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Species: Atta sexdens   (Linnaeus, 1758) 

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Taxonomic History (provided by Barry Bolton, 2022)

Formica sexdens Linnaeus, 1758 PDF: 581 (w.) SURINAME. Neotropic. Primary type information: Primary type material: holotype (?) worker. Primary type locality: none stated, “Habitat in America meridionali” (Rolander). Primary type depository: ZMLS. Type notes: 1) No indication of number of specimens is given. 2) De Geer, 1773 PDF: 608, gives Suriname as type-locality; expanded to Suriname: (Rolander) by Borgmeier, 1939 PDF: 422, and to Suriname: Paramaribo by Borgmeier, 1959b PDF: 359. AntCat AntWiki HOL

Taxonomic history

[Misspelled as Atta sexdentata by Latreille, 1802a PDF: 228; Smith, 1858a PDF: 183.]
[Frequently misspelled as 6dens in early literature.]
Mayr, 1865 PDF: 82 (q.m.); Wheeler, 1949 PDF: 681 (l.).
Combination in Oecodoma: Latreille, 1818a PDF: 225; Smith, 1858a PDF: 183; Mayr, 1863a PDF: 438.
Combination in Atta: Fabricius, 1804 PDF: 422; Roger, 1863b PDF: 35; Mayr, 1865 PDF: 80.
Combination in Atta (Neoatta): Gonçalves, 1942 PDF: 349.
Status as species: Linnaeus, 1767 PDF: 964; De Geer, 1773 PDF: 608; Fabricius, 1775 PDF: 395; Fabricius, 1782: 493; Retzius, 1783 PDF: 76; Fabricius, 1787 PDF: 310; Gmelin, 1790 PDF: 2802; Christ, 1791 PDF: 515; Olivier, 1792: 500; Fabricius, 1793 PDF: 363; Latreille, 1802a PDF: 228; Fabricius, 1804 PDF: 422; Latreille, 1818a PDF: 225; Smith, 1858a PDF: 183; Smith, 1862b PDF: 34; Roger, 1863b PDF: 35; Mayr, 1863a PDF: 438; Mayr, 1865 PDF: 80, 82 (redescription); Emery, 1878a PDF: x (in list); Mayr, 1884 PDF: 37; Emery, 1888c PDF: 357; Emery, 1890b PDF: 66; Cameron, 1891: 95; Dalla Torre, 1893 PDF: 154; von Jhering, 1894 PDF: 386; Forel, 1895b PDF: 138; Emery, 1896h PDF: 626; Forel, 1899b PDF: 31; Forel, 1899j: 273; Forel, 1905e PDF: 157; Wheeler, 1905c PDF: 130; Emery, 1906c PDF: 167; Forel, 1907h PDF: 2; Forel, 1908a PDF: 69; Forel, 1909a PDF: 266; Emery, 1913c PDF: 259; Stitz, 1913 PDF: 207; Bruch, 1914 PDF: 216; Mann, 1916 PDF: 453; Wheeler, 1916c PDF: 11; Wheeler, 1923a PDF: 4; Emery, 1924f PDF: 354; Wheeler, 1925a PDF: 36; Borgmeier, 1927c PDF: 137; Eidmann, 1936b PDF: 87; Borgmeier, 1939 PDF: 424; Gonçalves, 1942 PDF: 349; Weber, 1946c PDF: 165; Gonçalves, 1947a PDF: 185; Borgmeier, 1950d PDF: 251; Borgmeier, 1959b PDF: 358 (redescription); Kempf, 1972b PDF: 27; Cherrett & Cherrett, 1989 PDF: 54; Bolton, 1995b: 77; Wild, 2007b PDF: 31; Bezděčková et al., 2015 PDF: 115; Fernández et al., 2015 PDF: 160 (redescription); Fernández & Serna, 2019 PDF: 842.


