Ant Catalogue: Southern Africa

This project is linked to the highly-recommended iSpot, its purpose being to suggest to users ways to identify Southern African ants. All the ants listed below have appeared on iSpot and thus are illustrated there. However, iSpot works through ‘observations’ or contributions from hundreds of enthusiasts, not all of whom are lucky enough to get that perfect shot every time they use a camera. We’ve filtered these observations so that links to a maximum of the best five pictures are provided. We’re hoping to get permission to post at least one of these pics next to each of our species, too. Occasional graphics might be listed as well, and updates might be fairly regular. 
Note that we have on occasion ignored iSpot’s ‘Likely ID’ in favour of the true ID. If you would like to see all the iSpot obs for a particular genus regardless of the quality of the pics, please surf the species browsers listed here.
Each sub-family, genus and species in this Catalogue is also linked to the relevant page on this website, where available.
We’ve arranged the ants in sub-families, from the largest ants to the smallest in each. SIZE is the starting point for the ID of any ant: PLEASE always indicate size wherever possible in your own ant observations!

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PONERINAE: the Ringbum or Primitive ants [= Riemgatmiere]
Very large [up to 24 mm!] to medium [>6mm] ants, most of which have a distinct ‘ring’ or constriction around the gaster. A few that don’t have ‘rings’ can easily be mistaken for large Camponotus species, but all have stings, which Camponotus don’t. Ponerines usually form small colonies; their pupae are always in cocoons. There are twenty genera in Southern Africa, with eight genera on iSpot. 13 species so far have starring roles.
NOTE: the iSpot dictionary still classifies some genera as ‘Pachycondyla’, which is invalid: we have used the correct names.

Paltothyreus [Pachycondyla] tarsatus: Foul or Stink ringbum ant.
17 – 22 mm ants; black, shiny skins with very faint yellow pubescence, reddish mandibles and tarsi; tarsi clothed beneath with dense golden hairs; hunt in pairs or small groups and emit a foul smell as a defensive tactic, or when wet.
www.ispotnature.org/node/749991 
www.ispotnature.org/node/750714 
www.ispotnature.org/node/750101 
www.ispotnature.org/node/551806

Streblognathus aethiopicus: Primitive ringbum ant.
18 – 22 mm, dull black with shiny gaster and dense golden hairs on tarsi [lower legs]; no significant ‘ringbum’ constriction on gaster. Hamish Robertson showed that this species occurs only in the southern and eastern Cape.
www.ispotnature.org/node/481446 
www.ispotnature.org/node/647813 
www.ispotnature.org/node/558494 

Streblognathus peetersi: Peeters’ ringbum ant. 
16 – 18 mm. As above but smaller, occurring from the Eastern Cape northwards. The southernmost specimens of this species are the smallest.
www.ispotnature.org/node/488609 





Plectroctena mandibularis: Ringbum millipede muncher. 
15 – 20 mm ants; mostly jet black and shiny, with small eyes and large jaws; hunt singly or in pairs and prey primarily upon millipedes.
www.ispotnature.org/node/631610 
www.ispotnature.org/node/534768 
www.ispotnature.org/node/581606 
www.ispotnature.org/node/692771 
www.ispotnature.org/node/683898  [Graphic]

Megaponera [Pachycondyla] analis: Matabele ant. 
Majors >15 mm; minors 9 – 10 mm; shiny black ants that run in very large swarms, attacking mainly termites; characteristic chocolate-brown cocoons. There is considerable variation in the species – the majors are often not as shiny as the minors, and sometimes the majors are only 11 – 12 mm.
www.ispotnature.org/node/670574 
www.ispotnature.org/node/669353 
www.ispotnature.org/node/626443 
www.ispotnature.org/node/651482 

Bothroponera [Pachycondyla] granosa: Small-eyed rugged ringbum ant. 
14 mm ants with reddish-black rugged shiny skins and small eyes; usually found solitary or in pairs.
www.ispotnature.org/node/750877 

Bothroponera [Pachycondyla] cavernosa subsp. montivaga: Red-legged rugged ringbum ant. 
13 mm. Brownish black with red antennae, mandibles and legs, slightly shiny with faint red-yellow pubescence; usually found solitary or in pairs; mainly Cape and West Coast. This subspecies is slightly larger than B. cavernosa and is apparently endemic to the Steenberg Mountains of the Peninsula.
www.ispotnature.org/node/758542 



Bothroponera [Pachycondyla] pumicosa: Gold-haired rugged ringbum ant. 
12 – 14 mm ants with dark grey rugged, pitted skins and faint golden hairs; usually found solitary or in pairs.
www.ispotnature.org/node/647610 
www.ispotnature.org/node/752582 
www.ispotnature.org/node/663041  [Graphic]

Bothroponera [Pachycondyla] laevissima: White-haired rugged ringbum ant. 
12 mm ants with black very shiny skins, dark reddish legs, antennae and mandibles and faint whitish hairs; usually found solitary or in pairs.
www.ispotnature.org/node/561713 
www.ispotnature.org/node/561896 
www.ispotnature.org/node/483103 




Picture ©Sally Adam 2015 & reproduced with permission. 
Bothroponera [Pachycondyla] cariosa: Eastern rugged ringbum ant.
11 mm ants; dark brown to blackish with red antennae, mandibles and legs with slight golden pubescence; similar to B. cavernosa but smaller and mainly South and East Coasts and adjacent interior.
www.ispotnature.org/node/762901 

