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Species: Tapinoma melanocephalum   (Fabricius, 1793) 

Download Data

See Also:

Tapinoma melanocephalum coronatum, Tapinoma melanocephalum malesianum

Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2018)

2 subspecies

Formica melanocephala Fabricius, 1793 PDF: 353 (w.) FRENCH GUIANA. Neotropic. AntCat AntWiki HOL

Taxonomic history

Emery, 1887a PDF: 249 (m.); Forel, 1891c PDF: 102 (q.); Wheeler & Wheeler, 1951 PDF: 197 (l.); Crozier, 1970a PDF: 119 (k.).
Combination in Micromyrma: Roger, 1862b PDF: 258; in Tapinoma: Mayr, 1862 PDF: 651; in Tapinoma (Micromyrma): Santschi, 1928e PDF: 475.
Senior synonym of Tapinoma pellucida: Mayr, 1886c PDF: 359; of Tapinoma nana: Emery, 1892c PDF: 166; of Tapinoma familiaris: Forel, 1899B: 101; of Tapinoma australis: Wilson & Taylor, 1967b PDF: 80; of Tapinoma australe: Bolton, 1995b: 401.
See also: Smith, 1979: 1421; Shattuck, 1994 PDF: 148.


 Species is native to: Indomalaya bioregion (based on species list records).

Afrotropical Region: Africa, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Eastern Africa, Guinea, Middle Africa, Saint Helena, Senegal, South, South-West, Western Africa
Australasia Region: Australia, Australia and New Zealand, Central, Choiseul, East New Britain, Eastern Highlands, Guadalcanal, Malaita, Morobe, New Caledonia, Nord, Norfolk Island, Northern, Northern Territory, Oceania, Papua New Guinea, Queensland, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Western Australia
Indomalaya Region: Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Asia, Bangladesh, Borneo, Cambodia, Christmas Island, Goa, India, Indonesia, Krakatau Islands, Lampung, Laos, Malaysia, Nicobar Island, Okinawa, Philippines, Singapore, South-Eastern Asia, Southern Asia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Yunnan
Malagasy Region: Anjouan, Antsiranana, Comoros, Europa Island, Fianarantsoa, Grande Comore, Juan de Nova Island, Madagascar, Mahajanga, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mohéli, Reunion, Rodrigues, Seychelles, Toamasina, Toliara
Nearctic Region: California, Canada, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North America, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, United States
Neotropical Region: Americas, Anguilla, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Caribbean, Cayman Islands, Central, Central America, Chiapas, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Duarte, Ecuador, French Guiana, Galapagos Islands, Galápagos, Gracias a Dios, Granma, Guadeloupe, Guanacaste, Guantánamo, Guatemala, Guerrero, Guyana, Haiti, Heredia, Honduras, Jinotega, Martinique, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mexico, Minas Gerais, Monseñor Nouel, Nacional, Nayarit, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Petén, Puerto Rico, Puntarenas, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Cristóbal, San José, Santiago de Cuba, Sinaloa, South America, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago
Oceania Region: Airai, Angaur, Ba, Cakaudrove, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Kadavu, Kayangel, Lau, Lomaiviti, Macuata, Melanesia, Micronesia, Naitasiri, Ngatpang, Niue, Palau, Peleliu, Polynesia, Rewa, Samoa, Sonsorol, Tailevu, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuamasaga, Wallis and Futuna
Palearctic Region: Afghanistan, Alicante, Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Eastern Asia, Eastern Europe, Europe, Finland, France, Hungary, Japan, Macaronesia, Netherlands, Northern Africa, Northern Europe, Oman, Romania, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Southern Europe, Spain, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Western Asia, Western Europe, Yemen

Distribution Notes:

One record from Wallonia, only indoors


Natural History:

This is a widespread tropical tramp species, introduced throughout the world. Its native range is unknown. It is ubiquitous in non-airconditioned dwellings anywhere in the lowland tropics. Regardless of whether you are in Guinea, New Guinea, or Guyana, if you are sitting at a table with a sugar dispenser you are likely to see workers of T. melanocephalum running about on the surface. They always seem to be able to find their way into the sugar container, and sugar on tropical tables always contains some non-negligible fraction of T. melanocephalum workers. When you put a spoonful of sugar in your drink, you can judge the level of contamination by how many workers are left floating on the surface.

