Myrmecophiles

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Myrmecophiles may occupy a variety of ecological niches within their host ant colony. Some consume waste materials in the nests, such as dead ants, dead larvae, or fungi growing in the nest. A few feed on external secretions of ants and some are fed directly by their host ants. Some myrmecophiles feed on the stored food supplies of ants, and a few are predatory on ant eggs, larvae, pupae or even adults. Others benefit the ants by providing a food source for them. Many myrmecophilous relationships are obligate, meaning one or the other participant requires the relationship for survival. Some associations are facultative, benefiting one or both participants but not being necessary to their survival. Many myrmecophiles await discovery and for many the nature of the relationship with their host is unknown.

Cremastocheilus planatus
Mountain Alcon Blue (Phengaris rebeli)
Microdon abstrusus from nest of Formica exsectoides
Haeterius brunnipnenis from nest of Formica exsectoides

Blattodea

Ectobiidae

There are nine species of Attaphila, all are myrmecophiles in nests of leaf-cutting ants.

  • The world's cutest cockroach, Attaphila, which inhabits the nests of leafcutter ants. Photo by Alex Wild.

Coleoptera

Brentidae

Buprestidae

Carabidae

Harpalinae


Paussinae

Paussinae have a predominantly pan-tropical distribution. They comprise about 800 species. Some members of which are known also as flanged bombardier beetles.

There are thirty-two species in this genus. All are assumed to be myrmecophiles.

The genera of the Paussidae of the Baltic amber. Zool Anz 68(1/2): 25-30. A single species, Eopaussus balticus from Baltic Amber.

There are seven species in this myrmecophilous genus of Carabidae.

There are 26 species in this myrmecophilous genus

A myrmecophilous genus of 12 species from South and Central America.

The genus Lebioderus Westwood, 1938, belongs to the subtribe Platyrhopalina Jeannel, 1946, of the tribe Paussini Latreille, 1807, and is represented by nine species from Southeast Asia, including Indonesia [Jawa (Java), Sumatera (Sumatra), and Kalimantan], Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia), and the Philippines (Luzon) (Luna de Carvalho, 1987).

  • Paussoides

Paussoides mengei is found in Prussian amber.

There are two extinct species in this genus from the Lower Oligocene, Florissant, Colorado.

A most species-rich genus with more than 368 described species, all are assumed to have an obligatory symbiosis with ants. In this symbiosis the beetles provide rewarding chemical secretions to their host ants and in return receive protection, a safe place for their vulnerable larvae to develop and a reliable source of protein-rich food: the ants, particularly the brood.

There are sixteen species in this genus.

Pseudomorphinae

Curculionidae

Endomychidae

Endomychidae includes a number of species closely associated with social insects, particularly ants and termites. Wasmann (1894) listed 11 endomychids associated with ants. Price and Young (2007) noted the close proximity of adults of Rhanidea unicolor to a colony of Lasius ants, although no direct association was inferred. Myrmecophily is the most common form of social insect inquilinism among endomychids; however, termitophilous and melittophilous species are also known. Endomychids have also been recovered from birds' nests.

Histeridae

Histeridae is worldwide in distribution with just under 4,300 known species, grouped into about 350 genera. It reaches its highest diversity in the tropics. Both subfamilies Chlamydopsinae, mainly distributed in southern Asia, Pacific, and Australia, and Haeteriinae contain myrmeco- or termitophilous species. It is accepted that myrmecophiles feed on the larvae of ants or other insects or even regurgitated food from the host ants (Lapeva-Gjonova, 2013).

  • A large histerid beetle walking in an Eciton lucanoides migration column. Photo by Philipp Hönle.

Chlamydopsinae

With 177 species, chlamydopsines form the second significant radiation of histerid myrmecophiles, with a single species recorded in association with termites (CATERINO & DÉGALLIER 2007). The group is confined principally to the tropics of the Australasian, Indomalayan and Oceanian regions, but extends northwards into subtropical Japan. Most species appear to be morphologically specialised obligate colony guests, possessing trichomes that envelop deep clefts or depressions on the elytral humeri, or more rarely on the pronotum. Unfortunately, the biology of chlamydopsines is exceptionally poorly known, although the beetles have been observed feeding on ant larvae and being carried by their hosts, which may use the elytral clefts as grasping notches (OKE 1923). Although the majority of species have been collected using flight intercept traps and thus lack host association data (TISHECHKIN 2009), collections made directly from colonies reveal that as a group, chlamydopsines utilize diverse host ants, although ponerines appear to be the most commonly used ant subfamily (CATERINO & DÉGALLIER 2007). Chlamydopsine larvae await discovery.