Ophthalmopone [Pachycondyla] berthoudi: Berthoud’s bug-eyed ant
12 mm. Black with golden, velvety pubescence; dark reddish joints and base of tarsi and scape. Head very long, rounded behind; eyes very large, set well behind the midline of the head; legs long and thin. Very similar to the closely related O. hottentota, but the latter has eyes set further forward and the head is not so long. Both species are very fast runners, nesting under stones, etc., but O. hottentota is confined to the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape whereas O. berthoudi is more widespread.
www.ispotnature.org/node/775404 





Hagensia [Pachycondyla] peringueyi: Black hag ant. 
10 – 11 mm ants with black, shiny skins all over, with a faint grey pubescence on gaster. Lack the ‘ringbum’ gaster constriction of other ponerines, can be confused with Camponotus. Usually solitary or in pairs.
www.ispotnature.org/node/585215 
www.ispotnature.org/node/661692  [Graphic]





Leptogenys intermedia: Common razor-jaw ant. 
5 – 6 mm ants, jet-black to light brown with rust-red mandibles, tarsi and apex of gaster; smooth and shiny. ‘Ringbum’ constriction on gaster; ants run in trails and attack and eat termites, insects and other ants.
www.ispotnature.org/node/500420 
www.ispotnature.org/node/568619 
www.ispotnature.org/node/628280  [Graphic]

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FORMICINAE: the Sugar or Pugnacious ants [= Balbyters / Malmiere]

From very large [<20 mm] to very small [<1.5 mm], the Formicinae are regarded as the most ‘advanced’ ants. They do not have stings but many are able to squirt formic acid from their gasters, as a defence. All Formicine ants pupate in cocoons. We have placed them here because Camponotus ants are the next in size, after some of the Ponerinae. There are eight genera on iSpot in this subfamily.

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CAMPONOTUS: The Sugar ants or Balbyters
Camponotus is thought to be the largest genus of ants in the world, and is in considerable need of taxonomic revision. There are 92 species and 39 subspecies, in 15 sub-genera, in Southern Africa; however, nearly 20 species are so obscure that we may safely ignore them. In some parts of the world Camponotus species are commonly known as Carpenter ants, but here there are so few that burrow into wood that the common names ‘sugar ants’ or ‘balbyters’ are preferred. The latter is usually used for the very large, hairy species such as C. fulvopilosus
‘Camponotus’ means ‘flat-backed’: almost all species have smoothly convex or flat dorsal alitrunks [ie upper thorax]. The following 26 Camponotus species all star on iSpot.

Camponotus etiolipes: Long-legged sugar ant. 
Majors 18 – 20 mm, minors 15 – 16 mm. These are the largest Camponotus in our region, and the minors are almost as long as the majors, differing mainly in having very small heads. Pale to dark brown with paler legs and underparts; fast moving and usually forage alone. Eastern and northern areas.
www.ispotnature.org/node/760907 
www.ispotnature.org/node/505322 
www.ispotnature.org/node/554922 
www.ispotnature.org/node/540858 




Camponotus fulvopilosus: Tawny balbyter. 
Majors 16 – 18 mm, mediae 12.5 mm, minors 10 - 11 mm.
One of the best-known ants of South Africa. Black or very dark red, gaster covered in dense hairs of a tawny [fulvous] colour, sometimes with a median patch without hairs; the majors have very large heads and all workers have very good eyesight, easily detecting human movement. The ants tend to forage in pairs or small groups and characteristically run with their gasters slightly raised. Freely squirt formic acid when alarmed.
www.ispotnature.org/node/514567 
www.ispotnature.org/node/525265 
www.ispotnature.org/node/588395 
www.ispotnature.org/node/624563 
www.ispotnature.org/node/712043 

Camponotus sexpunctatus: Eastern sugar ant. 
Majors 16 – 18 mm, minors 10.5 – 12 mm. Black, underside dull red-ochre, petiole yellowish brown; a dull spot on the sides of each of the first three gastral segments; shiny. The minors have paler, reddish-brown heads.
www.ispotnature.org/node/504807 
www.ispotnature.org/node/746822 

Camponotus knysnae: Knysna sugar ant. 
Majors 15 – 17 mm, mediae 12 mm, minors 10 – 11 mm. Majors are almost all black with paler undersides to red/ red ochre. Mediae have brown heads and thorax, gasters dark brown to black. Minors paler still with bases of legs etc almost pale yellow; otherwise brown with darker gaster.
www.ispotnature.org/node/548512 



Camponotus storeatus: Blonde balbyter. 
Majors 15 – 16 mm, mediae and minors 12 – 11 mm. Head and thorax dark blood red, gaster black with dense hairs that are more whitish-cream coloured than the similar C. fulvopilosus, which has tawny-yellow hairs.
www.ispotnature.org/node/493730 
www.ispotnature.org/node/521716 
www.ispotnature.org/node/535072 
www.ispotnature.org/node/539809 
www.ispotnature.org/node/611551 



