Brachymyrmex patagonicus

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Brachymyrmex patagonicus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Myrmelachistini
Genus: Brachymyrmex
Species: B. patagonicus
Binomial name
Brachymyrmex patagonicus
Mayr, 1868

Brachymyrmex patagonicus casent0173480 profile 1.jpg

Brachymyrmex patagonicus casent0173480 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

Synonyms

Introduced to North America, Spain and Hong Kong from South America, this invasive ant can be a pest in its introduced range. It appears to thrive in disturbed habitats in both its native and introduced ranges.

Identification

Ortiz-Sepulveda et al. (2019) - Brachymyrmex patagonicus displays variation in color from light to dark brown.

This species morphologically resembles Brachymyrmex bruchi and Brachymyrmex oculatus, because all three species have scapes that surpass the posterior margin of the head by a length approximately equal to the maximum diameter of the eye or less, they usually have two erect hairs on the mesonotum, which does not bulge dorsally above the pronotum in lateral view, the metanotal groove is absent or narrower than the diameter of the metathoracic spiracles, their gaster has scarce pubescence and several scattered long erect hairs, the body is uniformly brownish. Brachymyrmex patagonicus differs from B. bruchi, however, by usually having two erect hairs on the pronotum and two on the mesonotum and from B. oculatus by having smaller eyes, with a maximal diameter of approximately 1/4th of the length of the head (HL1) and usually with less than 14 ommatidia along their maximal diameter.

MacGown et al. (2007) - In the United States, B. patagonicus is most similar to Brachymyrmex obscurior, another exotic species. Workers differ in the size of the eye, which is about the length of the malar space in B. patagonicus, and conspicuously shorter than the malar space in B. obscurior. Additionally, the gaster of B. patagonicus has scattered pubescence, giving it a more shiny appearance, whereas B. obscurior has more dense pubescence. An undescribed species of Brachymyrmex recorded from Florida (referred to as Brachymyrmex brevicornis Emery in some publications-Deyrup 2003; Deyrup et al. 2000) is also dark brown in color, but lacks erect hairs on the body. Another undescribed, brown colored species, known only from 2 queens from Arkansas, differs from B. patagonicus in that the queens are tiny, approximately the size of typical workers (pers. comm., Lloyd Davis). Brachymyrmex heeri Forel is another similar species that could be potentially found in the United States, but has not been found here yet. Workers of this species are brownish-yellow and lack ocelli. Other species of Brachymyrmex found in the United States are yellowish in color.

Keys including this Species

Distribution

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 23.49161° to -42.666°.

     
North
Temperate
North
Subtropical
Tropical South
Subtropical
South
Temperate

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: United States.
Neotropical Region: Argentina (type locality), Brazil, Chile (type locality), Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, Paraguay, Uruguay.
Palaearctic Region: China, Japan, Spain.

Distribution based on AntMaps

AntMapLegend.png

Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Biology

MacGown et al. (2007) - This species nests in a variety of habitats, both natural and disturbed. Natural habitats include pine forests (with nests often in loose bark at the bases of the tree trunks), beaches (with nests at the bases of plants), mixed forests (nests in soil, dead wood, and litter), and prairie remnants (nests in soil, accumulations of organic litter, and grass thatch). In disturbed areas, nests of B. patagonicus are especially frequent in landscaping mulch, a habitat that is increasing exponentially throughout the Southeast, and which positions colonies to make forays into buildings. In disturbed areas it also nests in soil under objects on the ground (stones, bricks, railroad ties, lumbers, or a variety of other objects), under grass at edges of lawns and parking lots, in leaf litter, at the bases of trees, in rotting wood, in piles of dead wood, and in accumulations of trash. Colonies may contain many hundreds of workers packed into a small sheltered area. Where this species is found, colonies are often abundant and even may be found within a few centimeters from one another. The social structure of B. patagonicus has not been studied, but apparently separate colonies show considerable mutual tolerance.

