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Species: Labidus coecus   (Latreille, 1802) 

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Current Valid Name:

Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2023)

Formica coeca Latreille, 1802a PDF: 270, pl. 9, fig. 56 (s.) SURINAME. Neotropic. Primary type information: Type-material: holotype worker. Type-locality: none given, “Amérique méridionale”. Type-depository: possibly MHNG, possibly MNHN. Type notes: 1) Type-locality nominated as Suriname: Paramaribo, by Borgmeier, 1955 PDF: 87. 2) Latreille, 1802a PDF: 271, says the specimen was “described from the collection of the naturalist Olivier.” According to Horn & Kahle, 1935: 150, Horn & Kahle, 1936: 197, Olivier’s collection is mostly in MNHN, with part in NMSE. Latreille’s Hymenoptera material passed through the de Romand collection and ended up in MHNG. AntCat AntWiki HOL

Taxonomic history

Roger, 1861a PDF: 22 (w.); Emery, 1895d PDF: 258 (m.); Bruch, 1934b PDF: 116 (q.); Weber, 1941c PDF: 325 (q.); Wheeler, 1943 PDF: 332 (l.)
Combination in Labidus: Jurine, 1807 PDF: 282.
Combination in Nycteresia: Roger, 1861a PDF: 22; Mayr, 1863a PDF: 436; Roger, 1863b PDF: 21.
Combination in Eciton: Mayr, 1865 PDF: 78; Mayr, 1886b PDF: 119.
Combination in Labidus: Borgmeier, 1955 PDF: 86.
[Note: Dalla Torre, 1893 PDF: 5; Emery, 1894d PDF: 179; Forel, 1895b PDF: 120, and others, entered Labidus coecus (Latreille, 1802) as a junior synonym of Formica omnivora Linnaeus, 1758, sensu Olivier, 1792: 496. Synonymy error based on earlier misidentification of Formica omnivora Linnaeus, 1758: see note under Formica omnivora Linnaeus, 1758.]
Status as species: Jurine, 1807 PDF: 282; Roger, 1861a PDF: 22; Roger, 1863b PDF: 21; Mayr, 1863a PDF: 436; Mayr, 1865 PDF: 77 (in key); Mayr, 1886a PDF: 33; Mayr, 1886b PDF: 119 (in key); Mayr, 1886d PDF: 440; Cresson, 1887 PDF: 259; Emery, 1888c PDF: 353; Emery, 1890b PDF: 56; Emery, 1890c PDF: 38; Emery, 1894l PDF: 45; Emery, 1895d PDF: 258; Emery, 1896h PDF: 625; Forel, 1899b PDF: 25; Forel, 1899j: 273; Emery, 1900e: 186, 193; Wheeler & Long, 1901 PDF: 158; Emery, 1906c PDF: 108; Forel, 1907h PDF: 1; Forel, 1908c PDF: 40; Forel, 1908 PDF: 346; Wheeler, 1908h PDF: 408; Forel, 1909a PDF: 249; Emery, 1910b PDF: 22; Wheeler, 1910a PDF: 562; Forel, 1911g PDF: 256; Forel, 1912d PDF: 43; Santschi, 1913h PDF: 35; Forel, 1914e PDF: 10; Bruch, 1914 PDF: 215; Wheeler, 1914c PDF: 40; Mann, 1916 PDF: 421; Crawley, 1916b PDF: 368; Santschi, 1916b PDF: 510; Luederwaldt, 1918 PDF: 37; Gallardo, 1920 PDF: 326; Wheeler, 1921d PDF: 310; Mann, 1922 PDF: 19; Borgmeier, 1923: 41; Wheeler, 1923a PDF: 2; Santschi, 1923g PDF: 1261; Wheeler, 1925a PDF: 2; Wheeler, 1925a PDF: 2; Menozzi, 1927c PDF: 267; Menozzi, 1931b PDF: 260; Kutter, 1932 PDF: 207; Borgmeier, 1934 PDF: 93; Bruch, 1934b PDF: 119; Eidmann, 1936a PDF: 28; Borgmeier, 1936b PDF: 57; Stitz, 1937b PDF: 132; Weber, 1941c PDF: 325; Wheeler, 1943 PDF: 332; Borgmeier, 1948b PDF: 459; Creighton, 1950a PDF: 62; Smith, 1951c PDF: 779; Borgmeier, 1953 PDF: 15; Borgmeier, 1955 PDF: 86 (redescription); Smith, 1958c PDF: 108; Kempf, 1960e: 387; Kempf, 1961b PDF: 485; Smith, 1967a PDF: 345; Kempf, 1970b PDF: 323; Kempf, 1972b PDF: 126; Kempf & Lenko, 1976 PDF: 47; Watkins, 1976 PDF: 8 (in key); Smith, 1979: 1328; Watkins, 1982 PDF: 209 (in key); Wheeler & Wheeler, 1984a PDF: 272; Watkins, 1985 PDF: 481; Bolton, 1995b: 219; Palacio, 1999: 154 (in key); Wild, 2007b PDF: 25; Branstetter & Sáenz, 2012 PDF: 254; Bezděčková et al., 2015 PDF: 110; Palacio, 2019 PDF: 607.
Material of the unavailable name Labidus coecus servillei hostilis referred here by Borgmeier, 1953 PDF: 14; Borgmeier, 1955 PDF: 86; Kempf, 1972b PDF: 127; Smith, 1979: 1328; Bolton, 1995b: 219.
// Distribution


  Geographic regions (According to curated Geolocale/Taxon lists):
    Americas: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela
  Biogeographic regions (According to curated Bioregion/Taxon lists):
    Nearctic, Neotropical

Distribution Notes:

Southern USA to Argentina. Costa Rica: throughout.