Camponotus maculatus: Spotted sugar ant. 
Majors 13 – 17 mm, mediae 12 mm, minors 9 – 10 mm, minimae 7 – 8 mm. Possibly the most naturally-widespread ant in the world, it is a massively confused species with at least 8 subspecies and more than thirty synonyms or ‘species’ that are variously recognised or not recognised depending upon which continent you live on. Majors have pale orange to dark brown heads, paler legs, always with paler patches or ‘spots’ on the first three gaster segments; mediae and minors in a similar range of shades but generally paler than the majors; minimae sometimes pale yellow all over.
www.ispotnature.org/node/653070 
www.ispotnature.org/node/653076 
www.ispotnature.org/node/495597 
www.ispotnature.org/node/535093 
www.ispotnature.org/node/752590 




Camponotus mystaceus: Moustached sugar ant [gotta love that name]. 
Majors 14 – 15 mm, mediae and minors 12 to 9 mm. There are several subspecies based on obscure and contested criteria; it’s a pity that the iSpot dictionary insists on a subspecies, it would be more useful without. The ants are pale yellow with darker orange-brown heads and gasters, particularly in the majors. Under magnification a distinct ‘moustache’ or fringe of hairs can be seen on the clypeus, above the mandibles.
www.ispotnature.org/node/470511 
www.ispotnature.org/node/485459 
www.ispotnature.org/node/723920 
www.ispotnature.org/node/724288 




Camponotus petersii: Peters’ long-legged sugar ant. 
Majors 14 – 15 mm; minors 11.5 – 12.5 mm. Black, dull, slightly shining with fine white pubescence. The bristly white hairs on the gaster are faintly reminiscent of Camponotus niveosetosus, but this species is much larger. Minors almost as large as majors but with smaller heads. In the iSpot dictionary the specific name says ‘petersi’, which is incorrect.
www.ispotnature.org/node/638914 
www.ispotnature.org/node/728041 
www.ispotnature.org/node/500361 
www.ispotnature.org/node/740204 

Camponotus detritus: Desert balbyter. 
Majors 13 mm, minors 9 mm. Similar to C. fulvopilosus but noticeably smaller; head and thorax dark red, gaster black with cream-colored dense hairs, with glabrous patches on each segment; the ‘shoulders’ of the thorax are sharply squared off. Mostly Namibia.
www.ispotnature.org/node/533736 
www.ispotnature.org/node/471039 
www.ispotnature.org/node/624487 
www.ispotnature.org/node/665111 
www.ispotnature.org/node/665113 



Picture ©Sally Adam 2015 & reproduced with permission.
Camponotus arnoldinus: Arnold’s sugar ant. 
Majors >12 mm, mediae 10 mm, minors 8 mm. Glossy dark brown to black with paler legs and underparts. South and East coasts.
www.ispotnature.org/node/563452 

Camponotus guttatus: Zululand sugar ant. 
Majors 12 mm, minors 8 mm. Rusty red with bicoloured gasters, anterior orange/red, posterior darker browner, with erect white pilosity on gaster.
www.ispotnature.org/node/754929 
www.ispotnature.org/node/762477 

Camponotus empedocles: Glossy sugar ant. 
Majors 11 – 14 mm, mediae 8 mm, minors 7 mm. Very shiny black with dark brown appendages.
www.ispotnature.org/node/533096 
www.ispotnature.org/node/492464 

Camponotus eugeniae: Eugene’s long-legged sugar ant. Majors 11 – 12 mm, minors 9 mm. Very similar to C. petersii, but smaller; replaces C. petersii on the Highveld. Black, dull, slightly shining with fine white pubescence. Minors almost as large as majors but with smaller heads.
www.ispotnature.org/node/492228 
www.ispotnature.org/node/492264 
www.ispotnature.org/node/755770 

Camponotus sericeus: Shiny sugar ant. 
Majors 10 – 12 mm, mediae and minors 6 – 8.5 mm. Black with shiny golden pubescence, especially on the gaster. The majors may have three simple eyes [ocelli] present between their compound eyes; middle and hind legs have dense black hairs. The nest entrance might be protected by a ‘tube’ of woven grass. Mostly Zimbabwe.
www.ispotnature.org/node/746592




Camponotus baynei: Bayne’s sugar ant. 
Majors >10 mm, mediae 8 mm, minors 6 – 7mm. Glossy black brown, pale yellow to orange legs and underparts; the minors are generally paler than the majors.
www.ispotnature.org/node/480292 
www.ispotnature.org/node/502952 
www.ispotnature.org/node/507370 
www.ispotnature.org/node/758759 
www.ispotnature.org/node/615521  [Graphic]

Camponotus arminius: St Lucia sugar ant. 
Majors 10 mm, mediae 8 mm, minors about 6 mm. Black with fine tawny pubescence, especially on the gaster; subtropical in forested areas; east coast.
www.ispotnature.org/node/700777 
www.ispotnature.org/node/621863 
www.ispotnature.org/node/738569 
www.ispotnature.org/node/753900 



Camponotus rufoglaucus: Velvet sugar ant. 
Majors 10 mm, mediae and minors 5 to 9 mm. Dark Burgundy red with darker, brownish gaster, especially the gaster covered in a fine, velvet-like pale yellow pubescence which is sometimes ‘worn’ in older individuals. The type locality is India and the local species is much contested and might turn out to be a different species.
www.ispotnature.org/node/584607 
www.ispotnature.org/node/637446 
www.ispotnature.org/node/553574 
www.ispotnature.org/node/637444 
www.ispotnature.org/node/627051 