In many sites the occurrence of B. patagonicus appears to be centered around urban areas or places frequented by people, such as the more intensive recreation areas of state parks, gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, and along highway edges. As is the case with many other pest plants and animals, this species appears to act as an invasive organism that is likely to return quickly whenever there are attempts to control it or other species of ants. It has been reported that this species may be found in higher numbers after imported fire ant suppression has taken place (Dash et al. 2005). This does not imply that populations of this species are excluded in areas where large populations of fire ants are present, as recent surveys of ants in the Southeast by the MEM have found this species to be abundant in areas with high numbers of imported fire ants. We have observed this species nesting side-by-side and freely roaming about with both Solenopsis invicta and S. invicta × richteri on numerous occasions and have seen no obvious correlation of its abundance to that of the fire ants’ presence and abundance.

This species is considered a nuisance pest species, as both alates and foraging workers may enter houses, hospitals, schools, or other man-made structures to forage and/or nest. Occasionally these infestations may be quite large, with nests being found in the structure of the buildings, especially in bathrooms and kitchens, in light sockets and in electrical outlets, inside cinder blocks of exterior walls, and under shingles. During recent years (2005-2006), the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University has had more requests by pest control operators in Mississippi about this species than all other ant species totaled together. Pest control operators have found this species in very high numbers in hospitals and other businesses, especially in metropolitan areas, and have expressed difficulty in controlling it. This may be partly due to the fact that many indoor infestations of foraging workers may be coming from outdoor nests some distance from control efforts. As in the case of B. obscurior and other ants whose alates fly into openings in buildings or clutter up swimming pools, there may be no effective control of alate patagonicus where the ambient population is high, except by restricting access. The attention received by this ant may be more associated with its novelty than with any harm it causes, as it does not cause structural damage, bite, sting, or transmit disease, nor has it been shown to invade stored foods. As a nuisance species, however, invading buildings and causing annoyance, patagonicus shows considerable potential, perhaps comparable to the effects of Tapinoma melanocephalum in tropical and subtropical regions.

The diet of Brachymyrmex patagonicus is thought to consist largely of honeydew from various insects, especially subterranean homopterans (Dash et al. 2005). They undoubtably supplement their diet with other food sources and will readily come to sweet baits such as honey or cookies. Workers of these ants can be commonly seen scurrying about during the day as they forage. Female and male alates have been collected from mid May through early Aug.

Presence in United States

Southeast MacGown et al. (2007) - Although B. patagonicus is a relatively recent introduction to the United States, it is now well established and abundant in both natural and disturbed areas throughout much of the Southeast, especially in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. To give an indication of how common B. patagonicus is within its range is the fact that the authors have usually been able to find workers of this species at new localities within 5 minutes by simply stopping at gas stations, motels, restaurants, and other such businesses, and searching at the edges of parking lots, at edges of grass areas, on tree trunks, exteriors walls of buildings, or on bare ground. Random stops at highways and rural roadsides have revealed similar abundance and ease of detecting this species.

A major reason for the success of B. patagonicus in the United States may be its ability to thrive in a variety of habitats, especially disturbed sites. Other contributing factors could be its ability to coexist with a variety of other dominant ant species, such as Dorymyrmex bureni, Solenopsis invicta, Pheidole moerens, and Pheidole obscurithorax. This is similar to other species of Brachymyrmex, which also usually occur where there are many other ant species that are larger, faster, more hard-bodied, and armed with stingers and more powerful mandibles. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this species may be protected by potent chemicals.

Because colonies can fit into a small space, they easily could be transported by man from site to site, making it likely that this species will increase its range further.

It is unclear what affect, if any, this species will have on native species in the area, but based on its abundance where it is now established, it might have some negative impact.

Florida Deyrup, Davis & Cover (2000) - This introduced species occurs throughout Florida, achieving its highest densities in northern areas of the state. This species seems to adapt well to open pine forests (high pine and flatwoods habitats) in north Florida, as well as to the usual open disturbed areas favored by many exotics. Huge nests may be found in the loose bark at the bases of large pine trees, a nesting site also favored by native species of Paratrechina, Pheidole, Solenopsis and Brachymyrmex. Other nesting locations include at the bases of pine trees, occasionally arboreal, or under shingles. It occasionally enters open buildings in large numbers. The diet of B. patagonicus (reported as B. musculus prior to 2007) is unknown, except that they eagerly feed on honeydew, and are therefore likely to promote the increase of sap sucking insects. First reported in the U.S. (Louisiana) in 1978 (Wheeler and Wheeler 1978; referred to as B. musculus).