Natural History:

This is one of the most remarkable of all army ant species. It has an extremely broad ecological tolerance. It occurs across a great latitudinal range, from the equator to the subtropics of both North and South America. It occurs in dry forest and wet forest, in primary forest and in second growth, in coffee farms and pastures, and in suburban yards. It occurs from sea level to high montane regions. The highest ant record I have for Costa Rica, a collection at 3000m near Villa Mills, is Labidus coecus.

The species is almost entirely subterranean, sometimes at considerable depth. On two occasions when residents living near La Selva Biological Station were having water wells dug at their residences they encountered L. coecus several meters down during excavations. When hand collecting, L. coecus is encountered under rocks and under leaf litter, and they are frequent in Winkler samples of sifted leaf litter. Perfecto (1992) observed a subterranean colony attacking a series of Dorymyrmex colonies in the open soil of a coffee farm. The Dorymyrmex had a dense population, with nests scattered over the farm, and the progress of the attacks could be followed by observing a sequence of nests from which the panicked Dorymyrmex workers were exploding to the surface.

Columns are occasionally seen on the surface. In Sirena station in Corcovado National Park, during my graduate student days, nocturnal L. coecus raids would occasionally swarm up through the cracks in the kitchen floor and forage on food scraps on the floor. I discovered this while carrying out my own nocturnal raids on the park's crackers and jelly, creeping in in the dark and hopping out with stinging feet. Twice I have seen columns emerging from the ground and attacking large scarab larvae writhing on the surface. Columns will also surface to cross hard-packed footpaths.

Labidus coecus is atypical of other New World army ants in its more generalized foraging habits. Although much of its diet is the brood of other ant species, they also scavenge dead food items, such as the scraps on the kitchen floor in Sirena. One morning in Monteverde I observed a massive raid emerging from the ground and attacking a plate of left over gallo pinto (rice and beans fried in oil) that had been left on a back step. It was curious and somewhat comical to see workers vigorously attacking oily rice grains with the same behaviors they use to attack other ants, biting and stinging individual grains and hauling them away (Fig. 1a,b).

worker face view

worker lateral view

In the study of army ants, most of the attention has focused on the large epigaeus species in the genus Eciton. But the highest density and most ecologically important army ants may turn out to be L. coecus. Kaspari and O'Donnell (2003) have estimated that every square meter of rainforest floor may be visited nearly daily by army ants, largely due to high densities of L. coecus found in sample plots of rainforest leaf litter.



Kaspari, M., and S. O'Donnell. 2003. High rates of army ant raids in the Neotropics and implications for ant colony and community structure. Evol. Ecol. Res. 5: 933-939.

Perfecto, I. 1992. Observations of a Labidus coecus (latreille) underground raid in the central highlands of Costa Rica. Psyche (Cambridge) 99:214-220.

Taxonomic Treatment (provided by Plazi)

Treatment Citation: Wild, A. L., 2007, A catalogue of the ants of Paraguay (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)., Zootaxa 1622, pp. 1-55

coecus (LatreilleHNS 1802).

Amambay, Boquerón, Caaguazú, Canindeyú, Central, Concepción, Cordillera, Guairá, Itapúa, Ñeembucú, San Pedro, “Paraguay” (s. loc.) (ALWC, IFML, INBP, LACM, MCSN, MZSP, NHMW). Literature records: “Paraguay” (s. loc.) (Borgmeier 1955, Emery 1894a, Emery 1896b, Santschi 1916, Wheeler 1921).

Specimen Habitat Summary

Found most commonly in these habitats: 46 times found in cloud forest, 33 times found in montane wet forest, 19 times found in wet forest, 25 times found in mature wet forest, 22 times found in tropical rainforest, 26 times found in Semideciduous seasonal forest, 16 times found in hardwood forest, 3 times found in wet oak forest, 3 times found in lowland tropical rain forest, 13 times found in mature rainforest, ...

Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 150 times ex sifted leaf litter, 25 times at bait, 5 times leaf litter, 1 times at carrion bait, 8 times under stone, 2 times leaf/log litter, 13 times light trap, 6 times Malaise trap, 5 times at night; ground foragers, 4 times mercury vapor lamp, 1 times Bosque Primario, Suelo, ...

Collected most commonly using these methods: 73 times MiniWinkler, 34 times search, 18 times Berlese, 45 times MaxiWinkler, 42 times lighttrap, 29 times Winkler, 26 times Baiting, 18 times Blacklight, 20 times light trap, 4 times hand collecting, 1 times Foso, ...

Elevations: collected from 5 - 3110 meters, 861 meters average

Collect Date Range: collected between 1905-05-01 00:00:00.0 and 2022-01-11 00:00:00.0

Type specimens: Holotype of Labidus jurinii: casent0902663; Holotype of Labidus panzeri: casent0902664; Holotype of Labidus pilosus: casent0902665; syntype of Eciton coecum biloba: casent0903721; syntype of Eciton coecum elsbethae: casent0905942; syntype of Eciton grassator: casent0905943, casent0905944; syntype of Eciton selysi: casent0905945; syntype of Eciton erratica: casent0902662; syntype of Eciton vastator: casent0902661; syntype of Labidus coecus: casent0902660; syntype of Labidus servillei: casent0901957

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