Camponotus vestitus: Shimmering sugar ant. 
Majors 10 mm, mediae 8 mm, minors 7 mm. Head, thorax and appendages yellow-red to dark brick-red; gaster dark brown with shimmering grey-gold pilosity arranged in bands, so that the ants closely resemble Anoplolepis custodiens and appear to imitate that ant.
www.ispotnature.org/node/527539 
www.ispotnature.org/node/615988  [Graphic]

Camponotus cinctellus: Shiny sugar ant. 
Majors 9 mm, mediae 7 mm, minors 5.5-6 mm. Majors dull to shiny black or reddish black, with extensive, shining pilosity on the gaster, with a golden sheen; mediae and minors more reddish brown with similar pilosity.
www.ispotnature.org/node/584134 
www.ispotnature.org/node/653105 
www.ispotnature.org/node/476133 
www.ispotnature.org/node/498792 
www.ispotnature.org/node/764180 

Camponotus amphidus: Northern hairy sugar ant.
Mediae 7.5 to 9 mm. Dull black body with dark brown antennae and tarsi. Stiff, bristle-like pilosity on gaster, petiole flange and propodeum, a dull golden colour. Superficially similar to C. niveosetosus but larger and apparently lacking true majors and minors. Zimbabwe and Limpopo mountains.
www.ispotnature.org/node/626548 

Camponotus cuneiscapus: Orange sugar ant. 
Majors 8 mm, minors 5.5 – 7.5 mm. Orange-brown ants with paler minors; the majors often have darker heads that are smaller than usual, more like media workers; the minors have narrower heads but are almost as large as the majors. The posterior half of the gaster might also be darker in some colonies.
www.ispotnature.org/node/530441 
www.ispotnature.org/node/530445 
www.ispotnature.org/node/599887 



Camponotus havilandi: Blackhead sugar ant. 
Majors 8 mm, mediae 7 mm, minors 5-6 mm. Heads shiny dark red-brown, thorax darkish yellow brown fading to yellow at posterior of gaster; the minors sometimes have paler heads.
www.ispotnature.org/node/523736 
www.ispotnature.org/node/615335  [Graphic]




Camponotus niveosetosus: Hairy sugar ant. 
Majors 8 mm, mediae 7 mm, minors 5.5 – 6 mm. Black with dark reddish brown antennae, tarsi [lower legs]; head and thorax dull, gaster slightly shiny with very distinctive erect snow-white pilosity or bristles. This is the mostly commonly-reported ant on iSpot.
www.ispotnature.org/node/498071 
www.ispotnature.org/node/612089 
www.ispotnature.org/node/615854 
www.ispotnature.org/node/752600 
www.ispotnature.org/node/547264 



Camponotus werthi: Black sugar ant. 
Majors 8 mm, minors >5 to <5 mm. Shiny black with very little noticeable pubescence. Nests in wood, under bark and in hollow stems, mostly in fynbos. Camponotus werthi subsp skaifei is slightly smaller, but the majors have broader heads; it is the subspecies present in the Cape Peninsula and is recognized by all authorities except the iSpot dictionary ...
www.ispotnature.org/node/617188 
www.ispotnature.org/node/719511 
www.ispotnature.org/node/755572 

Camponotus brookei: Blockhead sugar ant. 
Majors 7 mm, mediae 6.5 mm, minors 5 – 6 mm. Dark brownish to black with paler legs; minors are paler, often almost reddish; the major workers’ block-shaped heads are distinctive.
www.ispotnature.org/node/698172 



Camponotus bertolonii: Brown sugar ant. 
Majors 7 mm, minors 5 mm. Shiny dark chocolate brown with paler legs, one of the few local Camponotus species that nests in [usually] rotten wood [in America they call Camponotus ‘carpenter ants’, although they are not true wood-borers ].
www.ispotnature.org/node/611493  [Graphic: needs redrawing]

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POLYRHACHIS: Spiny sugar ants. 
There are thirteen species in southern Africa. The generic means ‘many spines’; all species have spines, as many as four on the anterior and posterior ends of the alitrunk [thorax], and up to six on the petiole flange or node, often giving the ants a somewhat fearsome appearance. Six species have so far made the iSpot line up:




Polyrhachis schistacea: Savanna spiny sugar ant. 
10 – 14 mm. Colour uniform dull black with numerous erect hairs, from white to black; overall greyish pubescence: in savanna, not forest. Heavily ‘armour plated’ thorax. Nests in soil or grass in savanna areas and is the only Polyrhachis that is widespread over most of the summer rainfall area and highveld. schistacea = slate-coloured
www.ispotnature.org/node/556439 
www.ispotnature.org/node/574102 
www.ispotnature.org/node/575535 
www.ispotnature.org/node/582238 
www.ispotnature.org/node/583184 

Polyrhachis gagates: Shiny spiny sugar ant. 
11 – 13 mm. Black, head and thorax dull, gaster very shiny; pale grey pubescence but few erect hairs anywhere on body; two well-spread spines on petiole flange. Eastern coastal forests and estuaries only. gagates = jet black
www.ispotnature.org/node/493996 
www.ispotnature.org/node/631790 




Polyrhachis schlueteri: Silver spiny sugar ant. 
8.5 – 9 mm. Colour black all over but the entire body is covered in a dense silvery, reflective pubescence which often makes these gorgeous ants look as though they are carved from silver or steel. Wilhelm Schl├╝ter [1828–1919] was a German entomologist and biologist who set up a profitable business buying and selling specimens. Why he is so honoured is unknown.
www.ispotnature.org/node/762445 
www.ispotnature.org/node/764181 
www.ispotnature.org/node/693242 
www.ispotnature.org/node/735118 
www.ispotnature.org/node/733950 

