Labidus praedator

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Labidus praedator
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Dorylinae
Genus: Labidus
Species: L. praedator
Binomial name
Labidus praedator
(Smith, F., 1858)

Labidus praedator casent0173515 profile 1.jpg

Labidus praedator casent0173515 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


Barth et al. (2015) - One of the most abundant and ubiquitous Neotropical swarm-raiders is Labidus praedator with extremely large colonies (probably over 1,000,000 individuals) and a wide distribution range spanning from Mexico to northern Argentina (Rettenmeyer 1963; Schneirla 1971; Watkins 1976; Longino 2005). Raids of L. praedator are frequent in the Neotropics (Kaspari and O’Donnell 2003; O’Donnell et al. 2007) and can deplete invertebrate biomass in the litter by up to 75 % (Kaspari et al. 2011).


Jack Longino:

Worker: color brown; face microsculptured, matte; mesosoma relatively gracile, dorsal face of propodeum as long as or longer than posterior face; ventral margin of petiole flat, lacking anteroventral tooth.

Similar species: Labidus spininodis'.


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 30.8315° to -64.36°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil (type locality), Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Barth et al. (2015) found genetic differences among four colonies of L praedator that were all collected within a range of 10 km around the city of Tapachula (Chiapas) Mexico. They suggested their findings indicate there are two sympatric species present that are not distinguishable from morphological differences. This supports and adds further evidence to a hypothesis there are numerous species subsumed under this single species name.

Baudier et al. (2015) studied thermal tolerances of a variety of army ant workers. Labidus praedator was one of a number of army ant species sampled with a life history that includes both below and above ground activities.

Jack Longino: This is a widespread and common species throughout the Neotropics. In Costa Rica it can be locally abundant, but seems to be somewhat patchy. I have not encountered it in dry forest areas, but it does occur in both lowland and montane wet forest. On the Barva transect in Braulio Carrillo National Park, it is a relatively rare ant at La Selva but reaches much higher density at 1000-1500m elevation.

Labidus praedator forms massive carpet raids that blanket the ground. In some ways they can be more impressive than Eciton burchellii, because the workers are smaller and more dense, and the ground and low vegetation become almost entirely black with a seething mass of workers. They seem to be mainly subterranean, without surface bivouacs. The large surface raids always seem to emerge spontaneously from the leaf litter or from a hole in the ground. Small segments of columns may be encountered, emerging from one hole and entering another one a few meters away.

I have rarely observed the prey of L. praedator, so I do not know what their dietary preferences are. In one raid I observed a mass of workers harvesting pieces from a fruit on the forest floor, so they may have somewhat generalized scavenging habits, like Labidus coecus. In cloud forest habitats I have sometimes seen masses of terrestrial isopods rushing up low vegetation and forming clusters on leaf tips in response to a Labidus swarm in the leaf litter below, but I do not know if the Labidus actually prey on the isopods.

Males are occasionally attracted to lights at night, and may also be collected in Malaise traps.

O'Donnell et al. (2020) report this species foraging both day and night.

Association with Other Organisms

  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Dacnophora sp. (a parasite) in Costa Rica (Brown & Fenner, 1998).
  • This species is a host for the diapriid wasp Labidopria longicornis (a parasite) (

Life History Traits

  • Mean colony size: 1,000,000 (Rettenmeyer, 1963; Beckers et al., 1989)
  • Foraging behaviour: group hunter (Rettenmeyer, 1963; Beckers et al., 1989)



