Temnothorax whitfordi

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Temnothorax whitfordi
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Crematogastrini
Genus: Temnothorax
Species: T. whitfordi
Binomial name
Temnothorax whitfordi
(Mackay, W.P., 2000)

Temnothorax whitfordi casent0005934 profile 1.jpg

Temnothorax whitfordi casent0005934 dorsal 1.jpg

Mackay (2000) "This species nests in branches of Quercus oaks (gray oak, Arizona oak) and other trees, including a mesquite branch (Prosopis glandulosa), which was full of tunnels, at a height of 3 meters (San Luis Potosi). The habitat ranges from desert scrub, with Yucca sp., Prosopis sp., and Opuntia spp. to oak forests. Brood were found in nests in August. One completely excavated nest contained 1 queen, 2 males and 35 workers (# 10956), a second contained 1 queen and 116 workers (# 17975). A single worker was collected loose in an unspecified tree, in a desert arroyo with oaks and Celtis. Specimens in the Davis Mts. were collected in mixed pine-juniper-oak forests. Nests in the Guadalupe Mts. were found in mixed oak-pinyon pine-juniper forests. The soil is a rocky loam, or rocky fine sand. When the nests are disturbed, they primarily attempt to rescue the brood. They are also much more aggressive than the typical Leptothorax, attacking and stinging. The sting is surprisingly painful, similar to that of the thief ants in the genera Solenopsis or Wasmannia. Liometopum apiculatum also nests in branches of the oaks, and this Leptothorax may be so aggressive as it must protect nests from the former species, which were attempting to prey on the brood of Leptothorax during excavation."


Mackay (2000) - A member of the Temnothorax emmae species complex. The workers of this species are small, dark brown specimens with an 11-segmented antenna. The dorsum of the head is mostly smooth and shining, the pronotum is almost completely covered with coarse punctures. The dorsum of the head and pronotum may be smooth and shining. The propodeal spines consist of tiny angles. The petiole is thickened with a round node.

The presence of an 11-segmented antenna easily separates Temnothorax whitfordi from all of the other species in the subgenus with similar sculpture. The smooth dorsum of the head and partially smooth pronotum would separate it from Temnothorax schaumii. The sculpture of the mesosoma is nearly identical to that of Temnothorax mexicanus. The specimen from near Las Cruces differs from the type series in that the propodeal spines are more developed, the subpeduncular process is poorly developed (well developed in the type series) and the pronotum is covered with larger punctures that approach the form of foveolae (punctures in "normal" Temnothorax whitfordi, with a few wavy striae and areas that are nearly smooth and shining). Specimens from the Davis Mountains are similar in having more developed spines (they are still small), nearly foveolate punctures on the pronotum, but have a well developed subpeduncular process. Some of the specimens from Mexico (San Luis Potosi) differ from the New Mexican specimens. The pronotum of these specimens is partially smooth and shining, whereas the entire mesosoma of Temnothorax whitfordi is usually heavily punctate, nearly foveolate (Fig 189). The top of the dorsal face of the propodeum of this form has fine transverse rugulae, the similar surface of Temnothorax whitfordi is punctate (sides of the propodeum may have poorly defined longitudinal striae). There is a transition between the sculpturing of all of these various extremes, and they are thus considered to be Temnothorax whitfordi. It is possible that Temnothorax whitfordi is a species complex, but further collecting will be necessary to evaluate the variability within the species.

Keys including this Species


United States: Arizona, Southeastern New Mexico, western Texas.

Mexico: northern Mexico.

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


Desert scrub to oak forests.


Only known from a few collections.


Not much is known about the the biology of Temnothorax whitfordi. We can speculate that the biology of this species 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.


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

  • whitfordi. Leptothorax (Myrafant) whitfordi Mackay, W.P., 2000: 421, figs. 65, 67, 188-190 (w.q.m.) U.S.A. Combination in Temnothorax: Bolton, 2003: 272.

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.



Mandibles with 5 or 6 teeth; anterior border of clypeus concave to convex, clypeus with well defined medial carina, 2 or 3 lateral carinae; sides of head and vertex straight or weakly concave; scape short, extendingabout 3/4distance to posterior corner of head, antenna with 11 segments; mesosoma with none of sutures breaking surface sculpture; propodeal spines consisting of tiny angular processes; peduncle of petiole with well developed ventral tooth, with prominent flange above point of attachment, anterior petiolar face straight, posterior face convex, petiolar node broadly rounded and blunt.

Hairs scattered and erect, with blunt or weakly spatulate tips, present on most surfaces, except legs and antennae, especially coarse and blunt tipped on petiole and postpetiole; decumbent pubescence sparse, present on legs and antennae.