Polyrhachis durbanensis: Durban spiny sugar ant. 
6.7 – 7.3 mm. Black with brown appendages; fine grey pubescence all over. KZN only. The species name simply means ‘from Durban’.
www.ispotnature.org/node/611116 

Polyrhachis revoili: Revoil's spiny sugar ant. 
6 – 6.5 mm. Erect hairs on scapes; fairly hairy all over; dark grey to black. KZN only. Revoil was a French zoological collector who first collected this species for science in Somalia in 1886.
www.ispotnature.org/node/647818 

Polyrhachis spinicola: Common spiny sugar ant. 
6 – 6.5 mm. Dull black all over, but with reddish to brown leg-joints and antennae. Bulging eyes. Four spines on the petiole flange. This is the most widespread coastal and eastern species, living in trees, hollow thorns, etc etc from Port Elizabeth northwards up the east coast into Mpumalanga. spinicola = thorn-dwelling
www.ispotnature.org/node/504068 
www.ispotnature.org/node/629632 
www.ispotnature.org/node/679858 
www.ispotnature.org/node/544880 

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ANOPLOLEPIS: Pugnacious ants or Malmiere. 
One of the most widespread genera in Southern Africa, it includes surprisingly few species; three of these are very to fairly common and are very important in the process of myrmecochory, or the burial of fynbos seeds by ants. In all species in the subgenus Zealleyella there is a range of workers in continuous sizes from largest to smallest. In all species the gaster is darker than the thorax or head, and the smallest workers are darker than the largest. Five species take a bow on iSpot.




Anoplolepis custodiens: Large pugnacious ant. 
Maximae 9.5 mm, through to minimae 3.5 mm. Larger workers sienna brown or dark brick red with dark brown gasters; silky reflective pubescence over all parts of the body; gaster has five rows of hairs piled in different directions, refracting light and giving the gaster a bright, checkered appearance. Super-aggressive and attack on contact. Very widespread, but less common in fynbos.
www.ispotnature.org/node/561277 
www.ispotnature.org/node/546025 
www.ispotnature.org/node/629140 
www.ispotnature.org/node/631870 
www.ispotnature.org/node/692776 

Anoplolepis fallax: Pallid pugnacious ant. 
Maximae 9 mm through to minimae 3.5 mm. Smaller paler version of A custodiens, whose brick-red parts are pallid yellow in this species. Indeed. some dispute that it is a separate species at all. Behaviour similar to A custodiens.
www.ispotnature.org/node/705023 




Anoplolepis rufescens: Chestnut pugnacious ant. 
Maximae 8 mm through to minimae 3 mm. Paler chestnut-brown than A custodiens and lacking the shining pubescence and refractive hairs on gaster; also slightly smaller. Behaviour similar to its larger cousin.
www.ispotnature.org/node/571212 
www.ispotnature.org/node/573196 
www.ispotnature.org/node/573209 
www.ispotnature.org/node/683691 
www.ispotnature.org/node/590033 




Anoplolepis steingroeveri: Small pugnacious ant. 
Maximae 7 mm through to minimae 2.5 mm. Smaller and darker than A. custodiens and A. rufescens, either lacking refractive pubescence on gaster or present in a much simplified form, lacking the ‘checkered’ result. Much more common in fynbos than A custodiens; widespread; the species found at higher altitudes is often considerably darker in colour than at the coast. As super-aggressive as A custodiens. Difficult to photograph due to rapid movements.
www.ispotnature.org/node/478751 
www.ispotnature.org/node/698106 
www.ispotnature.org/node/728826 
www.ispotnature.org/node/758750 



Anoplolepis gracilipes: Yellow crazy ant. 
5 – 6 mm. Placed in the subgenus Anoplolepis where the workers are all more or less the same size; this very invasive species has been reported from Durban and Kalk Bay harbours but does not seem to have established itself in SA yet. Ants are yellow with darker abdomens, rapid moving with long legs in dense swarms, and have wiped out most of the microfauna in the Pacific islands.
www.ispotnature.org/node/619363  [Graphic]

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OECOPHYLLA: The Tailor ants
This is a strange genus of two species only, one Asian, one African. Known everywhere as ‘tailor ants’, these subtropical tree-dwelling ants uniquely ‘sew’ the leaves of trees together with silk to form their nests.

Oecophylla longinoda: Long-node tailor ant. 
Majors 7 mm, minors 4 mm. The ants are rusty red or pale chestnut coloured, quite shiny, with yellowish red antennae and legs; large black eyes and powerful mandibles. The large gap between the petiole scale and the gaster vaguely resembles the double-node of the Myrmicinae subfamily. There are several subspecies and some disagreement about whether these should be elevated to species rank or not.
www.ispotnature.org/node/498967 
www.ispotnature.org/node/594591 
www.ispotnature.org/node/618851 
www.ispotnature.org/node/627402 

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AGRAULOMYRMEX, ACROPYGA, LEPISIOTA, PLAGIOLEPIS: These are all very small ants but are placed here because they are all Formicinae.