Dendrophilinae

Haeteriinae

Haeteriines (Fig. 2D) number 335 described species in more than 100 genera, although the true diversity is far larger (M. Caterino, pers. comm.). Monophyly of the group is highly likely, aside from a few aberrant genera of questionable placement (KOVARIK & CATERINO 2005), and the subfamily may rank alongside Paussini (Carabidae, discussed above) and Clavigeritae (Staphylinidae: Pselaphinae, discussed below) as one of the most speciose clades of beetle myrmecophiles. The group also includes scattered termitophilous species (TISHECHKIN 2005). As with paussines and clavigerites, many genera include one or just a few species – a symptom of the extreme morphological diversity of the subfamily that can obscure even close phylogenetic relationships. Haeteriines range from small species with relatively generalised morphologies, to larger-bodied and heavily armoured species with dramatic cuticular protruberances, particularly on the pronotum, most likely for withstanding grasping ant mandibles. Trichomes are present in various taxa, and some have very elongate legs to grasp or groom hosts (AKRE 1968, KISTNER 1982). Haeteriines are predominantly Neotropical, but extend into North America and three genera also occur in the Palaearctic. Individual haeteriine genera are adapted to their ant hosts in diverse ways: some are attacked or largely ignored by their hosts, while others are highly integrated guests, which may be fed trophallactically by workers (WHEELER 1908, HENDERSON & JEANNE 1990). A recent biochemical study of one of the European genera, Sternocoelis, provided evidence that the beetles can actively synthesise cuticular hydrocarbon blends to match the odour profiles of their Aphaenogaster host colonies (LENOIR & al. 2012). The greatest number of haeteriine species are army ant inquilines (HELAVA & al. 1985, TISHECHKIN 2005), with almost 30 genera associated with Eciton alone. Adults appear to be highly host-specific (TISHECHKIN 2005), and are attracted to trails of their hosts and repelled by trails of non-host species (AKRE & RETTENMEYER 1968). The beetles have been observed feeding on the ants' brood and harvested food, and to run with or phoretically attach to workers during emigrations (AKRE 1968). DNA sequencing of histerid larvae sifted from under Eciton bivouacs and refuse dumps successfully identified haeteriines (CATERINO & TISHECHKIN 2006), implying that the entire lifecycles of at least some of these army ant guests take place in or around, host colonies.

A myrmecophilous genus found in Arizona and Mexico. Host ants are unknown.

A myrmecophilous genus of six species found in North, Central, and South America. This genus is found in the nest of Solenopsis.

There are four species in this myrmecophilous genus that live in the nests of Solenopsis

A myrmecophilous genus found with Pheidole ants.

This is a myrmecophilous genus of six species. Neivamyrmex is the probable host ant.

This Palearctic genus of five species is characterized by its elongate and subcylindrical shape, short, very wide tibia, and triangular labrum. They live in ant nests of several genera including Lasius, Aphaenogaster, Formica, and Tetramorium.

The genus Sternocoelis Lewis, 1888 is a small genus of myrmecophilous histerids with 27 described species distributed in the Mediterranean area with most species described from Morocco and Algeria.

There are fourteen species in this myrmecophilous genus of New World Histeridae. The host ant is the genus Pheidole.

There are six species in this myrmecophilous genus of Histeridae.

Hydrophilidae


Ptinidae

Scarabaeidae

Cetoniinae

There are thirty-two species from China and adjacent regions; host ant Liometopum.

Aphodiinae

Salpingidae

Staphylinidae

  • Eciton burchellii raiding column complete with a myrmecophilous staphylinid beetle. Photo by Taku Shimada.


Aleocharinae

Lomechusini
Zyras funestus
Zyras humeralis
Zyras limbatus
Oxypodini

Pselaphinae

Scydmaeninae

Includes 117 myrmecophilous species in 20 genera.

  • O'Keefe, Sean (2000). "Ant-Like Stone Beetles, Ants, and Their Associations (Coleoptera: Scydmaenidae; Hymenoptera: Formicidae; Isoptera)". ‘’J. N. Y. Entomol. Soc.’’ (NYC: N. Y. Entomol. Soc.) 108 (3/4): 273–303.

Tachyporinae

Tenebrionidae

Pimeliinae

Adelostomini

Tenebrioninae

Diptera

Syrphidae

Microdontinae

There are 43 genera and more than 400 species in this subfamily of Syrphidae. The Microdontinae are Myrmecophiles, meaning they live in the nests of ants. Larval Microdontinae are scavengers or predators in ant nests, and, in contrast to other syrphid larvae, have no readily apparent body segmentation. Some species also do not exhibit the typical adult flower-visiting behaviour of other hoverflies, but instead remain near their larval host colonies (some of these species have no functional mouthparts and cannot feed as adults)

Orthoptera

Myrmecophilidae

There are five genera of ant-loving crickets in this family and around 100 species. They are obligate inquilines within ant nests. World-wide in distribution, many species are found with different species and genera of ant hosts. Many ant hosts are still unknown. All species are very small, yellow, brown, or nearly black in color, wingless, and flattened, and resemble small cockroach nymphs. They do not produce sound, and lack both wings and tympanal organs ("ears") on the front tibia. There are sixty-three species in this genus.

