste the line to the back (Control+B). This pastes the copy directly behind the original.
  4. Use the ‘Direct Select’ tool (A) and drag a selection box around the top two points (it looks like just one point because the copy is directly behind the original). Now join the two selected points. I do this by right clicking and selecting ‘Join’, but I’m sure there are other ways to get there.
  5. Again using the Direct Select tool, click on one of the bottom points. Use the arrow keys to move it a few pixels to the left. I changed the default keyboard increment (Edit > Preferences > General) to .001 in to have a bit more precision.
  6. Now select the other bottom point and move it an equal number of spaces to the right.
  7. Draw a line joining these two bottom points.
  8. Use the ‘Add anchor point’ tool (+) to drop an anchor point in the middle of this bottom line.
  9. Select the middle anchor point and move it down a few spaces. Click it and hold with the ‘Convert anchor points’ tool (Shift+C) to add a little curve to the bottom line.
  10. Fill the resulting polygon with black (or you could go for a gray if they are very light hairs if you want).
  11. Use the regular Selection tool (V) to select the whole object.
  12. Open the ‘Brushes’ window and create a new brush (lower right page icon in the window). Make it an Art Brush.
  13. Name the brush, and make sure the arrow is pointing upwards towards the pointy end (so long as you drew the hairs from the base to the tip). Save the brush library as ‘Ant Hairs’ or something like that. Sometimes if the following steps don’t work, I copy my hair to a new AI window and make a new brush. Some odd glitch or something, but sometimes it doesn’t save the brush correctly.
  14. Now select all your hairs. Easy way to do this is to make sure all the other layers are locked except for the hair layer, then do a ‘Select All’ command (Control+A). Click the new hair brush on the brush panel window, and voila. If the hairs are backwards, you may need to switch the way the arrow points in the brush options.

Lines rendered as hairs using my new C. atriceps hairs brush. Notice the fine tapering!


Now that you have the hair brush, you can paint hairs directly using the paintbrush tool. I find the paintbrush tool takes a lot longer, though, so I personally prefer using the pen or pencil tool, and then selecting all the strokes and converting them to brushstrokes with whichever ant hairs brush best suites the job.