Ophthalmopone berthoudi

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Ophthalmopone berthoudi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Genus: Ophthalmopone
Species: O. berthoudi
Binomial name
Ophthalmopone berthoudi
Forel, 1890

Pachycondyla berthoudi sam-hym-c007347a profile 1.jpg

Pachycondyla berthoudi sam-hym-c007347a dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels

At a Glance • Gamergate  • Termite specialist  




Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Afrotropical Region: Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


This queenless ant hunts termites exclusively, and foragers do not cooperate (Peeters & Crewe 1987). Colonies are polydomous, distributed over 2-7 nests separated by distances varying from 30cm to 75m. There is frequent relocation of workers and brood among nests (186±151 workers, range 20-840, n=34 nests excavated).

Worker in the entrance of its nest. From Laikipia, Kenya. Photo by Christian Peeters.
Worker of O. berthoudi about to carry a cocoon from one nest to another in the colony. Photo by Anthony Bannister.
Worker carrying a nestmate worker between nests. Photo by Anthony Bannister.
Worker capturing termites one by one. After stinging them, up to 10 termites are retrieved in a single trip. Photo by Christian Peeters.


Male behaviour in this queenless ant was studied in the field (Peeters & Crewe 1986). During several weeks of the year, a few males (1-8) flew off daily from each of a number of nests examined. Copulation with young workers occurs inside nests after foreign males succeed to enter.

In 34 nests excavated from Mkuze (northern Zululand), 1-108 workers had sperm in their spermathecae and ovaries with yolky oocytes (549 workers dissected; Peeters & Crewe 1985). However a majority of these mated workers lacked one or more mature oocytes ready to be laid. Nests collected before the onset of mating season had few gamergates and their fecundity was higher.

Ovaries of a gamergate of O. berthoudi. Only one mature oocyte can be seen in one of the six ovarioles. Photo by Christian Peeters.
Undeveloped ovaries of a virgin worker of O. berthoudi. Photo by Christian Peeters.

Twelve nests were excavated near Hoedspruit (Limpopo province) and a total of 619 workers were dissected. The number of mated workers per nest ranged from 1 to 36, and ovarian activity varied according to how many were present in a nest (Sledge et al. 1996). In nests with high proportions of mated workers, they exhibited diverse behaviours (mainly brood-related) and in some cases could not be distinguished behaviourally from virgin workers. In nests with low proportions of gamergates, these were more fecund and did not participate in colony labour. The behavioural profile of gamergates is therefore linked to their reproductive physiology (Sledge et al. 1999).

Unlike other queenless ants where dominance interactions regulate reproductive activity among workers, there is no aggression in O. berthoudi, and mesh experiments showed that contact pheromones underlie regulation (Sledge et al. 2001).


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

  • berthoudi. Ophthalmopone berthoudi Forel, 1890b: cxiii (w.) SOUTH AFRICA. Forel, 1894b: 76 (m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1971b: 1203 (l.). Combination in Pachycondyla: Brown, in Bolton, 1995b: 303; in Ophthalmopone: Schmidt & Shattuck, 2014: 124. Current subspecies: nominal plus pubescens. See also: Arnold, 1915: 50; Peeters & Crewe, 1985: 29; Peeters & Crewe, 1987: 201.