Messor barbarus

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Messor barbarus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Stenammini
Genus: Messor
Species: M. barbarus
Binomial name
Messor barbarus
(Linnaeus, 1767)



The harvester ant, Messor barbarus, causes 46–100% of the seed losses in arable fields in northeastern Spain (Westerman et al. 2012). In irrigated fields in Valencia, M. barbarous represents the majority of the ant population (Urbaneja et al. 2006).


Keys including this Species


Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Palaearctic Region: Algeria, Balearic Islands, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Gibraltar, Iberian Peninsula, Monaco, Morocco (type locality), Portugal, Romania, Spain, Tunisia.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


A 2013 study of 55 citrus orchards in eastern Spain (Atanackovic et al., 2015) found: Messor barbarus was the only granivorous species present, with nests found on the field edges and between the tree rows in the field. No nests were observed under the trees, which is most likely related to the lack of insulation. The nests were large in size (quantified by having several nest entrances and a high number of workers), while small colonies were detected in only a few fields. The number of nests was approximated to be zero-to-five nests per field, based on observations from the diagonal transect, as well as between the rows. Seed predation was observed in almost all the fields with M. barbarus. The harvester ants mostly removed Lolium rigidum and Solanum spp. seeds, although in one orchard, Conyza spp. seeds were observed surrounding the nest entrances."

M. barbarus were the main ant species that were observed in the fields, as confirmed by previous studies in this area (Monzó et al. 2013). They are present in citrus orchards during most of the year, except in the winter months of November to April (Urbaneja et al. 2006). Messor barbarus never climbs on trees, but forages on the soil surface; therefore, it is a species that does not damage citrus fruits (Platner et al. 2012). In the surveyed fields, ant nests were located both in the field and on the borders. This differed from the drip-irrigated citrus orchards in Valencia, where the ants were settled only along the edge (Monzó et al. 2013). Cerdà et al. (2009) did not find differences in the nest numbers between the margins and the inner part of the citrus orchards.

Gonçalves et al (2017) found this to be one of the most common ants in the Iberian vineyards they sampled (pitfall trapping).


Pekár et al. (2018) - This ant is preyed upon by numerous spider species in the genus Zodarion (Araneae: Zodariidae). All members of this genus are specialized ant predators that exclusively prey on ants.



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

  • barbarus. Formica barbara Linnaeus, 1767: 962 (w.) MOROCCO. Mayr, 1861: 67 (q.m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1953b: 65 (l.). Combination in Aphaenogaster: Roger, 1863b: 29; in A. (Messor): Forel, 1890a: lxviii; in Messor: Forel, 1894d: 8; in Stenamma (Messor): Emery, 1898c: 125; in Messor: Ruzsky, 1903b: 315; Bingham, 1903: 278. Senior synonym of binodis, juvenalis: Smith, F. 1858b: 162; of megacephala: Mayr, 1863: 395; of rufitarsis Foerster: Roger, 1863b: 29; of ambiguus, nigriceps: Collingwood, 1978: 68; of sordida: Cagniant & Espadaler, 1998: 424. Current subspecies: nominal plus gallaoides, mediosanguineus, politus, sahlbergi, santschii, varrialei.
  • binodis. Formica binodis Fabricius, 1775: 393 (w.) EGYPT. [Unresolved junior primary homonym of Formica binodis Linnaeus, 1763: 413 (now in Tetramorium).] Junior synonym of barbarus: Smith, F. 1858b: 162.
  • juvenilis. Formica juvenilis Fabricius, 1804: 405 (w.) FRANCE. Junior synonym of barbarus: Smith, F. 1858b: 162.
  • megacephala. Formica megacephala Leach, 1825: 292 (w.q.m.) FRANCE. [Unresolved junior primary homonym of Formica megacephala Fabicius, 1793: 361 (now in Pheidole).] Junior synonym of barbarus: Mayr, 1863: 395.
  • rufitarsis. Myrmica rufitarsis Foerster, 1850b: 485 (w.) ALGERIA. [Unresolved junior primary homonym of rufitarsis Fabricius, above.] Junior synonym of barbarus: Roger, 1863b: 29.
  • sordida. Aphaenogaster (Messor) barbara r. sordida Forel, 1892g: 452 (w.) SPAIN. Santschi, 1917e: 89 (s.). Combination in Messor: Emery, 1897f: 239. Subspecies of barbarus: Santschi, 1925g: 342 (in key); Wheeler, W.M. 1927g: 104. Raised to species: Bondroit, 1918: 152; Cagniant, 1964: 88; Bernard, 1967: 145. Junior synonym of barbarus: Cagniant & Espadaler, 1998: 424.
  • ambiguus. Messor barbarus var. ambiguus Santschi, 1925g: 342 (w.) TUNISIA. Junior synonym of barbarus: Collingwood, 1978: 68.
  • nigriceps. Messor barbarus var. nigriceps Santschi, 1925g: 341 (w.q.) SPAIN. Junior synonym of barbarus: Collingwood, 1978: 68.



