Results matching “Pachycondyla”



Hello!

Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. I was recently traveling in Costa Rica and happened to take a camera shot of some interesting ant behavior. I have no idea what is going on here, but would sure like to find out. Have you ever seen this kind of behavior before? (see attached image)

Please let me know.

Mike

IMG_0056.JPG

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Mike,

Great image! What you have documented here, quite beautifully, is a number of Azteca workers "spread-eagling" a Pachycondyla gyne (future queen). This is an interesting and well-known behavior of the genus Azteca (Dejean et al., 2009), which is well known for its mutualistic associations with plant species (Cordia, Cecropia). The mutualism between the plants and the ants relies on the plants providing food and shelter to the ants, and the ants fervently defending the plants from herbivores and other competitive plants. This behavior, known as "spread-eagling", is usually employed by the workers to protect the plants from insect herbivores or intruders, and is not restricted to the plant alone.

Because the Pachycondyla gyne has not started her colony yet and become a queen (you can tell because she has not dropped her wings yet), it is likely that the Azteca ants are showing this aggression to defend their territory before she can start a colony and get a foothold in their area. Although the pictures don't show it, I'm guessing the gyne did not escape alive.

Hope this answers your question, I've included the reference below.

Thanks,

Max Winston & the AskAntTeam

Dejean, A., Grangier, J., Leroy, C., & Orivel, J. (2009) Predation and aggressiveness in host plant protection: a generalization using ants from the genus Azteca. Naturwissenschaften. 96:57-63.

An enthusiast attends the Ant Course


[The following contribution is by Ant Course participant 'Harpegnathos']

I am not a professional myrmecologist and have had no formal education in entomology, but after I obtained a copy of Hölldobler and Wilson's The Ants in 1994, an abiding interest in ants turned into a passion. Over the years I acquired a microscope, a camera for photographing ants, every ant book Amazon sells, a better microscope, better camera gear. I became a participant and eventually a moderator in the American ant enthusiast internet site, The Ant Farm and Myrmecology Forum (antfarm.yuku.com). I studied ants in the field while living in Europe and several American States, with further travel to Africa and the Middle East. I learned how to collect and preserve specimens, some of which found their way to university collections. But my skills are self-taught, and with no face-to-face interaction with real myrmecologists, I missed the benefit of professional feedback, advice, and direction. Reading books and papers has its limits.

Of course when I heard about Ant Course, I had to apply. Of course seats are limited and priority goes to university students and researchers who need the course for their work, so I didn't get in. So I applied again. And again. And again. After applying five times (or six?), I finally was accepted to attend this year's iteration in Kibale Forest, Uganda. So now I'm here, surrounded by real myrmecologists and students of myrmecology, with an opportunity to learn all the things that I could never learn from books, like how to actually pronounce all those crazy Latin and Greek names, such as clypeus, pygidium, Pachycondyla, Odontomachus, and Dolichoderinae!

Except it turns out no two myrmecologists pronounce these words the same way. O-dont-o-MOCK-us, o-dont-o-MAKE-us, to-MAH-to, to-MAY-to. Still, I am learning plenty of other skills I would never have figured out on my own, and I'm meeting some great people. Plus the ants here in Kibale Forest are amazingly diverse and endlessly fascinating. Here are a couple of photographs from the first few days in Uganda:

king3.jpgCamponotus tending scale insects, Entebbe Botanical Garden.

king2.jpgStrumigenys rescuing brood from intrusive myrmecologists.

king1.jpgA new species of Tetramorium, nicknamed the "Teddy Bear Ant," carrying a termite.

- Harpegnathos@antfarm

[update 8/10: ant expert Barry Bolton emails in identifications for the species pictured above as Camponotus probably brutus, Strumigenys probably lujae, and Tetramorium pulcherrimum.]



Dear AntAsk,

Last night my brother was stung by something that looked a lot like the Myrmecia piliventris. I didn't take a picture (I was too busy trying to kill it), but I found Alex Wild's photo on the internet, and the thing that bit my brother looked a lot like it.
I read on Wikipedia that these ants are mostly found in Australia, and since we live in Namibia, I was wondering what it could be? Any idea?

Thanks!
Corien


Dear Corien,

Next time, kill the ant more carefully! (or better yet, photograph it alive, like Alex Wild would). Without specific information about which parts of the ant reminded you of Myrmecia, it's hard to say what species it was. One thing I'm fairly certain of is that it is not Myrmecia piliventris. Unless you or one of your neighbors just came back from a trip to Australia, it's pretty unlikely that genus would show up anywhere outside of Australia, or the islands immediately next to it (Myrmecia is also native to New Caledonia). Members that genus have been reported by New Zealand quarantine officers, though, so it's not impossible that commerce will one day introduce a "bulldog" ant to some place beyond the land down under.