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

  • praedator. Eciton praedator Smith, F. 1858b: 152 (s.w.) BRAZIL (Amazonas).
    • Type-material: syntype workers (number not stated).
    • Type-locality: Brazil: Ega (= Tefé) (no collector’s name, perhaps H.W. Bates).
    • Type-depository: BMNH
    • Forel, 1906d: 246 (m.); Luederwaldt, 1918: 54 (q.).
    • Combination in E. (Labidus): Emery, 1910b: 23; Bruch, 1914: 215;
    • combination in Labidus: Borgmeier, 1953: 16.
    • Status as species: Mayr, 1863: 409; Roger, 1863b: 36; Mayr, 1865: 77 (in key); Mayr, 1886b: 118; Dalla Torre, 1893: 5; Emery, 1894c: 180; von Jhering, 1894: 381; Forel, 1895b: 120; Forel, 1899c: 26; Emery, 1900a: 193; Forel, 1906d: 246; Emery, 1906c: 108; Wheeler, W.M. 1907a: 271; Forel, 1907e: 2; Forel, 1908b: 40; Forel, 1908c: 346; Emery, 1910b: 23; Forel, 1912c: 43; Bruch, 1914: 215; Mann, 1916: 421; Santschi, 1916e: 368; Luederwaldt, 1918: 54; Santschi, 1919f: 39; Gallardo, 1920: 333; Santschi, 1920d: 366; Bruch, 1921: 181; Wheeler, W.M. 1921d: 310; Mann, 1922: 19; Borgmeier, 1923: 43; Wheeler, W.M. 1923a: 2; Wheeler, W.M. 1925a: 2; Santschi, 1930e: 83; Santschi, 1931e: 274; Menozzi, 1935b: 189; Stitz, 1937: 132; Borgmeier, 1948b: 460; Borgmeier, 1953: 10, 19; Borgmeier, 1955: 103 (redescription); Kempf, 1961b: 485; Kempf, 1972a: 127; Kempf & Lenko, 1976: 47; Watkins, 1976: 8 (in key); Watkins, 1982: 210 (in key); Bolton, 1995b: 220; Palacio, 1999: 153 (in key); Wild, 2007b: 25; Branstetter & Sáenz, 2012: 254; Bezděčková, et al. 2015: 110; Palacio, 2019: 607.
    • Senior synonym of emiliae: Borgmeier, 1953: 10; Borgmeier, 1955: 103; Kempf, 1972a: 128; Bolton, 1995b: 220.
    • Senior synonym of ferruginea: Borgmeier, 1955: 103; Kempf, 1972a: 128; Bolton, 1995b: 220.
    • Senior synonym of guianense: Borgmeier, 1953: 19; Borgmeier, 1955: 103; Kempf, 1972a: 128; Bolton, 1995b: 220.
    • Senior synonym of tepeguas: Mayr, 1886b: 118; Dalla Torre, 1893: 5; Forel, 1899c: 26; Emery, 1910b: 23; Gallardo, 1920: 333; Borgmeier, 1923: 43; Borgmeier, 1955: 103; Kempf, 1972a: 127; Bolton, 1995b: 220.
    • Senior synonym of westwoodi: Emery, 1910b: 23; Gallardo, 1920: 333; Santschi, 1920d: 366; Borgmeier, 1923: 44; Borgmeier, 1955: 103; Kempf, 1972a: 128; Bolton, 1995b: 220.
    • Distribution: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru.
    • Current subspecies: nominal plus sedulus.
  • emiliae. Eciton (Labidus) praedator subsp. emiliae Mann, 1916: 421 (s.w.) BRAZIL (Pará).
    • Type-material: syntype workers (number not stated, “a large series”).
    • Type-locality: Brazil: Colonia de Veado, nr Obidos (E. Snethlage).
    • Type-depositories: MCZC, USNM.
    • Subspecies of praedator: Borgmeier, 1923: 44; Wheeler, W.M. 1923a: 2; Wheeler, W.M. 1925a: 2.
    • Junior synonym of praedator: Borgmeier, 1953: 10; Borgmeier, 1955: 103; Kempf, 1972a: 128; Bolton, 1995b: 219.
  • ferruginea. Eciton tepeguas var. ferruginea Norton, 1868b: 46 (s.) MEXICO (no state data, probably Veracruz).
    • Type-material: holotype worker.
    • Type-locality: Mexico: (no further data) (Sumichrast).
    • Type-depository: unknown (no material known to exist).
    • Subspecies of praedator: Dalla Torre, 1893: 5; Forel, 1899c: 26; Emery, 1900a: 186, 193; Emery, 1910b: 23.
    • Junior synonym of praedator: Borgmeier, 1955: 86; Kempf, 1972a: 128; Bolton, 1995b: 220.
  • guianense. Eciton (Labidus) praedator var. guianense Wheeler, W.M. 1921d: 311 (in text) (s.w.) GUYANA, COLOMBIA.
    • Type-material: syntype workers (number not stated).
    • Type-localities: Guyana (“British Guiana”): Kartabo, 1920 (W.M. Wheeler), and Colombia: Esperanza (A. Forel).
    • Type-depository: MCZC (probably also in MHNG).
    • Junior synonym of praedator: Borgmeier, 1953: 19; Borgmeier, 1955: 103; Kempf, 1972a: 128; Bolton, 1995b: 220.
  • tepeguas. Eciton tepeguas Norton, 1868b: 46 (s.) MEXICO (no state data).
    • Type-material: holotype worker.
    • Type-locality: Mexico: (no further data) (Sumichrast).
    • [Note: Borgmeier, 1955: 113 nominated Mexico: Veracruz.]
    • Type-depository: unknown (no material known to exist).
    • Junior synonym of praedator: Mayr, 1886b: 118; Dalla Torre, 1893: 5; Forel, 1899c: 26; Emery, 1910b: 23; Gallardo, 1920: 333; Borgmeier, 1923: 43; Borgmeier, 1955: 103; Kempf, 1972a: 127; Bolton, 1995b: 220.
  • westwoodi. Eciton westwoodi Emery, 1900a: 180 (m.) MEXICO (no state data), BRAZIL (Santa Catarina).
    • Type-material: syntype males (number not stated).
    • Type-localities: Mexico: (no further data), and Brazil: Santa Catarina (no collector’s name).
    • Type-depositories: MSNG, NHMW.
    • Status as species: Forel, 1907e: 2.
    • Junior synonym of praedator: Emery, 1910b: 23; Gallardo, 1920: 333; Santschi, 1920d: 366; Borgmeier, 1923: 44; Borgmeier, 1955: 103; Kempf, 1972a: 128; Bolton, 1995b: 220.

Taxonomic Notes

Jack Longino: Borgmeier (1955) recognized two subspecies: praedator s. str. and Labidus praedator sedulus (Menozzi 1926). The type locality of praedator s. str. is Brazil, of sedulus Colombia. The male of praedator s. str. had the frons relatively flat and the mandibles acuminate; the male of sedulus had the frons more elevated and the tip of the mandible obliquely truncate and somewhat emarginate. The soldier of praedator s. str. had the rear margin of the head more or less flat, not deeply emarginate; the soldier of sedulus had the rear margin deeply emarginate. The material examined by Borgmeier showed overlapping or interdigitated ranges. He identified workers of praedator s. str. from Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Guyana, throughout Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina; and males from Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. For sedulus, he identified workers from Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia; and males from Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Bolivia.

The males I have examined from Costa Rica have the emarginate mandibles of sedulus. The degree of emargination of the head of the soldier depends greatly on the size of the soldier, and I do not trust that character without a more quantitative assessment. Until variation is investigated more thoroughly, I prefer to refer to the Costa Rican material as praedator s. str. and to ignore sedulus until it is better defined.



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