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Species: Anoplolepis gracilipes   (Smith, 1857) 

Download Data

Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2020)

Formica gracilipes Smith, 1857a PDF: 55 (w.) SINGAPORE. Indomalaya. AntCat AntWiki HOL

Taxonomic history

Mayr, 1867a PDF: 73 (q.).
Senior synonym of Anoplolepis trifasciata: Mayr, 1867a PDF: 73.
Junior synonym of Anoplolepis longipes (Jerdon, 1851): Emery, 1887a PDF: 247.
hence first available replacement name for Formica longipes Jerdon, 1851 PDF: 122, designated by Bolton, 1995b: 67.
[Junior primary homonym of Formica longipes Latreille, 1802a: 233 (now Pheidole longipes).].


  Geographic regions (According to curated Geolocale/Taxon lists):
    Africa: Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles
    Americas: Mexico
    Asia: Brunei, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Yemen
    Europe: United Kingdom
    Oceania: Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna
  Biogeographic regions (According to curated Bioregion/Taxon lists):
    Australasia, Indomalaya, Malagasy, Nearctic, Neotropical, Oceania, Palearctic
  Native to (according to species list records):
    Indomalaya bioregion

Distribution Notes:

Global (Wetterer 2005): In tropical Asia and tropical islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, A. gracilipes occurs throughout the moist lowlands, but is not commonly found in arid regions and sites above 1200 m elevation. In tropical Africa, it is known only from Dar es Salaam and nearby Zanzibar. In tropical Australia, A. gracilipes has been recorded primarily from moist monsoon rainforests along perennial springs and streams in the northern region and in a few towns on the north and east coasts. In the Neotropics, there are records of A. gracilipes from western Mexico. In subtropical Asia, A. gracilipes ranges up to 26-27N in northern India, southern China, and southern islands of Japan. I found only six records from latitudes >27, two from exterminated urban populations (Auckland, New Zealand; Brisbane, Australia) and three from probably temporary populations (Valparaso, Chile; Durban, South Africa; Zayul, Tibet). The sixth population, on Amami-Oshima Island, Japan, may or may not be temporary. Anoplolepis gracilipes is not yet known from many moist lowland tropical areas where it would probably thrive, including west-central Africa and much of the Neotropics. Populations in western Mexico are prevented from expanding eastward by a central mountain range, but may be able to spread south, around the mountains, to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Records from arid Baja California, Mexico indicate that A. gracilipes can invade and persist in areas with arid climates, perhaps due to moderating effects of irrigation.

Fiji (Sarnat & Economo, in prep): Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Kadavu, Gau, Koro, Moala, Lakeba, Beqa, Yasawa Is., Macuata Is., Nanui-i-Ra I.

Hawaii: Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii


According to the IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group A. gracilipes is among the 100 most pervasive and destructive invasive species in the world (Lowe, et al., 2000), and is most notably implicated in the 'ecological meltdown' of Christmas Island (O'Dowd, et al., 2001;2003). Introduced populations of Anoplolepis gracilipes can exhibit unicolonial behavior by forming multiple, populous high-density supercolonies. On Christmas Island, A. gracilipes was recorded to achieve the highest density of foraging ants ever recorded (Abbott, 2005). Colonies are polydomous and polygynous and disperse by budding. Nests occasionally hosting hundreds of queens and thousands of workers. The species has generalized foraging and nesting habits, and often achieve high densities in agricultural landscapes. Part of the species invasion success has been attributed to its strong mutualisms with nectar and honeydew producing insects like scales and aphids.


Anoplolepis gracilipes is a large, slender, brownish yellow species most easily identified by it extraordinarily long limbs. The antennal scapes are greater than 1.5x the head length, and the full antennae are longer than the entire body from the apical tip of the mandibles to the distal tip of the gaster. The head is ovoid and distinctly longer than broad. The antennae are 11-segmented and the mandibles have 8 teeth. The eyes are large and bulge well beyond the outline of the head in full face view. The mesosoma is long and slender. The pronotum in particular, is extended anteriorly giving the appearance of a long 'neck'. The mesonotal dorsum slopes downward towards the propodeum. The propodeum is gently rounded and convex, with approximately equal posterior and dorsal faces. The petiolar node is thick and upright with a longer posterior face than anterior face. The gaster is armed with an acidopore and tends to be darker than the rest of the body.