Presence in Hong Kong

Guenard (2018) - The collecting site in Hong Kong is located at the tip of a zone of reclaimed land and heavily urbanized. The specimens were first observed foraging at the base of two planted Araucaria heterophylla (Salisb.), an introduced tree species within a landscaped urban habitat. Foraging activities were observed on December 11th in the morning at 8:45am and around 10:30am. At the time of the initial observation, atmospheric temperature was close to 17°C, and while the bark surface was directly exposed to the sun, constant wind likely cooled the surface. On the afternoon of December 16th (3 to 4:30pm), additional sampling was performed using baits (cookie crumbs) to collect more workers and other species in the vicinity. Over 60 workers of B. patagonicus were observed, including a few meters away from the original sites (within a radius of 5m) on bare ground and lawn. A few individuals were observed at collecting baits, however no mass-recruitment was observed despite the high ground temperature measured (22.7°C to 25.8°C). While workers were observed using a similar trail suggesting the potential use of pheromonal communication, the density of workers observed was low. Three other ant species were observed in the same area, Pheidole megacephala which appeared dominant on baits, and more rarely Paraparatrechina sauteri and Cardiocondyla minutior; the latter is here recorded for the first time in Hong Kong as well and was recently collected from the nearby territory of Macao (Leong et al. 2017). The presence of B. patagonicus at the basis of a coniferous species is worth noting as the association of this ant with pine trees has been reported previously in its North American introduced range (MacGown et al. 2007, Hill 2017) as well as in its native range in association with exotic pine trees in Patagonia (Corley et al. 2006). The presence of B. patagonicus within landscaped habitat and heavily urbanized environment is similar to observations in collecting sites in other introduced regions such as southern Spain (Espadaler & Pradera 2016), or North Carolina, USA (North Carolina State University Campus: Guénard et al. 2014).

It should be noted Ortiz-Sepulveda et al. (2019), based on the revision that was the subject of their study, suggested this ant may be be Brachymyrmex cordemoyi and not B. patagonicus.

Chemical Ecology

LeBrun et al. (2015) found a behaviour, first noted and resulting from interactions between Solenopsis invicta and Nylanderia fulva, that detoxifies fire ant venom is expressed widely across ants in the subfamily Formicinae. This behavior was also studied and shown in experiments with B. patagonicus. See the biology section of the N. fulva page for a description of acidopore grooming and the use of formic acid for detoxification of a specific class of venoms that are produced by ants that may interact with formicines in the context of predation and food competition.

Flight Period

X X X X X X X
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Source: antkeeping.info.

Castes

Worker

Queen

Nomenclature

The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's Online Catalogue of the Ants of the World.