Atta sexdens, along with A. cephalotes, is the most widespread member of its genus. Its northern most range is Mexico, and extends through Central America (Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua), into South America (Ecuador, Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, Surinam) and Trinidad and Tobago (Hlldobler & Wilson, 1990; Kempf, 1972; Weber, 1972). The species has a wider tolerance for nest habitats, and is found in closed-canopy-forest, open grassland and disturbed habitats (Solomon, 2007; Weber, 1969). Atta sexdens is a considered a serious pest throughout its range, causing damage to a wide variety of agricultural crops and ornamentals (Cherrett, 1986). 

// Distribution


  Geographic regions (According to curated Geolocale/Taxon lists):
    Americas: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela
  Biogeographic regions (According to curated Bioregion/Taxon lists):

Distribution Notes:

Global. The northern most range is Mexico, and extends through Central America (Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua), into South America (Ecuador, Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, Surinam) and Trinidad and Tobago.

Paraguay. Alto Paran, Caaguaz, Caazap, Canindey, Central, Concepcin, Cordillera, Guair, Itapa, Misiones, eembuc, Paraguar, San Pedro


Threat of introduction
A niche modeling analysis determined that temperature seasonality was the most important variable for predicting its current distribution, while precipitation seasonality was the least important (Solomon, 2007). The modeling also predicts A. sexdens could, should opportunities present themselves, expand its range to western Ecuador and islands in the Lesser Antilles, including Trinidad, and also on Hispaniola and Jamaica. Atta sexdens is a serious pest everywhere it occurs, and has been shown to readily colonize human-altered habitats such as parks and agricultural fields (Solomon, 2007; Weber, 1972; Zanncio et al., 2002). Introduction of this species into habitats outside of its native range could have devastating effects (Hlldobler & Wilson, 1990). A pest risk assessment of unprocessed Eucalyptus concluded the introduction of South American Atta species into the United States was a low probability (Kliejunas et al., 2001).


Atta sexdens vs. A. cephalotes
Atta sexdens is highly variable, both within the same colony and across populations. Workers vary in shape, color, sculpture and pubescence (Borgmeier, 1959). Among intercepted attines, the species is most readily confused with A. cephalotes, but can be distinguished by the lack of wooly hairs on the heads of major workers, the duller more opaque integument caused by a dense netting of hexagonal microsculpture, and the 1-2 small teeth or dents on the head anterior to the posterolateral spines. Among other attines, A. sexdens is most readily confused with A. capiguara, but can be separated by the microsculpture netting referred to above (Borgmeier, 1959).

Translated from Borgemeir 1959b
Type locality. - Suriname, Paramaribo.

Workers. - Maxima (Fig. 2; Paramaribo). Length 12 mm. Herzfoermig head, posterior margin strongly bulged. Head width 5 mm, length without mandibles, 4, 2 mm. Rudimentarily ocelli, sometimes absent. Occiput cut. Vertex laterally without tooth, sometimes with tubercles. Occipitalzahn undspitz shortly. Fascias short, with teeth. Eye keels curved inward above, below with a short tooth, also with short ventral tooth. Scape 3, 4 mm. Mandibles with blunt teeth. Thorax length 5, 4 mm. Lower Pronotal zahn strong, slightly curved. The 4 Mesonotal zaehne short, the front conical. Epinotum keeled. Epinotal spines judged longer than the Mesonotal zaehne, but shorter than their mutual distance at the base, straight back. Petiole rounded. Postpetiole keeled, width 1, 3 mm, length 0, 8 mm. Gaster width 3 mm, 5 mm hind tibiae. Mandibles, clypeus and scape shiny. Body dull, densely finely punctate, forehead wrinkled in the middle of something. Protruding hair quite short, in the middle of the forehead, occiput and sides of the head scattered, abundant on the thorax, and gaster Sielchen. Pubescence on sparse, abundant pronotum. Hairy legs diagonally. Reddish brown to dark reddish brown stain. Media (Paramaribo). Length 7 mm. Head width 3 mm. Vertex with very short lateral tooth. Occipital spines just zieml. in length. Thoracic spines pointed, shorter than the front mesonotal spines epinotal spines. Matt. Forehead in the middle with Laengsrunzeln. Long hair on the head and gaster, shorter thorax, scattered pubescence. Rusty brown stain. - Minima (Paramaribo). Length 2, 2 mm. Head width 0.8 mm. Front Mesonotalzaehne very short, so long as the occipital zaehne; ​​rear mesonotal zaehne obsolete; Epinotal zaehne longer. Matt. Hairs on thorax sparse, longer on head and gaster. Wei b c hen (Paramaribo). - Length 19-20 mm. Head width 5 mm, sides converging towards the front, rear edge bulges gently. Occipital zaehne short side vertex with weak swelling or TuberkeI. Ocelli small. Eyes convex. Eye tooth keels obsolete. Fascias with teeth. Without ventral tooth. Scape 3 mm. Mandibles long, with pointed Apikalzahn and 8 blunt teeth. Thorax length 8, 5 mm. Scutellum without a furrow. Epinotum over the base of the short teeth, with swelling. Petiole and blunt postpetiole side with teeth or cusps. Gaster width 7, 5 mm. Front corners poorly marked. Hind tibiae 5 mm. Wing 27 mm. Mandibles, clypeus, scape and legs shiny. Matt body. Prominent short hairs scattered on head, thorax and gaster more abundant. Legs covered with short oblique. Pubescenz spaerJich scatters. Rusty brown color, blacked Gaster.

