AntWiki: The Ants --- Online

Mealybugs are insects in the family Pseudococcidae, unarmored scale insects found in moist, warm climates.

Photo Gallery

  • A nest under a large log in rainforest, Danum Valley, Sabah, Malaysia.
  • An Acropyga goeldii worker carries a mealybug. Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil (image by Alex Wild).
  • Profile view of an Acropyga glaesaria paratype, carrying mealybug in mandibles.
  • Mating Acropyga epedana ants, the queen carrying a mealybug in her mandibles. Acropyga live nearly entirely by consuming secretions of root-feeding mealybugs, and the mealybugs depend on the ants for dispersal and protection. When young queen ants leave the nest to mate and start new colonies, they take a mealybug with them. Portal, Arizona, USA. Photo by Alex Wild.


Fossil specimens of genus Acropyga have been found in Dominican amber carrying the extinct mealybug genus Electromyrmococcus (Johnson et al., 2001). These fossils represent the oldest record of the symbiosis between mealybugs and Acropyga species.


A southeastern Asian genus, established colonies of Cladomyrma never lack sap-sucking scale insects inside their nest hollows, and the ants appear to be dependent on their honeydew excretions (Moog et al. 2005). Dissection of 338 founding chambers of eight Cladomyrma species showed that coccoid abundance strongly increases with founding age. The scale insects belong to a wide range of taxa, mainly Pseudococcidae. Coccidae are rare except in Cladomyrma maschwitzi.

List of Known Ant-Mealybug Associations

Ant Relationship Mealybug Locality Source Notes
Acropyga arnoldi mutualist Eumyrmococcus scorpioides Africa Prins, 1982; LaPolla & Spearman, 2007; Schneider & LaPolla, 2020
Acropyga ayanganna mutualist Neochavesia lapollai Williams LaPolla & Schneider, 2023
Acropyga epedana mutualist Rhizoecus colombiensis Williams and LaPolla, 2004
Acropyga exsanguis mutualist Geococcus coffeae LaPolla (2004)
Acropyga exsanguis mutualist Neochavesia sp. LaPolla (2004)
Acropyga exsanguis mutualist Pseudorhizoecus proximus LaPolla (2004)
Acropyga exsanguis mutualist Rhizoecus caladii LaPolla (2004)
Acropyga exsanguis mutualist Rhizoecus coffeae Bünzli, 1935; Roba, 1936; LaPolla, 2004
Acropyga exsanguis mutualist Rhizoecus falcifer LaPolla (2004)
Acropyga glaesaria mutualist Electromyrmoccus abductus Dominican Amber (Miocene)
Acropyga glaesaria mutualist Electromyrmoccus inclusus Dominican Amber (Miocene)
Acropyga glaesaria mutualist Electromyrmoccus reginae Dominican Amber (Miocene)
Acropyga manuense mutualist Neochavesia podexuta LaPolla & Schneider, 2023
Acropyga nipponensis mutualist Eumyrmococcus nipponensis Japan Terayama, 1985, 1986
Acropyga sauteri mutualist Eumyrmococcus smithii Terayama, 1988; LaPolla, 2004
Acropyga silvestrii mutualist Williamsrhizoecus udzungwensis Tanzania Schneider & LaPolla, 2020
Polyrhachis schellerichae mutualist Kermicus wroughtoni Schellerich-Kaaden et al. 1997


  • Johnson, M.S. et al. 2001. Acropyga and Azteca Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) with Scale Insects (Sternorrhyncha: Coccoidea): 20 Million Years of Intimate Symbiosis. American Museum Novitates. 3335: 1–18 (doi:10.1206/0003-0082(2001)335<0001:AAAAHF>2.0.CO;2).
  • Noe, Ronald (November 21, 2012). "Fire Ants Protect Mealybugs against Their Natural Enemies by Utilizing the Leaf Shelters Constructed by the Leaf Roller Sylepta derogata". US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. PMC 3503828