Pheidole californica

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Pheidole californica
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Pheidole
Species: P. californica
Binomial name
Pheidole californica
Mayr, 1870

Pheidole californica casent0006758 profile 1.jpg

Pheidole californica casent0006758 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label


Colonies have been found nesting variously under objects, in oak galls, or in open sandy soil (Cole 1934b; Mallis 1941). Stefan Cover reports a population in moist spots in a grazed Chihuahuan desert at 1295 m in Hidalgo, extreme southwest New Mexico. The colonies were nesting in soil with a high clay content; the most common other ant species was Temnothorax pergandei. (Wilson 2003)


The Pheidole californica complex comprises three closely related and partly sympatric species of seed harvesting ants restricted to the western Nearctic region. Pheidole clementensis Gregg may be distinguished from both Pheidole californica Mayr and Pheidole creightoni Gregg by the diagonal rather than longitudinal rugulae between the clypeus and the eye in lateral View. The closely related P. californica and P. creightoni are most readily distinguished from one another by the angle of their lateral cephalic setae. Pheidole californica has decumbent setae forming an angle of forty-five degrees or less with the lateral margins of the head in full face view, while the cephalic setae of P. creightoni emerge at an angle of approximately ninety degrees. (Burge, 2005.)

See also the description in the nomenclature section.

Keys including this Species


Pheidole californica is broadly distributed in the western Nearctic region (Burge, 2005); California north to Washington, east to Idaho and New Mexico (Wilson, 2003).

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: United States (type locality).
Neotropical Region: Mexico.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb







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

  • californica. Pheidole californica Mayr, 1870b: 987 (s.w.) U.S.A. Wheeler, W.M. 1915b: 406 (q.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1972b: 243 (l.). Senior synonym of incenata, satura: Creighton, 1950a: 173; of pyramidensis: Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1986g: 13; of oregonica (and its junior synonyms hagermani, shoshoni): Wilson, 2003: 564.
  • hagermani. Pheidole californica var. hagermani Cole, 1936a: 35 (s.w.) U.S.A. Junior synonym of oregonica: Creighton, 1950a: 173.
  • incenata. Pheidole californica var. incenata Wheeler, W.M. 1915b: 407 (s.w.) U.S.A. Junior synonym of californica: Creighton, 1950a: 173.
  • nevadensis. Pheidole californica subsp. nevadensis Wheeler, W.M. 1915b: 408 (s.w.q.) U.S.A. [Junior primary homonym of nevadensis Forel, above.] Replacement name: pyramidensis Emery, 1922e: 105.
  • oregonica. Pheidole oregonica Emery, 1895c: 291 (s.w.) U.S.A. Wheeler, W.M. 1915b: 408 (q.). Subspecies of californica: Wheeler, W.M. 1915b: 407; Creighton, 1950a: 173. Senior synonym of hagermani: Creighton, 1950a: 173; of shoshoni: Gregg, 1959: 19. Junior synonym of californica: Wilson, 2003: 564.
  • pyramidensis. Pheidole californica subsp. pyramidensis Emery, 1922e: 105. Replacement name for nevadensis Wheeler, W.M. 1915b: 408. [Junior primary homonym of nevadensis Forel, 1901e: 353.] Junior synonym of californica: Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1986g: 13.
  • satura. Pheidole californica var. satura Wheeler, W.M. 1915b: 407 (s.w.) U.S.A. Junior synonym of californica: Creighton, 1950a: 173.
  • shoshoni. Pheidole californica var. shoshoni Cole, 1933: 618 (s.w.) U.S.A. Subspecies of californica: Creighton, 1950a: 174. Junior synonym of oregonica: Gregg, 1959: 19.

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


From Wilson (2003): A member of the “pilifera subgroup” of the larger pilifera group, comprising Pheidole calens, Pheidole californica, Pheidole carrolli, Pheidole cavigenis, Pheidole clementensis, Pheidole creightoni, Pheidole hoplitica, Pheidole littoralis, Pheidole micula, Pheidole pilifera, Pheidole polymorpha, Pheidole rugulosa, Pheidole senex, Pheidole soritis, Pheidole tepicana and Pheidole torosa, which subgroup is distinguished by the following traits. Major: dorsal head surface extensively sculptured; occipital lobes horizontally rugulose (or, in littoralis, foveate, in carrolli, smooth, and in micula and soritis, carinulate); postpetiole from above diamond-shaped, trapezoidal, or spinose. Minor: eye medium-sized to large.

P. californica is distinguished by the following combination of traits. Color yellow.

Major: all of pronotum smooth and shiny; humerus in dorsal oblique view low and smoothly convex; propodeal spine in side view equilaterally triangular; postpetiole from above trapezoidal. Closest to clementensis, from which it differs by its smaller size (HW in californica major about 0.90 mm, in clementensis major about 1.10 mm) and proportionately larger eye (major EL/HW 0.20 in californica versus 0.13 in clementensis). Also, the sides of the major head are smooth and shiny in some, but not all, californica populations (Philip S. Ward, personal communication).

MEASUREMENTS (mm) Major (Palo Alto, California): HW 0.92, HL 1.06, SL 0.54, EL 0.18, PW 0.44. Minor (Palo Alto): HW 0.48, HL 0.56, SL 0.48, EL 0.12, PW 0.28.

COLOR Major: concolorous yellow; gaster a slightly contrasting brownish yellow.

Minor: yellow with a slight brownish tinge.

Pheidole californica Wilson 2003.jpg

Figure. Upper: major. Lower: minor. CALIFORNICA: Palo Alto. Scale bars = 1 mm.

Type Material

San Francisco. Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna - as reported in Wilson (2003)


Based on the state of origin of the type series. (Wilson 2003)


  • Burge, D.O. 2005. Taxonomy, biology, and distribution of seed harvesting ants in the Pheidole californica complex (Hymenoptera Formicidae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 14, 137-150.
  • Cole, A. C., Jr. 1934b. An ecological study of the ants of the southern desert shrub region of the United States. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 27: 388–405.
  • Creighton, W. S. 1950a. The ants of North America. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 104: 1-585 (page 173, senior synonym of incenata and satura)
  • Mayr, G. 1870b. Neue Formiciden. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 20: 939-996 (page 987, soldier, worker described)
  • Mallis, A. 1941. A list of the ants of California with notes on their habits and distribution. Bull. South. Calif. Acad. Sci. 40: 61–100.
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1972b. Ant larvae of the subfamily Myrmicinae: second supplement on the tribes Myrmicini and Pheidolini. J. Ga. Entomol. Soc. 7: 233-246 (page 243, larva described)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1986g. The ants of Nevada. Los Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, vii + 138 pp. (page 13, senior synonym of pyramidensis)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1915b. Some additions to the North American ant-fauna. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 34: 389-421 (page 406, queen described)
  • Wilson, E. O. 2003. Pheidole in the New World: A dominant, hyperdiverse ant genus. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. (page 564, Senior synonym of oregonica)