Males (Paramaribo). - Length 14 mm. Head over the eyes wide ~ 2 mm. Occipital zaehne short and pointed. Eyes strongly convex. Fascias without teeth. Scape 2 mm. Mandibles narrow and short, with Apikalzahn and 7 weak teeth. Thorax length 5, 75 mm. Pronotalzahn triangular shortly. Epinotum unreinforced. Gaster width of 5, 4 mm .. Tibie III, 4, 6 mm. Wing 20 mm. Genitalia (Fig. 14, 23): Stipes slender and pointed, as long as the associate volume, apical membrane with a narrow hairy. Volsellen triangular, slightly curved inwards, tapering apically. Sagittae with strong vertically erect chitinisierten sides, in profile triangular, upper margin bulged. Subgenital concave apically. Matt. Gaster shiny weak. Head, thorax and pedicel thick and long woolly hair, the legs on the ventral side. Gaster, scape pubescent, and short tracks. Wrinkled head. Stain dark brown, legs lighter.

Geographer. Dissemination. - Of all the species of Atta sexdens has the largest distribution: Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia (Guarayos, Trinidad), Venezuela, Guyana. Suriname, B ~ asilien, Paraguay, Argentina (Misiones, Corrientes), 22, 1933, p. 26 [Guatemala], and vol. 10, 1921, p. 146 [Montevideo]. Both figures are re-examined must. In Guatemala, it may also colombica urn, and perhaps in Montevideo urn Acromyrmex sp.

Variation. - Both within the same colony, as in the geograph. Proliferation zone vary the workers in paint, sculpture, gloss and hair, with some soldiers, the head is rubbed as in others he is furnished with hair, never the hair missing shots; in specimens from the south of Brazil the gaster on the sides is Zllweilen shiny ( the smallest workers may be the whole gaster shiny), and sometimes the show occipital lobes front teeth 1-2 on each side; the Epinotaldornen Zllweilen are strongly directed upwards; specimens from S. Catarina show sometimes blackened thorax and pedicel. The females are slightly smaller than the Paramaribo from Brazil, which varies between 27-30 mm Fluegellaenge. Among the males falls on the strong variation of Sagitta, the upper edge (in profile) bulges sometimes deep, sometimes even (d Borgm. In 1950, fig 18-29).

