Myrmicaria aphidicola

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Myrmicaria aphidicola
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Solenopsidini
Genus: Myrmicaria
Species: M. aphidicola
Binomial name
Myrmicaria aphidicola
Calilung, 2000

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Myrmicaria-aphidicolaD1.6.jpg

Specimen Label

This is the only Myrmicaria species known to be associated with aphids.

Identification

Calilung (2000) - This species differs from Myrmicaria brunnea in having all the gastral segments uniformly brown while brunnea has the basal margin of the five terminal, segments dark brown. They differ also in size wherein according to Saunders' original description (1841), this ant is 6/10 to 8/10 inch, which is much bigger than aphidicola. Saunders' descriptions were all based on coloration and very short descriptions.

Distribution

Mindanao.

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Indo-Australian Region: Philippines (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps

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Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Biology

Calilung (2000) - Bolton (1973) reported that the Myrmicaria are general predators and scavengers, but this species is found associated with aphids. However, they are not totally dependent on the honeydew secreted by the aphid since small pieces of grasshoppers and beetles were also found inside the nest.

These ants build their nest on the leaf sheath of Phragmites sp. (Poaceae) and inside the nest are aphids, Toxoptera odinae (van der Goot). They protect these aphids by building a nest over them and the ants benefit from the honeydew provided by the aphids. These ants do not totally depend on the honeydew secreted by these aphids because nests were seen with dead insects like small grasshoppers and beetles. According to Bolton (1973), these ants made nests directly into the earth, often with long sunken runways visible on the surface of the ground.

I observed that their nests are not only made of soil but also mixed with pieces of dried plant parts like stems and leaves. There are some traces of soil particles going up to the leaf sheath where the nest is built.

Castes

Nomenclature

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

  • aphidicola. Myrmicaria aphidicola Calilung, 2000: 68, fig. 2 (w.) PHILIPPINES (Mindanao).

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.

Description

Worker

Body 5-6 mm long, reddish brown to brown, with numerous long and coarse setae.

Head longer than broad, subquadrangular and roughly seulptured; mandibles large, short and triangular, with linear sculpturing; apical margin behind first tooth with four exposed unequal and loosely spaced denticles; antennae 7 -segmented, club indistinct, antennal sockets close to basal margin of clypeus, antennal scrobes absent; frontal carinae widely separated; clypeus convex, triangular at basal margin, lined with long setae; eyes large, as long as first funicular segment, elevated.

Pronotum and mesonotum separated by very weak promesonotal suture, suboctagonal, elevated but flat dorsally, sharply angled laterally and roughly sculptured; mesonotum bluntly bituberculate, posterior portion more or less vertical; metanotal groove deeply impressed; propodeum lower than pronotum and mesonotum, with a pair of spines or bispinose positioned posteriorly, sharply angled laterally; legs long and slender with numerous long, erect setae; forelegs with large tibial spur fringed with hairs on inner margin; fore tarsal segments with fringed hairs ventrally or on inner margin.

Petiole and post petiole rounded and elevated with numerous erect and long setae; petiole with long anterior peduncle; gaster elongate-oval with numerous long and short setae; gastral segments one and two large and subequal, almost covering the whole gaster; only three gastral segments visible when viewed dorsally; third gastral segment four times smaller than segment one or segment two; sting visible, long and somewhat flattened from side to side.

Type Material

HOLOTYPE: Worker, Mindanao: North Cotabato: Kidapawan:Agco, Mt. Apo, on leafsheath of Phragmites sp., 00.v 1988 (MY.J. Calilung, MVJC 026) (UPLB-MNH). PARATYPES: 8 workers, same data as holotype (UPLB-MNH).

References