  • patagonicus. Brachymyrmex patagonicus Mayr, 1868a: 164 (w.m.) ARGENTINA (Buenos Aires).
    • Emery, 1906c: 179 (q.); Quirán, et al. 2004: 277 (q.m.).
    • Status as species: Mayr, 1884: 39; Emery, 1888c: 364; Emery, 1888e: 690; Dalla Torre, 1893: 174; von Jhering, 1894: 377; Forel, 1895b: 107; Emery, 1906c: 178; Forel, 1906d: 249; Forel, 1907e: 9; Forel, 1908c: 399; Forel, 1908e: 63; Forel, 1909a: 263; Forel, 1912i: 61; Forel, 1913l: 245; Bruch, 1914: 227; Gallardo, 1915: 28; Donisthorpe, 1915d: 344; Wheeler, W.M. 1916c: 13; Wasmann, 1918a: 75; Luederwaldt, 1918: 48; Gallardo, 1919b: 254; Wheeler, W.M. 1923a: 4; Santschi, 1923b: 657; Emery, 1925b: 43; Stärcke, 1926: 118 (in key); Borgmeier, 1927c: 142; Donisthorpe, 1927b: 397; Santschi, 1936d: 420; Kusnezov, 1953a: 111 (in key); Kusnezov, 1960b: 376; Kempf, 1961b: 521; Kempf, 1972a: 40; Bolton, 1995b: 82; Quirán, et al. 2004: 275 (redescription); Wild, 2007b: 27; Deyrup, 2017: 182; Fernández & Ortiz-Sepúlveda, 2019: 729; Ortiz-Sepúlveda, et al. 2019: 521 (redescription).
    • Senior synonym of atratula: Quirán, et al. 2004: 275; Ortiz-Sepúlveda, et al. 2019: 521.
    • Senior synonym of laevis: Ortiz-Sepúlveda, et al. 2019: 521.
  • atratula. Brachymyrmex patagonicus var. atratula Santschi, 1923b: 657, fig. 3 (w.) ARGENTINA (Jujuy, Mendoza).
    • Subspecies of patagonicus: Emery, 1925b: 43; Kempf, 1972a: 41; Bolton, 1995b: 81.
    • Junior synonym of patagonicus: Quirán, et al. 2004: 275; Ortiz-Sepúlveda, et al. 2019: 521.
  • laevis. Brachymyrmex laevis Emery, 1895d: 216 (w.) CHILE.
    • [Misspelled as levis by Emery, 1906c: 178, Santschi, 1923b: 659, and others.]
    • Emery, 1895i: 16 (q.m.); Emery, 1906c: 178 (q.m.).
    • Status as species: Emery, 1895i: 16; Emery, 1906c: 178; Forel, 1908c: 400; Forel, 1912i: 62; Santschi, 1923b: 659; Emery, 1925b: 42; Goetsch, 1933: 29; Goetsch & Menozzi, 1935: 100; Menozzi, 1935c: 324; Kempf, 1970a: 31; Kempf, 1972a: 39; Snelling, R.R. & Hunt, 1976: 114; Bolton, 1995b: 82.
    • Junior synonym of patagonicus: Ortiz-Sepúlveda, et al. 2019: 521.

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

Description

Worker

MacGown et al. (2007) - Size minute, mesosomal length 0.43-0.51 mm (n = 10). Head and mesosoma medium brown to blackish-brown, gaster usually blackish-brown, often darker than head and mesosoma, tarsi and mandibles pale, and antennae brownish-yellow. Head slightly longer than wide, covered with fine pubescence, and with a few longer erect hairs; antennal scapes surpassing occipital border of head by 1/5 their total length; eyes relatively large, about as long as length of malar space and placed at approximately the middle third of side of head; 3 tiny, barely visible ocelli present. Promesonotum with 3-9 (usually 4-6) stout, erect hairs present dorsally, with fine pubescence that does not obscure the shiny sheen of integument. Gaster with scattered, long, erect hairs, especially along the edges of the tergites, and with sparse, decumbent hairs, separated by about 1/3 to 2/3 their length.

Ortiz-Sepulveda et al. (2019) - Types (n = 2). HL1 0.45–0.53; HL2 0.33–0.37; HL3 0.10–0.13; HW 0.38–0.49; SL 0.40–0.48; EL 0.14–0.17; WL 0.38–0.51; PnL 0.11–0.15; PnW 0.26– 0.33; ML 0.07–0.11; MW 0.17–0.24; Indices CI 85.29– 92.50; SI1 97.30–103.45; SI2 120.00–128.57; OI1 33.78– 36.21; OI2 22.06–25.00. Additional material (n = 13). HL1 0.40–0.59; HL2 0.28–0.39; HL3 0.07–0.16; HW 0.33–0.51; SL 0.35–0.49; EL 0.09–0.14; WL 0.35–0.55; PnL 0.09–0.20; PnW 0.23–0.35; ML 0.07–0.14; MW 0.15– 0.23; Indices CI 81.40–93.33; SI1 92.00–128.95; SI2 116.22– 163.33; OI1 22.22–32.5; OI2 18.18–28.57.

