Although many taxa show a latitudinal gradient in richness, the relationship between latitude and species richness is often asymmetrical between the northern and southern hemispheres. Here we examine the latitudinal pattern of species richness across 1003 local ant assemblages. We find latitudinal asymmetry, with southern hemisphere sites being more diverse than northern hemisphere sites. Most of this asymmetry could be explained statistically by differences in contemporary climate. Local ant species richness was positively associated with temperature, but negatively (although weakly) associated with temperature range and precipitation. After contemporary climate was accounted for, a modest difference in diversity between hemispheres persisted, suggesting that factors other than contemporary climate contributed to the hemispherical asymmetry. The most parsimonious explanation for this remaining asymmetry is that greater climate change since the Eocene in the northern than in the southern hemisphere has led to more extinctions in the northern hemisphere with consequent effects on local ant species richness.