Among introduced ants, Anoplolepis gracilipes might be mistaken for Paratrechina longicornis (the Black Crazy Ant), which also has very long antennae and legs and eyes that break the outline of the head in full face view. In addition to the difference in color, A. gracilipes can also be distinguished by the lack of erect hairs on the mesosoma, petiole and gaster. Anoplolepis gracilipes can also be mistaken for species of Leptomyrmex and Oecophylla because of their similar sizes and very long limbs. Anoplolepis can be distinguished from Leptomyrmex by the presence of an acidopore. Anoplolepis can be distinguished from Oecophylla by the more compact petiole.

Diagnosis among introduced and commonly intercepted ants.
Antenna 11-segmented. Antennal club indistinct. Antennal scape length greater than 1.5x head length. Eyes large; break outline of head. Antennal sockets and posterior clypeal margin separated by a distance equal to or greater than the minimum width of antennal  scape. Dorsum of mesosoma with metanotal impression, but never with a deep and broad concavity. Metapleuron with a distinct gland orifice. Propodeum and petiolar node both lacking a pair of short teeth. Propodeum lacking posteriorly projecting protrusion. Propodeal declivity less than twice length of propodeal dorsum. Waist 1-segmented. Petiole upright and not appearing flattened. Gaster armed with acidopore. Distinct constriction not visible between abdominal segments 3+4. Hairs not long thick and produced in pairs. Yellowish-brown to reddish-brown. Monomorphic.

Male identification among New World Formicinae
Antenna 12-merous; mandible with 8-9 denticles, with one or two offset denticles on basal margin; maxillary palps longer than maximum compound eye length; scape more than twice head length; compound eyes situated at about head midlength.


Abbott, K.L. (2005) Supercolonies of the invasive yellow crazy ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes, on an oceanic island: Forager activity patterns, density and biomass. Insect. Soc., 52, 266-273.

Lowe, S., Browne, M., Boudjelas, S. & De Poorter, M. (2000) 100 of the world's worst invasive species. Aliens, 12, s1-s12.

O'Dowd, D.J., Green, P.T. & Lake, P.S. (2001) Invasional meltdown in island rainforest. In: Ganeshaiah, K.N., Shaanker, R.U. & Bawa, K.S. (Eds.) Tropical ecosystems. Structure, diversity and human welfare. Oxford and IBH, New Delhi, pp. 447-450.

O'Dowd, D.J., Green, P.T. & Lake, P.S. (2003) Invasional 'meltdown' on an oceanic island. Ecol. Lett., 6, 812-817.

Wetterer, J.K. (2005) Worldwide distribution and potential spread of the long-legged ant, Anoplolepis gracilipes (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology, 45, 77-97.

Specimen Habitat Summary

Found most commonly in these habitats: 12 times found in Rainforest, 2 times found in sugar cane field, 5 times found in forest, 6 times found in degraded dry forest, 3 times found in port of entry/city, 9 times found in Secondary forest, 4 times found in palm forest, 7 times found in coastal forest, 6 times found in coastal scrub, 5 times found in primary rainforest, ...

Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 88 times malaise trap, 16 times ground forager(s), 2 times under stone, 3 times sifted litter (leaf mold, rotten wood), 9 times sifted litter, 7 times on low vegetation, 2 times recruiting to bait, 7 times litter sample, 4 times ex rotten log, 1 times nesting in tree, 3 times leaf litter (1 sq meter), ...

Collected most commonly using these methods: 103 times M, 27 times pan traps, 23 times Malaise trap, 18 times Davis sifting>hand collected|aspirator, 6 times H, 2 times 2 Maxi Winks, 4 times sweeping, 14 times hand collected|aspirator, 9 times L, 15 times Malaise traps, 12 times hand collected|aspirator>bait trap|peanut butter, ...

Elevations: collected from 1 - 1220 meters, 203 meters average

Type specimens: holotype: anic32-017722; syntype: casent0102951, casent0103001; syntype of Anoplolepis gracilipes: casent0903237; syntype of Formica subtilis: casent0901928

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