I'd say your best bet is to check our Ants of Kenya page. It's still not exactly Namibia, but the genera at least are much more likely to occur in both Kenya and Namibia than Australia and Namibia.

If it was the mouthparts (mandibles) of Myrmecia that reminded you of the ant that stung your brother, then some possibilities that leap to mind are the genera Leptogenys and Plectroctena. Plectroctena can grow quite large (with a headwidth of 4mm). Leptogenys are generally smaller, and look as if they are probably faster. Although they do have pretty noticeable stings, it would have been difficult to see the mandibles on most Leptogenys species I'm aware of without using a microscope, so I doubt it's that one.

Another noteworthy trait that Myrmecia has are their large eyes. In Africa, Asia, and Australia, the ants with some of the largest eyes relative to their head sizes belong to the genus Tetraponera. These ants (and their relatives in the Americas, Pseudomyrmex) have some of the largest eyes in the ant family, and their elongate bodies are similar in shape to the bodies of Myrmecia. While some Tetraponera can grow quite large and be rather aggressive, like the Southeast Asian Tetraponera rufonigra, I can't find evidence that there is a Tetraponera that big in West Africa.

In many parts of the world, especially in the tropics, if a medium-large ant has just painfully stung you, there's a good chance it belongs to the genera Pachycondyla or Odontomachus. These don't bear a specific resemblance to Myrmecia (Odontomachus does have elongate mandibles, but they are attached near the midline of their faces, rather than at the corners as in Myrmecia, Plectroctena, and Leptogenys), but they might be more common in some places than other genera mentioned in this post.

Good luck! Feel free to send us pictures if you see an ant like that again!
best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team


Hello,
My residence is near Seattle, Washington State, Northwest USA.

We are interested in the Chinese Medicine uses of-
Mountain Ant ( Polyrhachis vicina, Polyrhachis lamellins and other species of nutritional Ant)

Is there a USA variety that might have equivalent nutritional qualities?

Is it possible to buy them, and to raise them?

Thank you,
Michael

Dear Michael,

We're so glad you're interested in ants and the way people use them. I had heard people talking about medicinal uses of ants a few years ago, and the results of one study I was able to find do seem convincing. However, a shortcoming of many studies of traditional medicinals is a lack of replication and long-term, controlled studies.

The genus Polyrhachis does not occur in North or South America. Because the chemicals thought to be responsible for the potentially medicinal properties of Polyrhachis extract are not often studied by ant biologists, it is impossible to say if any ants in North America also possess this quality.

Outside of the US, researchers around the world have been experimenting with medicinal qualities of some of their local ants. For example, researchers in Japan studied another Chinese ant, Formica aquilonia, and published their findings here here. They seem to have found some potential for pharmacological activity, although they didn't study effects in living organisms, just in test tubes.

A group from Saudi Arabia found evidence of anti-inflamitory activity in extracts from the ant Pachycondyla sennaarensis. Both of these studies show promise, and it will be interesting to see what other hymenopterans (the group that includes ants, bees, and wasps) might prove to be medically useful. However, we do not recommend you try any of your own experiments unless you are a professional. Remember: the ants, bees, and wasps also can induce anaphylaxis.

We also strongly discourage you from trying to import and breed any ants (or any type of organism) across national borders. Many of the most damaging invasive species are ants. It would be sad if an innocent attempt to learn more about traditional medicine resulted in unnecessary damage to your local ecosystem. Importing ants from other countries (alive or dead) is illegal without the proper permits.

Sorry that we don't have any more positive recommendations. Polyrhachis are among the most beautiful ants, and they are very common in the forests of Northern Australia, Southeast Asia, and Central Africa. Perhaps you could take a trip to learn more about them and see them in the wild!

Best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the Antask Team

Hello,
I have a question about a type of ant we have here in south Texas. Here in Hebbronville we have an ant that sound very much like the Paraponera ant. The ant has a VERY painful sting and it is large and black. The sting is much more painful than that of our native gold scorpions. just wondering what type of ant this may be. They live at the base of older Mesquite trees and my grandparents use to call them "palmoranas" thats a Spanish word for these ants.

Thank you,
Daniel


Dear Daniel,

There are over 140 species of ants known from Texas. You can see a list of the species and images of most of them here.

Without seeing the ant it is hard to be sure what species you are encountering, but I can tell you it is not Paraponera clavata since this ant is not found that far north. You can see a map of the known distribution here.

The ant with the painful sting is likely a species of Pachycondyla if they mostly forage on the ground. These ants are know to be aggressive and have painful stings when disturbed. On the other hand if the ants run up and down the mesquite tree then they could be a species of Pseudomyrmex, which can also have painful stings.

I hope you continue to observe all the diverse and beautiful ants around you!

Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team

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