In quantitative biodiversity surveys, this species often has to be excluded from data analysis because the laboratory where samples are processed contains T. melanocephalum as a pest, and contamination of samples occurs.

Although most often found in houses, they can also move out into surrounding vegetation in highly disturbed and highly insolated habitats, opportunistically nesting in small plant cavities. Nests readily relocate, and overnight they can move into a shoe or an umbrella left on a porch.


Introduced species


(Dutch vernacular name: spookdraaigatje)

Taxonomic Treatment (provided by Plazi)

Scientific Name Status Publication Pages ModsID GoogleMaps
Tapinoma melanocephalum   Ward, P. S., 2005, A synoptic review of the ants of California (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)., Zootaxa 936, pp. 1-68: -1, (download) -1 21008
Tapinoma melanocephalum   Forel, A., 1891, Histoire naturelle des Hymenopteres. Deuxieme partie: Les Formicides., Histoire Physique, Naturelle et Politique de Madagascar., Paris: L'Imprimerie Nationale, pp. 1-231: 101-103, (download) 101-103 6734
Tapinoma melanocephalum   Forel, A., 1893, Formicides de l'Antille St. Vincent. Récoltées par Mons. H. H. Smith., Transactions of the Entomological Society of London 1893, pp. 333-418: 352-353, (download) 352-353 3948
Tapinoma melanocephalum   Collingwood, C. A., 1979, The Formicidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark., Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica 8, pp. 1-174: 36, (download) 36 6175
Tapinoma melanocephalum   Forel, A., 1912, The Percy Sladen Trust Expedition to the Indian Ocean in 1905, under the leadership of Mr. J. Stanley Gardiner, M. A. Volume 4, No. 11. Fourmis des Seychelles et des Aldabras, reà § ues de M. , Transactions of the Linnean Society of London, Zoology 15, pp. 159-167: 164, (download) 164 4046
Tapinoma melanocephalum   Wild, A. L., 2007, A catalogue of the ants of Paraguay (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)., Zootaxa 1622, pp. 1-55: 25, (download) 25 21367
Tapinoma melanocephalum   Emery, C., 1893, Voyage de M. E. Simon à l'île de Ceylan (janvier - février 1892). 3 e Mémoire. Formicides., Annales de la Société Entomologique de France 62, pp. 239-258: 11, (download) 11 3767
Tapinoma melanocephalum   Forel, A., 1895, Nouvelles fourmis de diverses provenances, surtout d'Australie., Annales de la Societe Entomologique de Belgique 39, pp. 41-49: -1, (download) -1 3954
Tapinoma melanocephalum   Espadaler, X., 2007, The ants of El Hierro (Canary Islands)., Advances in ant systematics (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): Homage to E. O. Wilson - 50 years of contributions., Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute, 80, pp. 113-127: 117, (download) 117 21278

Specimen Habitat Summary

Found most commonly in these habitats: 35 times found in urban/garden, 52 times found in mature wet forest, 35 times found in coastal scrub, 31 times found in rainforest, 13 times found in urban garden, 10 times found in secondary thicket and diverse vegetation, 8 times found in tropical dry forest, 11 times found in montane wet forest, 10 times found in disturbed forest, 5 times found in littoral rainforest, ...

Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 89 times on low vegetation, 78 times ex sifted leaf litter, 61 times malaise trap, 18 times ex dead twig above ground, 11 times ex rotten log, 12 times under tree bark, live tree, 14 times ground forager(s), 12 times sifted litter (leaf mold, rotten wood), 7 times under stone, 1 times foraging on ground, 4 times dead wood, ...

Collected most commonly using these methods: 71 times MiniWinkler, 62 times M, 7 times H, 15 times Berlese, 7 times Winkler, 9 times search, 8 times hand collecting, 8 times MW 50 sample transect, 5m, 5 times hand collection, 6 times beating low vegetation, 2 times davis-sifting; incidental aspirated, ...

Elevations: collected from 1 - 2000 meters, 169 meters average

Type specimens: syntype of Myrmica pellucida: casent0901925; syntype of Myrmica pellucida: casent0903062; syntype of Tapinoma melanocephalum australe: casent0911572; syntype of Tapinoma melanocephalum australe: casent0903063

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