Sculpture characteristic of this species: head in large part smooth and shining, lateral parts with fine costulae, fine rugae between eye and frontal carinae and eye and base of mandibles, entire mesosoma, petiole and postpetiole completely covered with coarse, dense punctures, but shining, pronotum may be lightly punctate, but gaster smooth and polished.

Color: medium to dark brown.

Worker measurements: HL 0.54-0.62, HW 0.47-0.55, SL 0.370.41, EL 0.15-0.18, WL 0.62-0.71, PW 0.14-0.18, PL 0.16-0.22, PPW 0.18-0.22, PPL 0.14-0.17. Indices: CI 87-93, SI 66-69, PI 70-100, PPI 113-157.


Similar to worker in most aspects, differing in that rugae extend over entire surface of head, intrarugal spaces shining, sides of mesosoma shining, but with abundant striae and rugae, propodeal spines consisting of only angles, apex of node of petiole more angulate.

Female (dealate) measurements: HL 0.65, HW 0.64, SL 0.44, EL 0.20, WL 1.15, PPW 0.31, PPL 0.19. Indices: CI 98, SI 68, PPI 163.


Mandible with 3 or 4 teeth; median anterior border of clypeus convex, clypeus with longitudinal carinae. without any transverse carinae; eyes large; ocelli well developed; scape very short, about as long as first 3 funicular segments; propodeum rounded posteriorly, without evidence of angles; petiole with low, rounded node, ventral surface of peduncle without tooth or flange.

Erect hairs very sparse on body, some, with pointed tips, especially on gaster; decumbent pubescence absent.

Sculpture mostly smooth and shining, dorsum of head lightly punctate with rugae on sides of head.

Color: light brown.

Male measurements: HL 0.42-0.43, HW 0.46-0.47. SL 0.08-0.10. EL 0.22-0.23, WL 0.86-0.91. PW 0.14-0.17, PL 0.13-0.16. PPW 0.17, PPL 0.14-0.16. Indices: CI 107-112, SI 19-24, PI 88-131. PPI 106-121.

Type Material

USA, New Mexico, Eddy Co., Guadalupe Mountains, 5.3 k SE Sitting Bull Falls, 32°12'15"N 104°40'23"W, 1559 meters, 31-viii-1997, W&E Mackay # 17575, 17566. Holotype worker Museum of Comparative Zoology and 63 paratype workers American Museum of Natural History, California Academy of Sciences, William and Emma Mackay Collection, Field Museum of Natural History, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, EMAU, Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Genoa, MCZC, Musee d'Histoire Naturelle Genève, Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de Sao Paulo, National Museum of Natural History, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.


Patronym. "Named in honor of my close friend, Dr. Walter Whitford, who has published many papers on the ants of southwestern United States."


  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 272, Combination in Temnothorax)
  • MacKay, W. P. 2000. A review of the New World ants of the subgenus Myrafant, (genus Leptothorax) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 36: 265-444 (page 421, figs. 65, 67, 188-190 worker, queen, male described)
  • Mackay, W. P. and E. Mackay. 2002. The ants of New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, NY.
  • 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)

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Des Lauriers J., and D. Ikeda. 2017. The ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California, USA with an annotated list. In: Reynolds R. E. (Ed.) Desert Studies Symposium. California State University Desert Studies Consortium, 342 pp. Pages 264-277.
  • Johnson R. Personnal Database. Accessed on February 5th 2014 at http://www.asu.edu/clas/sirgtools/resources.htm
  • Johnson, R.A. and P.S. Ward. 2002. Biogeography and endemism of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Baja California, Mexico: a first overview. Journal of Biogeography 29:1009–1026/
  • Mackay W. P. 2000. A review of the New World ants of the subgenus Myrafant, (genus Leptothorax) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 36: 265-444.
  • Mackay W. P., and E. E. Mackay. 2002. The ants of New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 400 pp.
  • Mackay, W.P. and E. Mackay. XXXX. The Ants of New Mexico
  • Snelling R.R., M. L. Borowiec, and M. M. Prebus. 2014. Studies on California ants: a review of the genus Temnothorax (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). ZooKeys 372: 27–89. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.372.6039
  • Ulyssea M. A., L. P. Prado, C. R. F. Brandao. 2015. Type specimens of the traditional Myrmicinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) ant tribes deposited in the Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil: Adelomyrmecini, Basicerotini, Blepharidattini, Crematogastrini, Formicoxenini, Lenomyrmecini, Myrmicini, Phalacromyrmecini, Pheidolini, Stegomyrmecini, Stenammini and Tetramoriini. Papeis Avulsos de Zoologia, Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de Sao Paulo 55(12): 175-204.
  • Vásquez-Bolaños M. 2011. Lista de especies de hormigas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) para México. Dugesiana 18: 95-133