Discussion. - Atta sexdens is capiguara the next, and the soldiers can be easily confused, but differ by the micro-sculpture of the head at sexdens densely netted, so that the tegument is dull, at capiguara extensive to 50dass at high magnification, a certain luster notice is. The females have sexdens schwarzbrauntn Gaster, from the bright-red capiguara Gaster. The males of both species differ in the Sagitta, which are very similar in profile, but in dorsal view appearing Oberraender of capiguara turned inward, and the Seitenwaende are not vertical, but more oblique. Opaciceps of robusta and the soldiers of different sexdens by the scalp and through the smaller entertainments. The mean of sexdens workers are distinguished from robusta, and opaciceps laevigata little. Also, the females and males.


Borgmeier, T. (1959) Revision der Gattung Atta Fabricius (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Stud. Entomol., (n.s.)2, 321-390.

Cherrett, J.M. (1986) The biology, pest status and control of leaf-cutting ants. Agric. Zool. Rev., 1, 1-27.

Cherrett, J.M. & Peregrine, D.J. (1976) A review of the status of leaf-cutting ants and their control. Ann. Appl. Biol., 84, 124-128.

Hlldobler, B. & Wilson, E.O. (1990) The ants. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., xii + 732 pp.

Kempf, W.W. (1972) Catlogo abreviado das formigas da regio Neotropical. Stud. Entomol., 15, 3-344.

Kliejunas, J.T., Tkacz, B.M., Burdsall, H.H., Jr., DeNitto, G.A., Eglitis, A., Haugen, D.A. & Wallner, W.E. (2001) Pest risk assessment of the importation into the United States of unprocessed Eucalyptus logs and chips from South America. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,

Forest Products Laboratory. Madison, WI, General Technical Report FPL-GTR-124, 134 p.

Solomon, S.E. (2007) Biogeography and evolution of widespread leafcutting ants, Atta spp. (Formicidae, Attini). Ph.D. thesis, The University of Texas at Austin, xi + 95 p.

Taxonomic Treatment (provided by Plazi)

Scientific Name Status Publication Pages ModsID GoogleMaps
Atta sexdens   Forel, A., 1905, Miscellanea myrmicologiques, II (1905)., Annales de la Societe Entomologique de Belgique 49, pp. 155-185: 157, (download) 157 4001
Atta sexdens   Wild, A. L., 2007, A catalogue of the ants of Paraguay (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)., Zootaxa 1622, pp. 1-55: 31, (download) 31 21367
Atta sexdens   Forel, A., 1905, Miscellanea myrmicologiques, II (1905)., Annales de la Societe Entomologique de Belgique 49, pp. 155-185: 161-162, (download) 161-162 4001
Atta sexdens   Borgmeier, T., 1939, Nova contribuição para o conhecimento das formigas neotropicais (Hym. Formicidae)., Revista de Entomologia, São Paulo 10, pp. 403-428: 424, (download) 424 6484

Specimen Habitat Summary

Found most commonly in these habitats: 41 times found in Semideciduous seasonal forest, 9 times found in Mata Atlântica, 6 times found in Cerrado, 5 times found in Forest, 1 times found in tropical rainforest, 1 times found in pasture, 1 times found in rainforest, 1 times found in savanna, 1 times found in scrubby forest, 1 times found in tropical moist forest, ...

Found most commonly in these microhabitats: 1 times at night; ground nest, 0 times Pasture, 1 times LeafLitter, 1 times ground forager(s), 1 times Atta major carrying leaf.

Collected most commonly using these methods: 49 times epigaeic pitfall, 6 times Manual sampling, 5 times Pitfall, 5 times direct collection, 4 times Hypogaeic pitfall, 2 times search, 2 times Arboreal pitfall, 1 times Hand, 1 times Pitfall48h, 0 times Winkler, 1 times Baited pitfall, ...

Elevations: collected from 27 - 1000 meters, 633 meters average

Collect Date Range: collected between 1938-07-15 00:00:00.0 and 2018-02-25 00:00:00.0

Type specimens: syntype of Atta sexdens fuscata: casent0912496; syntype of Atta sexdens rubropilosa: casent0909449, casent0909450; syntype of Atta vollenweideri piriventris: casent0912497; syntype of Oecodoma abdominalis: casent0900489

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