Temnothorax nitens

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Temnothorax nitens
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Crematogastrini
Genus: Temnothorax
Species group: andrei
Species: T. nitens
Binomial name
Temnothorax nitens
(Emery, 1895)

Temnothorax nitens casent0102840 profile 1.jpg

Temnothorax nitens casent0102840 dorsal 1.jpg

"This species nests under stones or logs. One nest was found in a termite nest. Nests contain 69-276 workers (Cole. 1958a) and are monogynous. This species occurs in Ponderosa Pine and pinyon-juniper forests. Sexuals have been found in nests from June to August." (Mackay 2000)


Prebus 2017 - A member of the andrei clade.

Ward (2005) - characterized by a strongly cuneate (wedge-shaped) petiole, as seen in profile. Body color varies from pale yellow to medium brown. Integument sculpture tends to be light; the head and mesosoma are finely reticulate-foveolate, with extensive shiny areas usually on the front of the head and occasionally on the mesosoma dorsum. The propodeal spines are variable, relatively short but better developed (on average) than in Temnothorax andrei, and usually as prominent as the anteroventral petiolar process, or more so. In the holotype worker of Temnothorax nitens the mesosoma dorsum is smooth and shiny centrally, but as noted by others (Wheeler 1903d; Cole 1958c) the head and mesosomal sculpture is highly variable in this species, and both shiny and more heavily sculptured workers can be found in the same nest. I have also observed this in California populations from the Sierra Nevada. The California workers with a shiny promesonotum tend to have weak longitudinal carinulae encroaching anteriorly and laterally, as in the Temnothorax nitens type.

Keys including this Species


Western US including Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas.

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 48.058231° to 19.30861111°.

Tropical South

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

Countries Occupied

Number of countries occupied by this species based on AntWiki Regional Taxon Lists. In general, fewer countries occupied indicates a narrower range, while more countries indicates a more widespread species.

Estimated Abundance

Relative abundance based on number of AntMaps records per species (this species within the purple bar). Fewer records (to the left) indicates a less abundant/encountered species while more records (to the right) indicates more abundant/encountered species.


Ward 2005 "A diverse array of habitats from sea level to ~2600m"




Explore-icon.png Explore Overview of biology 
Not much is known about the the biology of this taxon. We can speculate that its biology is likely to be similar to other North American species of this genus.

Temnothorax is a diverse genus but most species do show a remarkable consistency in some important aspects of their biology. Workers and colonies are small. As a group they nest in many places: small cavities in the soil, under or among stones or in small cavities in living or dead vegetation. Individually, most species have a strong preference for how and where they nest, e.g., there are gall nesting species, soil nesters, arboreal species, those that nest in small downed twigs, etc. Their nest entrances are often a cryptic, tiny hole that is only found by observing a worker exiting or entering the nest. A few common and abundant species are relatively well studied but the majority are rare or are rarely collected. For all but the most common and abundant species finding a nest is difficult because of the combination of their small colony size, small workers, unaggressive behavior, and diminutive, inconspicuous nests. In a few cases where we do know the diet of a species, it consists of sweet exudates and general scavenging of insect pieces and other items. It is presumed most of the unstudied Temnothorax have a similar diet. Aphid tending and hunting small soil arthropods may also be a part of their foraging repertoire. For all the consistency in these characters, individual species exhibit wide variation in others. Habitat affinities are often restrictive at the species level (but overall Temnothorax can be found in places that range from high elevation, high latitude, forests to hot, dry desert regions). Queen number is difficult to predict; there are species that are polygnous, monogynous, and even some species with seasonal polydomy that vary in nesting site queen number over the course of the year. There is also little consistency in color from species to species. ‎

Life History Traits

  • Queen number: monogynous (Frumhoff & Ward, 1992)



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

  • nitens. Leptothorax (Leptothorax) nitens Emery, 1895c: 322, pl. 8, fig. 16 (w.) U.S.A. Cole, 1958c: 536 (q.m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1973b: 71 (l.). Combination in L. (Myrafant): Smith, D.R. 1979: 1394; in Temnothorax: Bolton, 2003: 271. Senior synonym of mariposa, melinus: Ward, 2005: 17. See also: Wheeler, W.M. 1903c: 244; Mackay, 2000: 379.
  • mariposa. Leptothorax nitens var. mariposa Wheeler, W.M. 1917a: 507 (w.) U.S.A. Combination in L. (Myrafant): Smith, D.R. 1979: 1393; in Temnothorax: Bolton, 2003: 271. Junior synonym of nitens: Creighton, 1950a: 265. Revived from synonymy and raised to species: Cole, 1958c: 536; as species in Mackay, 2000: 362. Junior synonym of nitens: Ward, 2005: 17.
  • melinus. Leptothorax (Myrafant) melinus Mackay, 2000: 368, figs. 29, 33, 132 (w.) U.S.A. Combination in Temnothorax: Bolton, 2003: 271. Junior synonym of nitens: Ward, 2005: 17.

