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Species: Tapinoma melanocephalum   (Fabricius, 1793) 

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Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2020)

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

Taxonomic history

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, 1899f PDF: 101; of Tapinoma australis: Wilson & Taylor, 1967b PDF: 80; of Tapinoma australe: Bolton, 1995b: 401.
See also: Smith, 1979: 1421; Shattuck, 1994 PDF: 148.


  Geographic regions (According to curated Geolocale/Taxon lists):
    Africa: Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Comoros, Europa Island, Ghana, Grande Glorieuse, Guinea, Juan de Nova Island, Macaronesia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Reunion, Seychelles
    Americas: Brazil, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States
    Asia: China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Oman, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
    Europe: Belgium, Czech Republic
    Oceania: Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu
  Biogeographic regions (According to curated Bioregion/Taxon lists):
    Afrotropical, Australasia, Indomalaya, Malagasy, Nearctic, Neotropical, Oceania, Palearctic
  Native to (according to species list records):
    Indomalaya bioregion

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, 34 times found in rainforest, 24 times found in plant nursery, 13 times found in urban garden, 10 times found in secondary thicket and diverse vegetation, 8 times found in tropical dry forest, 10 times found in littoral rainforest, 0 times found in USDA ARS Fire Ant Lab in culture, ...

Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 90 times on low vegetation, 78 times ex sifted leaf litter, 61 times malaise trap, 20 times ex dead twig above ground, 11 times ex rotten log, 12 times under tree bark, live tree, 15 times ground forager(s), 12 times sifted litter (leaf mold, rotten wood), 8 times under stone, 1 times foraging on ground, 5 times dead wood, ...

Collected most commonly using these methods: 71 times MiniWinkler, 62 times M, 7 times H, 15 times Berlese, 13 times search, 13 times beatting, 8 times Winkler, 8 times MW 50 sample transect, 5m, 8 times hand collecting, 5 times hand collection, 6 times beating low vegetation, ...

Elevations: collected from 1 - 2000 meters, 166 meters average

Type specimens: syntype of Myrmica pellucida: casent0901925; syntype of Myrmica pellucida: casent0903062; syntype of Tapinoma melanocephalum australis: casent0911572; syntype of Tapinoma melanocephalum coronatum: casent0909775; syntype of Tapinoma melanocephalum malesianum: casent0909776; syntype of Tapinoma melanocephalum australe: casent0903063

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