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LEPISIOTA: The Small black ants
This is an extremely widespread genus, with twenty species and ten subspecies in our region. The taxonomy is in something of a mess and needs revision. One species, L capensis, has rapidly evolved over the past few decades from a fairly insignificant ant living in small colonies in the veld to a large-scale invader of homes and gardens, living in super-colonies that spread by ‘budding’. To complicate matters, there are five subspecies in L. capensis. All Lepisiota can be instantly identified by two characteristics: 
1. They have two blunt spines or tubercles on the propodeum, or posterior segment of the thorax – you need a good lens to see these; and 
2. If the ants are small and black and their pupae are in cocoons, then they are always Lepisiota ... but – there’s always an exception that proves the rule. The uncommon little Plagiolepis fuscula is small and black, too [see below] ... and also pupates in cocoons. However, they are dull black, never as shiny as Lepisiota.
There are three species on iSpot so far:



Lepisiota incisa: Spiny-scale black ant. 
3 – 3.5 mm. All shiny black. Two propodeal tubercles as above; teeth on petiole flange are elongated into long spines. This species has also shown a tendency to move from small colonies of a few hundred ants to interlinked super-colonies.
www.ispotnature.org/node/617358 




Lepisiota capensis: Common small black ant. 
2.5 - 3 mm [L. capensis subsp minuta are <1.5 mm]. All shiny black. Two propodeal tubercles as above; two points or teeth on the petiole flange. Either small colonies under stones or large interlinked colonies around buildings, gardens, etc with ants running in trails.
www.ispotnature.org/node/649231 
www.ispotnature.org/node/579737 
www.ispotnature.org/node/529752 
www.ispotnature.org/node/530442 
www.ispotnature.org/node/538458 

Lepisiota crinita: Hairy small black ant. 
2.5 mm. Black, but clothed abundantly in bristly white hairs. Two propodeal tubercles as above; two points or teeth on the petiole flange.
Our picture is not good but it’s all we have; the black ant in the second pic is the best.
www.ispotnature.org/node/514994 

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AGRAULOMYRMEX: The Field ants
This is an uncommon genus with only two described species [one Zimbabwean, one South African] and another 10 – 12 awaiting classification. Small, brown, rare.




Agraulomyrmex meridionalis: Southern field ant. 
2.2 mm. Dark brown with elongated gaster, almost as long as the head and thorax; hairy with large eyes. Look a lot like Monomorium, but if there are cocoons in the nest they are Agraulomyrmex. West Coast to Citrusdal only.
www.ispotnature.org/node/734604  [Graphic]

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ACROPYGA: The Forest sugar ants
These are tiny, yellow forest ants with minute eyes, and three African species [only one in our region]. Uncommon and rarely seen.




Acropyga arnoldi: Yellow forest sugar ant. 
2 mm. Translucent yellow with tiny eyes and largish gasters. The presence of cocoons in the nest distinguishes them from small Monomoriums.
In any alphabetical list of all the 20 000+ ant species in the world, this one always comes first!
www.ispotnature.org/node/624606  [Graphic]

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PLAGIOLEPIS: The Restless ants
This is a widespread genus of generally tiny ants, with 16 species in our region. The antennae have 11 segments [10 + scape]; they were once bundled with Anoplolepis and Lepisiota in a single genus. One our smallest ants [1.2 mm] is a Plagiolepis. Only four species have featured on iSpot:

Plagiolepis brunni: Brunn’s restless ant; 
1.3 – 1.7 mm. All over honey to honey-red, gaster with faint browner bands, more marked at the sides; an African ‘tramp’ ant in forest areas, north to Eritrea and also in West Africa
www.ispotnature.org/node/766408 

Plagiolepis deweti: De Wet’s restless ant. 
2.5 mm. Shiny dark brown with paler legs and yellowish brown antennae. Presence of cocoons in nest distinguishes it from other small brown ants.
www.ispotnature.org/node/648378 



Plagiolepis fuscula: Black restless ant
2 mm. Shiny or slightly shiny black or dark red, the extremities paler; petiole scale very thin and forward inclined. From the WC, EC and KZN
www.ispotnature.org/node/771543

Plagiolepis vanderkeleni subsp tricolor: Two-tone restless ant 
1.6 – 1.9 mm. Head, thorax and petiole yellowish red; gaster dark brown to black; legs paler. Inhabits eastern montane forests.
www.ispotnature.org/node/760552 

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DORYLINAE: the Driver or Army ants. 

This subfamily has three genera in our region, of which the most common is Dorylus. Several peculiar characteristics separate the subfamily from all the rest of our local ants:

1. The workers are intensely polymorphic, with a huge range of sizes; in some species this can be from 1.5 to 12 mm; they are all completely blind and have no eyes at all

2. The males are enormous; often known as ‘sausage flies’ they are well-known everywhere for their habit of flying into lights at night [they look fearsome but are completely harmless]

3. The queens are similarly enormous; wingless and blind, they have huge sausage-shaped gasters and lay eggs on an enormous scale.

There are thirteen species and five subspecies of Dorylus in our region but only one has been positively identified on iSpot.




Dorylus helvolus: Red driver ant. 
Maximae 9 mm; minimae 1.5 mm with a continuous range of sizes in between. Brilliant red to yellow-red in colour. All workers blind: lack eyes altogether. Ants march in dense columns through leaf-litter, etc, in dull weather or on cool evenings. They are nomadic and the entire colony swarms continuously to the next food source. The ants are intensely aggressive and attack on contact; they have powerful mandibles and the maximae can easily draw human blood.
www.ispotnature.org/node/669799 
www.ispotnature.org/node/749262 
www.ispotnature.org/node/663054  [Graphic]
www.ispotnature.org/node/468240  [Drone or male]

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MYRMICINAE: the Double-waisted ants. 

