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Species: Pachycondyla harpax   (Fabricius, 1804) 

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See Also:

Pachycondyla harpax_cf, Pachycondyla harpax concinna, Pachycondyla harpax dibullana, Pachycondyla harpax irina

Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2015)

Formica harpax Fabricius, 1804 PDF: 401 (w.) SOUTH AMERICA. Neotropic. AntCat AntWiki

Taxonomic history

Wheeler, 1900b PDF: 4, 17 (q.m.l.); Wheeler & Wheeler, 1952c PDF: 618 (l.).
Combination in Pachycondyla: Roger, 1863b: 18.
Senior synonym of Pachycondyla concinna, Pachycondyla dibullana, Pachycondyla irina, Pachycondyla montezumia (and its junior synonyms Neoponera amplinoda, Pachycondyla orizabana): Brown, 1950e PDF}: 247.
See also: MacKay & MacKay, 2010 PDF: 374.


Widespread in mainland Neotropics, from southern USA (Louisiana) to northern Argentina; also in Jamaica. Costa Rica: widespread in lowland forest, sea level to about 500m elevation, wet and dry forest habitats.


Natural History:

This species is one of the most common Pachycondyla species in Costa Rica. Foragers are common on the ground, never arboreal, and relatively more abundant at night. They occur in most samples of sifted leaf litter (Winkler samples), and I collected them once at a tuna bait. In Corcovado, I once observed a mid-morning mating swarm inside an insectary.

I have never found a nest of this common species. The nest must be subterranean. If they nested in the leaf litter or in dead wood, nests would be more frequently encountered.

Garcia-P. et al. (1997) observed harpax preying on termites (Gnathamitermes tubiformans) in the wild.

When pursued with forceps, workers release a stream of clear viscous secretion from the top of the abdomen (Overal 1987). Overal suggests these are defensive secretions employed in tunnels, where room is lacking in which to wield the sting.


Brown, W. L., Jr. 1950. Morphological, taxonomic, and other notes on ants. Wasmann J. Biol. 8(2):241-250.

Fabricius, J. C. 1804. Systema Piezatorum secundum ordines, genera, species, adjectis synonymis, locis, observationibus, descriptionibus. Brunswick: C. Reichard, xiv + 15-439 + 30pp. Ants - p. 395-428.

Garcia P., J. A., A. Blanco P., R. Mercado H., and M. Badii 1997. The predatory behavior of Pachycondyla harpax Fabr. on Gnathamitermes tubiformans Buckley in captivity conditions. Southwestern Entomologist 22:345-353 [Spanish].

Overal, W. L. 1987. Defensive chemical weaponry in the ant Pachycondyla harpax (Formicidae, Ponerinae). Journal of Entomological Science 22:268-269.

Taxonomic Treatment (provided by Plazi)

Forel, A., 1911:
[[worker]] [[queen]]. Raiz da Serra, Sao Paulo (v. Ihering).

Brown, W. L., 1950:
Formica harpax Fabricius , 1804, Systema Piezatorum, p. 401, worker.
Pachycondyla montezumia, Pred. Smith, 1858, Catalogue of the Hymenoptera of the British Museum, 6:108, worker, [[male]]. (New synonymy.)
Pachycondyla harpax var. dibullana Forel, 1901, Revue Suisse de Zoologie, 9:347, worker. (New synonymy.)
Pachycondyla harpax var. irina Wheeler , 1925, Arkiv fuer Zoologi, 17A (8):5, worker. (New synonymy.)
Pachycondyla harpax var. concinna Wheeler , 1925, Ibid., p. 5, worker, [[queen]]. (New synonymy.)
I have examined many specimens of the P. harpax complex, including those in the Wheeler collection placed as P. montezumia , and types of P. h. irina and P. h. concinna . The northsouth variation which has been claimed by Forel and Wheeler as the basis for retention of P. montezumia seems to me very difficult to demonstrate. I would call this situation at most a very weak cline. If I could pick a random series of this group from throughout the range and hide the labels, I feel sure that the percentage of determinations to the correct "race" by any competent entomologist would be little more than could be accounted for by chance. The bluish metallic reflections seen in many P. harpax workers constitute a widely distributed phenomenon among dark ponerines which is greatly overworked as a taxonomic criterion. State of preservation of specimens, presence of oil or dirt, and other factors can affect this metallescence to such a degree that its value is highly doubtful. Under a bluewhite fluorescent lamp, it cannot be seen at all, even when clear under a yellow light. If P. harpax can be broken down into categories correctly bearing the names synonymized above, there is presently no published proof of the fact that cannot easily be refuted by the proper survey of the series at hand in most large American and European museums. Additional collecting may change the interpretation here set forth, but if any of the names listed above are to be resurrected, it will have to be on a sounder basis than were the original definitions. The palps are segmented 4, 4.

Wild, A. L., 2007:
Amambay, Canindeyú , Concepción , Cordillera, Guairá , Itapúa (ALWC, BMNH, IFML, INBP, MHNG). Literature records: Amambay, Canindeyú , Cordillera “Paraguay” (s. loc.) (Emery 1890a, Forel 1895, Wild 2003).

Forel, A., 1905:
- Las Trincheras, La Moka.
- La Moka.

Specimen Habitat Summary

Found most commonly in these habitats: 382 times found in mature wet forest, 169 times found in tropical moist forest, 152 times found in tropical rainforest, 120 times found in tropical wet forest, 106 times found in 2º lowland rainforest, 106 times found in lowland wet forest, 104 times found in montane wet forest, 77 times found in 2º wet forest, 51 times found in lowland rainforest, 50 times found in mesophil forest, ...

Collected most commonly using these methods or in the following microhabitats: 677 times MiniWinkler, 504 times Baiting, 91 times Winkler, 123 times MaxiWinkler, 67 times Mini Winkler, 30 times Malaise, 27 times Search, 25 times Berlese, 7 times Pitfall, 8 times hand collecting, 0 times Under rock, ...

Elevations: collected from 5 - 1770 meters, 323 meters average

Type specimens: Lectotype of Pachycondyla harpax dibullana: casent0907250; syntype of Pachycondyla montezumia: casent0902516

(-1 examples)

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