Head. Slightly longer than wide in full face view; posterior cephalic margin slightly concave. Dorsum of head with sparse appressed hairs. Clypeus with a rounded anterior margin and five long, erect hairs of which a single, usually conspicuous hair is near the anterior margin, two hairs are in mediolateral position, and two more near the toruli; other hairs on the clypeus are markedly shorter and appressed or decumbent. Toruli surpassing the posterior clypeal margin in oblique anterodorsal view. The scapes surpass the posterior cephalic margin by a length that is shorter than the maximal diameter of the eye; they have appressed hairs. At least one central ocellus is present. Eyes are positioned on the cephalic midline and have 8–12 ommatidia along their maximal diameter. Mesosoma. Dorsum of the mesosoma with sparse appressed hairs, typically with two erect hairs on the pronotum and two on the mesonotum. The mesonotum is not inflated and does not bulge dorsally above the pronotum. Metanotal groove absent or narrower than the diameter of the metathoracic spiracles. Metathoracic spiracles in dorsolateral position, not protruding, and touching the propodeal suture. Dorsum of the propodeum slightly convex and shorter than the propodeal slope. Propodeal spiracles circular, situated on the posterior propodeal margin, at the middle of the propodeal slope. Legs with appressed and scattered hairs. Petiole short and inclined forward. Gaster. With scattered pubescence and several scattered long erect hairs, mainly at the edges of the segments. Color and sculpture. Body overall smooth and shiny, except for the sometimes slightly imbricate sculpture on the dorsum of the mesosoma, and typically uniformly brownish.

Queen

MacGown et al. (2007) - Mesosomal length 1.24-1.42 mm (n = 10). Concolorous light brown. Head wider than long, with abundant, fine pubescence, and with long erect hairs present; large compound eyes located at middle of side of head; 3 large ocelli present; frontal lobes well developed; scapes surpassing occipital border by 1/4 their length. Mesosoma with moderately dense, fine pubescence, and 30-40 long erect hairs (about 3-4 times length of fine pubescence); anepisternum and katepisternum separated by a distinct suture, with erect hairs present. Forewing with pterostigma; hind wing with 7 hammuli. Gaster with moderately dense, fine pubescence, and erect hairs along apical edges of sternites and tergites.

Male

MacGown et al. (2007) - Mesosomal length 0.8 mm (n = 2). Head dark brown to blackish-brown, rest of body, including appendages, very light brown. Head wider than long, with fine, sparse pubescence, lacking erect hairs except on mouthparts, and with smooth, shiny integument; frontal lobes reduced; scapes surpassing occipital border by more than 1/5 their length, first segment of funiculus enlarged, almost globular, wider than succeeding segments; eyes large, about 1/2 length of head, and located on lower half of head; 3 large, prominent, raised ocelli present. Mesosoma with sparse pubescence and shiny integument, lacking erect hairs. Hind wing with 5 or 6 hammuli. Gaster shiny, lacking pubescence, with scattered erect hairs on last few sternites and tergites.

Type Material

Ortiz-Sepulveda et al. (2019) - ARGENTINA: Buenos Aires: Rio Negro. As Quirán et al. (2004) already indicated Mayr (1868) described B. patagonicus based on specimens from Argentina. However, the specimens in the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna: USNMENT00757201–00757204 that were examined and identified as types by Mayr are from Chile. Either the locality indicated in the original description may be wrong, or specimens from Argentina may be lacking from the collection, and as such we do not designate a lectotype here.

Determination Clarifications

Hong Kong

Ortiz-Sepulveda et al. (2019) - Guénard (2018) reports the first record of B. patagonicus from continental Asia (Hong Kong); however, the specimen illustrated in the paper does not display the diagnostic features of this species, but rather those of Brachymyrmex cordemoyi. It is noteworthy that B. patagonicus is very abundant and geographically widespread, but its morphological variation and genetic diversity as well as other biological features remain poorly studied. An in-depth study of these features in a geographic context would be required to determine if B. patagonicus is a distinct species, a species complex, or conspecific with some other taxa, e.g., B. bruchi and B. obscurior.

United States

This species was referred to as Brachymyrmex musculus in the United States prior to 2007.

References

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

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