This is by far the largest subfamily of ants in the world, with a large number of genera and, of course, even more species. There are 23 genera in our region, of which 14 have so far hit the iSpot headlines.
All Myrmicinae are instantly recognizable by the ‘double-jointed waist’ that characterises the entire subfamily. In other ants the [simplified] body configuration is head-thorax-o-gaster, where -o- represents the petiole or waist with its single node. In Myrmicine ants, however, the config is head-thorax-o-o-gaster, and it is this ‘double’ -o-o- petiole with two nodes that is characteristic. All Myrmicinae have naked pupae, ie the larvae do not spin cocoons. As in the sub-families above, the genera below are arranged from largest to smallest.


CAREBARA: the Thief ants. 
These curious ants nest in the walls of termitaria, from whence they raid the termite’s food supply and feed on their eggs and nymphs. Although the workers are minute, from 1.5 to 2.5 mm, pale yellow and completely blind, the queens are by contrast relatively enormous, reaching up to 24 mm or more. On their mating flights the alate females fly out with several tiny workers clinging to their fur, and these workers tend the first eggs and larvae of the new colony. There are 22 species in our region, with two so far on iSpot [queens]. You are, of course, much more likely to notice the winged queens [alate females] than the workers.

Carebara junodi: Red African thief ant. 
Workers 1.7 – 1.9 mm; queens 23 mm. The head and thorax of the queen [female] is rusty red, the gaster dark brown, with several longitudinal bands of dark brown on the thorax. Winged females often found with tiny yellow workers attached.
www.ispotnature.org/node/760059 

Carebara vidua: Black African thief ant. 
Workers 1.6 – 2 mm; queens 24 mm. Head, thorax and abdomen black with tufts of dense black or yellowish hairs; gaster black to dark red to reddish brown. Winged females often found with tiny yellow workers attached.
www.ispotnature.org/node/544603 

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MESSOR: the Harvester ants. 
Very polymorphic ants with maximae often more than twice as large as the minimae, they are all seed gatherers with a basket-like ‘beard’ beneath the head that is apparently used to carry sand; in most species the underground nests are characterised by a distinct cone, often perfectly circular, of sand around the nest entrance. There are eight species in our region; however, one of these [M. incisus] is so obscure that only a single male has ever been found. Four species have featured on iSpot.




Messor striatifrons: Rugged harvester ant. 
Maximae 12 mm to minimae 6 mm. The species is most easily separated from M. capensis by the head-shape: the sides of the head are convex and the whole is thus less ‘blocky’. Colour medium to dark brown all over, with gaster often darker; mandibles dark brown to red; under magnification the head is finely wrinkled or striated. Most common in drier areas.
www.ispotnature.org/node/560902 
www.ispotnature.org/node/617360 
www.ispotnature.org/node/663574 
www.ispotnature.org/node/634419 





Messor capensis: Common harvester ant. 
Maximae 11 mm to minimae of 5 mm. Dark brown to black with shiny gasters; heads large and block-shaped; often seen in evenings and mornings in long trails returning to their nests with seeds and other vegetable matter. If you disturb the trail [eg by stamping on the ground] the ants freeze into immobility.
www.ispotnature.org/node/548180 
www.ispotnature.org/node/630986 
www.ispotnature.org/node/641812 
www.ispotnature.org/node/732220 
www.ispotnature.org/node/754844 


Messor piceus: Small black harvester ant. 
Maximae 10 mm to minimae 7 mm. Colour black with black pilosity [the hairs on M. capensis are white]. Smaller than M. capensis and the range of polymorphs is not as great. Some consider this to be merely a variant of M. capensis ....
www.ispotnature.org/node/756893

Messor decipiens : Deceptive harvester ant
Maximae 9 mm to minimae 4.5 mm. The majors have red heads and dark red alitrunk [thorax], while the gaster might be darker still. The minors may be black all over. The heads of the majors are wider by up to 20% than they are long.
M. decipiens occurs in the central/eastern provinces of South Africa [KZN, Mpumalanga, Free State and Limpopo] as well as Botswana, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
The specific name ‘decipiens’ means ‘deceiving’; and Bolton has suggested that this ant, with M. piceus, is merely a variety of M. capensis, and not a different species, so the name might be appropriate.
www.ispotnature.org/node/775433 

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OCYMYRMEX: the Hotrod ants. 
Slim, long-legged ants that generally prefer hot, dry sandy habitats, they are possibly the fastest ants on record, dashing around at hotrod speeds in apparently random directions but in reality seeking heat-stressed insects. As in the genus Messor they have a ‘basket’ or ‘beard’ of stiff bristles under the head, which they apparently use to clear sand grains from their nests. No Ocymyrmex queens have ever been found; the genus apparently has solely ‘ergatoid’ queens or mated workers, that closely resemble the workers themselves. There are no less than 30 species in our region but only two have starred on iSpot – we apparently need faster shutter speeds, you iSpotters.

