Brachyponera sennaarensis

AntWiki - Where Ant Biologists Share Their Knowledge
Jump to: navigation, search
Brachyponera sennaarensis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Genus: Brachyponera
Species: B. sennaarensis
Binomial name
Brachyponera sennaarensis
(Mayr, 1862)

Pachycondyla sennaarensis sam-hym-c000111a profile 1.jpg

Pachycondyla sennaarensis sam-hym-c000111a dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


Widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where it inhabits savannas and open forests; it is also the most common member of the subfamily in southern Arabia. While it is regarded as native at least throughout Africa, it is also notably preferring man-impacted habitats, such as human settlements, rubbish dumps and waste ground. Thus it is in question whether the species is indigenous to the Socotra Archipelago. It is a general scavenger but will attack other insects and has a painful sting. Allergic reactions to the sting, sometimes severe, are a problem locally in Arabia (DIB 1992, RrzK et al. 1998), where it is called the "Samsun ant". Probably because of awareness of the painful sting, Socotri people refer to this ant by a specific denomination ("diftim"), as different to the word for ant ("nimihil"). (Collingwood et al. 2004)

At a Glance • Facultatively polygynous  


Keys including this Species


Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Afrotropical Region: Burkina Faso, Chad, Eritrea, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Socotra Archipelago, Sudan (type locality), United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Oriental Region: India.
Palaearctic Region: Bahrain, Iran, Qatar.

Distribution based on specimens

Loading map...

The above specimen data are provided by AntWeb. Please see Brachyponera sennaarensis for further details


This appears to be the only ponerine ant that can feed on seeds. Diet varies seasonally and geographically: in humid tropical regions of Africa, both seeds and insect prey are collected during the rainy season, whereas diet consists exclusively of seeds during the rainy season that lasts three months (Dejean & Lachaud 1994). In dry tropical regions however, foragers react to the absence of seeds in the rainy season by adopting a 100% animal diet (Lévieux 1979).

Saudi Arabia

Al-Khalifa et al (2015) - Collingwood (1985) observed and reported B. sennaarensis in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where it is commonly known as the samsum ant. Later, Collingwood and Agosti (1996) followed and recorded their occurrence in Oman, Yemen and Kuwait, whilst Collingwood et al. (1997) reported it in the United Arab Emirates. B. sennaarensis is considered to constitute a public health hazard in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia owing to its sting, which has been known to cause cases of fatal anaphylactic shock (Dib et al., 1992, 1995). Al-Shahwan et al. (2006) reported a case of anaphylactic shock and since then several more such cases have been reported following samsum ant stings, some of which were really critical (Al-Anazi et al., 2009). Notwithstanding this negative reputation, however, B. sennaarensis can also be beneficial to humans: Dkhil et al. (2010) found that B. sennaarensis venom has an antiinflammatory effect that may be useful in the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases, whilst Badr et al. (2012) found that B. sennaarensis venom induces apoptosis in certain human breast cancer cells.

In this study, B. sennaarensis was detected in four provinces: ArRiyadh, Jazan, Najran and Eastern Province but was not detected in, Asir, Northern Frontiers, Tabouk, Makkah and Al-Madina. Collingwood (1985) suggested that the Arabian Peninsula is probably the northern limit of B. sennaarensis distribution. Different levels of occurrence of B. sennaarensis in the different regions of Saudi Arabia essentially confirm the non- indigenous status of the species. The population level also appears to depend on the geographical features of the location, with the high altitude of Asir, Makkah and Al-Madina regions, that each stands between 2000 and 3000 m above sea level, appearing to prohibit the occurrence of the species. Provinces such as Jazan and Najran are partially or completely Afrotropical in climate, since B. sennaarensis is indigenous to Africa this would explain their occurrence here. ArRiyadh and the Eastern region, meanwhile, are infested with a large number of ants due to large, frequent transport and heavy exchange of goods (Al-Khalifa et al., 2010). The Tabouk and Northern frontier regions, meanwhile, remain behind in terms of their developmental aspect and geosocial contacts, due to their distant location from the inhabited regions and have thus not yet been reached by these ants (Siddiqui and Al-Khalifa, 2013).


Sharaf et al. (2017) - Brachyponera sennaarensis has invaded a wide range of habitats on Socotra, especially soil that is moist covered with the leaf litter of date palm trees. This species also commonly nests under rocks and objects associated with moist soils. Brachyponera sennaarensis has also invaded the relatively undisturbed valleys of the island where streams and denser vegetation are found. A nest was found under a stone under a dragon blood tree.






The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • sennaarensis. Ponera sennaarensis Mayr, 1862: 721 (w.) SUDAN. Santschi, 1910c: 350 (q.); Forel, 1910c: 245 (m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1971b: 1207 (l.). Combination in Euponera (Brachyponera): Emery, 1901a: 47; in Brachyponera: Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1971b: 1207; in Pachycondyla: Brown, in Bolton, 1995b: 309; in Brachyponera: Schmidt & Shattuck, 2014: 81. Senior synonym of sorghi: Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 777; Menozzi, 1930b: 80. Current subspecies: nominal plus decolor, ruginota. See also: Arnold, 1915: 73.
  • sorghi. Ponera sorghi Roger, 1863a: 169 (w.) SUDAN. Combination in Euponera (Brachyponera): Emery, 1911d: 84. Junior synonym of sennaarensis: Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 777.