  • Atanackovic, V., A. Juarez-Escario, J. Recasens, and J. Torra. 2015. A survey of Lolium rigidum populations in citrus orchards: Factors explaining infestation levels. Weed Biology and Management. 15:122-131. doi:10.1111/wbm.12075
  • Bingham, C. T. 1903. The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Hymenoptera, Vol. II. Ants and Cuckoo-wasps. London: Taylor and Francis, 506 pp. (page 2 78, Combination in Messor)
  • Cagniant, H.; Espadaler, X. 1998 [1997]. Le genre Messor au Maroc (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Ann. Soc. Entomol. Fr. (n.s.) 33: 419-434 (page 424, Senior synonym of sordida)
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1978. A provisional list of Iberian Formicidae with a key to the worker caste (Hym. Aculeata). EOS. Rev. Esp. Entomol. 52: 65-95 (page 68, Senior synonym of ambiguus and nigriceps)
  • Emery, C. 1898c. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der palaearktischen Ameisen. Öfvers. Fin. Vetensk.-Soc. Förh. 20: 124-151 (page 125, Combination in Stenamma (Messor))
  • Forel, A. 1890b. Fourmis de Tunisie et de l'Algérie orientale. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 34:lxi-lxxvi. (page lxviii, Combination in A. (Messor))
  • Forel, A. 1894d. Les Formicides de la Province d'Oran (Algérie). Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 30: 1-45 (page 8, Combination in Messor)
  • Goncalves, F., V. Zina, C. Carlos, L. Crespo, I. Oliveira, and L. Torres. 2017. Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and Spiders (Araneae) Co-occurring in the Ground of Vineyards from Douro Demarcated Region. Sociobiology. 64:404-416. doi:10.13102/sociobiology.v64i4.1934
  • Linnaeus, C. 1767. Systema naturae, per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum caracteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Pars 2. Editio duodecima, reformata. Holmiae [= Stockholm]: L. Salvii, pp. 533-1327. (page 962, worker described)
  • Mayr, G. 1861. Die europäischen Formiciden. Nach der analytischen Methode bearbeitet. Wien: C. Gerolds Sohn, 80 pp. (page 67, queen, male described)
  • Mayr, G. 1863a. Formicidarum index synonymicus. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 13: 385-460 (page 395, Senior synonym of megacephala)
  • Pekar, S., L. Petrakova, O. Sedo, S. Korenko, and Z. Zdrahal. 2018. Trophic niche, capture efficiency and venom profiles of six sympatric ant-eating spider species (Araneae: Zodariidae). Molecular Ecology. 27:1053-1064. doi:10.1111/mec.14485
  • Roger, J. 1863b. Verzeichniss der Formiciden-Gattungen und Arten. Berl. Entomol. Z. 7(B Beilage: 1-65 (page 29, Combination in Aphaenogaster; Senior synonym of rufitarsis Foerster)
  • Ruzsky, M. 1903b. Essay on the myrmecofauna of the Kirghiz steppe. Tr. Rus. Entomol. Obshch. 36: 294-316 (page 315, Combination in Messor)
  • Smith, F. 1858a. Catalogue of hymenopterous insects in the collection of the British Museum. Part VI. Formicidae. London: British Museum, 216 pp. (page 162, Senior synonym of binodis and juvenalis)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1953b. The ant larvae of the myrmicine tribe Pheidolini (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 55: 49-84 (page 65, larva described)