Lepidoptera / Butterflies

Lycaenidae

  • Phengaris (=Maculinea) (Lycaenidae) - Sielezniew et al. (2015) - Caterpillars develop on specific host plants (depending on species: Thymus or Origanum, Gentiana and Sanguisorba) and complete their development inside the nests of specific red ants (Myrmica sp.) as social parasites feeding on the hosts’ brood, or being fed by trophallaxis (Thomas, 1995).

Hovestadt et al. (2019) used a population-genetic model to show how individual Maculinea species could theoretically switch ant hosts.

  • ant hosts
      • Myrmica schencki host of Mountain Alcon Blue (Phengaris rebeli) - fairly well studied association, see M. schencki species page
      • Myrmica lonae host of Large Blue (Phengaris arion)

Mites

There are a large number of mite species that live on and with ants.

  • Caesarodispus

A genus of mites that use ants for transportation (phoresy).

Sortable table
Ant Species Mite Reference Remarks
Pheidole sp. alate Caesarodispus pheidolei Rahiminejad et al. 2015 described from mites found on alates in northern Iran
Tetramorium sp. alate Caesarodispus khaustovi Rahiminejad et al. 2015 described from mites found on alates in northern Iran
Tetramorium sp. alate Caesarodispus nodijensis Rahiminejad et al. 2015 described from mites found on alates in northern Iran
  • Oplitis

Dos Santos Lopes et al. (2015) - Most Oplitidae are myrmecophilous or termitophilous (Hunter and Farrier 1975, 1976), with adults as the most commonly encountered instar on the ants. Available data suggest that host specificity in Oplitidae is quite high, with individual oplitid species usually associated with only one, or a few closely related, host species (Hunter and Farrier 1975, 1976; Campbell et al. 2013). Oplitis is found worldwide, but current understanding of local faunas varies widely among regions. For example, while the European fauna is fairly well studied, the Neotropical fauna is still relatively poorly known (Sellnick 1926, 1954, 1963; Zirngiebl-Nicol and Hirschmann 1973a, 1973b; Hirschmann 1975, 1991; Hiramatsu and Hirschmann 1983; Kontschán and Starý 2012).

A survey of mites on ants in the genus Neoponera from the state of Bahia, northeastern Brazil, revealed a new Oplitis species of the paradoxa-Gruppe (Hirschmann 1991), interpreted here as Oplitis s.s., which will be described for the adult instars. This species is associated with three closely related Neoponera species in the Apicalis complex (Wild 2005).

  • Oplitis apicalis

Dos Santos Lopes et al. (2015) - Associated with: Neoponera verenae, Neoponera inversa and Neoponera apicalis.

A total of 291 Oplitis specimens were recovered attached to ants. Five of these specimens, recovered from three different nests of N. verenae, were identified as O. camponoti (Hirschmann 1991). Most likely this is accidental, as O. camponoti is normally associated with ants in the genus Camponotus (Hirschmann 1991).

  • Petalomium

Da Silva et al. (2017) - The mite genus Petalomium Cross 1965 (Acari: Heterostigmatina: Neopygmephoridae) includes about 40 described species, most of them associated with ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) (Khaustov 2015). The papers referring to Petalomium in Neotropical region are Mahunka (1981), describing P. affinitum from Santa Lucia, West Indies, and Berghoff et al. (2009), reporting 2 unidentified species from Republic of Panama. The aim of this study is to describe a new species associated with workers of the poneromorph ant Neoponera verenae from southern Bahia, Northeastern Brazil. For purposes of comparison, a closely related species, Petalomium gottrauxi Mahunka 1977 is redescribed based on the paratype and specimens from the Crimean Peninsula.

Sortable table
Ant Species Mite Reference Remarks
Camponotus aethiops Petalomium gottrauxi Da Silva et al.. 2017 Known from Crimea and Iran
Myrmica ruginodis Petalomium gottrauxi Da Silva et al.. 2017 Known from Switzerland and Hungary
Neoponera verenae Petalomium verenae Da Silva et al., 2017 Brazil. Phoretic females attached to hairs between the first and second pairs of coxae

Collembola

Pseudoscorpions

  • Marachernes bellus (Harvey, 1992)

References