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



Testacea, pedibus dilutioribus, superne nitida, capite nitidissimo, vertice fere impunctato, genis et fronte rugulosis, clypeo antice striatulo, postice laevigato, haud carinato, margine antico subsinuato,mandibulis basi striatis, antennis 12articulatis, flagelli articulo primo sequentibus tribus una longiore, clavae articulis 2 primis subaequalibus; thoracis dorso haud impresso, nitido, parce punctato, lateribus opacis, crebre punctatis, dentibus metanoti brevissimis; pedunculi segmento 1. brevi, nodo alto, cuneiformi, segmento 2. praecedente paulo crassiore; piUs corporis modice copiosis, brevibus, clavatis. Long. 2 1/4 mm.


(Cole 1958) Head densely punctate and subopaque except for a narrow longitudinal strip, between the median ocellus and the clypeus, which is finely and faintly punctate and rather shining; hairs sparse, slender, pointed, erect and suberect, yellow, of variable length, mostly limited to ocellar area, mandibles, and clypeus. Thorax, except scutum, strongly shining, very faintly punctulate and longitudinally striate; scutum distinctly striato-punctulate and shining to subopaque; epinotal declivity finely and faintly punctate. Mayrian furrows moderately developed. Thoracic dorsum with sparse, slender, pointed, mostly suberect and subappressed, moderately long hairs which are longest on scutellum. Petiolar and postpetiolar nodes with very sparse, suberect hairs. Gaster with sparse, scattered, moderately long, slender, pointed, appressed, subappressed, and suberect hairs. Pubescence absent from entire body.


(Cole 1958) alate - Epinotal spines prominent, rather long, very broad at base, pointed apically, directed posteriorly. Petiole and postpetiole as in worker. Cephalic dorsum with very sparse, rather long, blunt, slender, erect, yellow hairs. Gular area with abundant, short, slender, pointed, suberect hairs. Thoracic dorsum with numerous erect, mostly short (but variable in length), slender, blunt, yellow hairs. Hairs on petiolar and postpetiolar nodes long, slender, pointed, rather numerous. Lateral surfaces of epinotum densely punctate; infraspinal facet transversely striato-punctate. Head and thorax rather uniformly and longitudinally rugulose, faintly and finely punctulate, and shining. Gastric hairs moderately abundant, slender, scattered, of unequal length, erect and sub erect dorsally, sub erect laterally. Pubescence everywhere very dilute. Body color a rather deep tan, gaster strongly infuscated.

Type Material

Mackay (2000) - type locality: USA, San Francisco. Although Creighton (1950) states there are no types in this country, the holotype (consisting of only a mesosoma) is in the National Museum of Natural History (labeled AmFkCan. 23-6 Ut; USNMType # 54075) (seen). A specimen labeled as a type in Emery's collection Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Genoa is incorrectly labeled (seen). The locality is: USA, San Francisco. The specimen is poorly mounted and the head is covered with glue so it is impossible to identify it.


  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 271, Combination in Temnothorax)
  • Cole, A. C., Jr. 1958c. North American Leptothorax of the nitens-carinatus complex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 51: 535-538 (page 536, queen, male described, Senior synonym of heathi)
  • Creighton, W. S. 1950a. The ants of North America. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 104: 1-585 (page 265, Senior synonym of occidentalis )
  • Emery, C. 1895d. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der nordamerikanischen Ameisenfauna. (Schluss). Zool. Jahrb. Abt. Syst. Geogr. Biol. Tiere 8: 257-360 (page 322, pl. 8, fig. 16 worker described)
  • MacKay, W. P. 2000. A review of the New World ants of the subgenus Myrafant, (genus Leptothorax) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 36: 265-444 (page 379, see also)
  • Mackay, W. P. and E. Mackay. 2002. The ants of New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, NY.*Prebus, M.M. 2021. Taxonomic revision of the Temnothorax salvini clade (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), with a key to the clades of New World Temnothorax. PeerJ 9, e11514 (doi:10.7717/peerj.11514).
  • Smith, D. R. 1979. Superfamily Formicoidea. Pp. 1323-1467 in: Krombein, K. V., Hurd, P. D., Smith, D. R., Burks, B. D. (eds.) Catalog of Hymenoptera in America north of Mexico. Volume 2. Apocrita (Aculeata). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Pr (page 1394, Combination in L. (Myrafant))
  • Snelling, R. R.; Borowiec, M. L.; Prebus, M. M. 2014. Studies on California ants: a review of the genus Temnothorax (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). ZooKeys 372:27-89. doi:10.3897/zookeys.372.6039
  • Ward, P.S. 2005. A synoptic review of the ants of California (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 936: 1-68 (page 17, Senior synonym of nitens var. mariposa, melinus)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1973b. Ant larvae of four tribes: second supplement (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae). Psyche (Camb.) 80: 70-82 (page 71, larva described)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1903d. A revision of the North American ants of the genus Leptothorax Mayr. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phila. 55: 215-260 (page 244, see also)

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

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