Ocymyrmex velox: the Large hotrod ant. 
10 to 11 mm. Head red brown, thorax darker, gaster light red-brown or even orange to yellow. Very fast runner; mainly in Namibia and Angola.
www.ispotnature.org/node/485982 




Ocymyrmex barbiger: the Bearded hotrod ant. 
6.5 mm. Red-brown with darker thorax and black gaster. Very long legs, very fast, etc etc.
www.ispotnature.org/node/470539 
www.ispotnature.org/node/724301 
www.ispotnature.org/node/752620 
www.ispotnature.org/node/604329  [Graphic]

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MYRMICARIA: the Droptail ants [Hanggatmiere]. 
Uniquely amongst all ants, Myrmicaria have antennae with only 7 segments [scape + 6]. They also always have characteristic drooping gasters that point downwards towards the ground, hence the common name. They have large eyes, prominent propodeal spines, prominent stings, and often create trails when foraging. There are 14 species in our region with four subspecies; five have been identified on iSpot so far.

Myrmicaria baumi: Red droptail ant. 
8 to 9.5 mm. Dark red-brown, abdomen dark brown, legs and antennae almost black with black pilosity. Prefers drier, semi-desert habitats
www.ispotnature.org/node/727853 
www.ispotnature.org/node/728065 
www.ispotnature.org/node/642096 
www.ispotnature.org/node/581489 

Myrmicaria natalensis: Natal droptail ant. 
6.5 – 7.7 mm. Head, thorax and petiole dark red to brownish red; gaster, legs and antennae darker brown to almost black; shiny. This is a savanna ant and despite the specific and common names is widespread across Southern Africa. The colonies are often very large.
www.ispotnature.org/node/555418 
www.ispotnature.org/node/619252 
www.ispotnature.org/node/742128 
www.ispotnature.org/node/755768 
www.ispotnature.org/node/756568 

Myrmicaria faurei: Faure’s droptail ant. 
6.5 to 7 mm. Black and shiny all over, with considerable striation or 'wrinkles' on head and thorax. The long, downward-curving spines on the propodeum are definitive for the species, which typically occurs along the northern Drakensberg escarpment and similar habitats.
www.ispotnature.org/node/539563  
www.ispotnature.org/node/544654 




Myrmicaria nigra: Black droptail ant. 
5.5 mm; dark brownish black, the legs and antennae might be paler. Pale yellow hairs, not always obvious; often very shiny. This is the only Myrmicaria in the Western Cape but is otherwise fairly widespread. Slow and bumbling in appearance, they nest in the ground with frequently a loose mound of detritus packed around the nest entrance. Some west coast specimens might be a little larger, up to 6.5 mm, where the colonies are often quite large.
www.ispotnature.org/node/641421 
www.ispotnature.org/node/652241 
www.ispotnature.org/node/734977 
www.ispotnature.org/node/604251  [Graphic]

Myrmicaria laevior: Shiny droptail ant. 4 mm. Shiny reddish brown with paler legs; gaster can be darker, very little pilosity or pubescence. Prefers wooded habitats on the east coast.
www.ispotnature.org/node/495736 

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ATOPOMYRMEX: Tree ants. 
There is only one species in our region:

Atopomyrmex mocquerysi: Two-tone tree ant. 
Majors 8 mm; mediae 6 mm; minors 4 mm. Head and thorax dark red, petiole, gaster and legs black, antennae reddish brown; all shiny with little or no pubescence. There is little difference in the shape of majors, mediae and minors. Slow moving tree-dwellers from the KZN coast and into Zimbabwe. The iSpot dictionary currently misspells the generic and species names as one word.
www.ispotnature.org/node/721413 
www.ispotnature.org/node/739932 

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PHEIDOLE: the House ants. 
A huge genus in the New World, there are 76 species in Africa, and these are in such a profound taxonomic mess that this total is probably completely wrong. To illustrate the problem, there are to date 26 recognised species in our area, with no less than 32 subspecies! Pheidole minor workers closely resemble Tetramorium or Solenopsis, but are always readily identifiable by the presence of majors with ridiculously disproportionate, huge heads. These are seldom ‘soldiers’ in defence of the colony – they’re usually the first to disappear when you turn over a stone. Instead their function seems to be cutting up food, cracking open seeds, etc. iSpotters have so far pinned down pinned down seven of our local species.


Pheidole crassinoda: Namib house ant. 
Majors 7 mm, minors 4 mm: all dark reddish brown with paler legs; the majors have slightly elongated heads.
www.ispotnature.org/node/472687 




Pheidole megacephala: Big-headed house ant. 
Majors 5 to 5.5 mm; minors 2.5 to 3 mm. Major’s heads appear almost ‘circular’ compared to the rectangular nature of many other species; reddish brown with darker gaster; two yellowish spots on either side of the first gaster segment. Minors are similarly coloured but with paler heads. The species is widespread in our region, from where it is thought to have originated. It is now a worldwide ‘tramp’ or invasive species, causing some economic and environmental damage in some areas. It has evolved the ability to form super-colonies and has become a substantial pest/invader of many human habitations and towns.
www.ispotnature.org/node/698347 
www.ispotnature.org/node/487630 
www.ispotnature.org/node/657922 
www.ispotnature.org/node/658189 





Pheidole aspera: Hairy house ant. 
Majors 5 mm, minors 3 mm. Both castes are yellowish-brown with darker, almost to black heads, with distinct yellowish pilosity over the whole body.
www.ispotnature.org/node/714444 


Pheidole akermani: Akerman's house ant
Majors 5 mm, minors 2.6 mm. Gaster dark brown, extremities and rear of heads redder; legs red-brown, slight yellowish pilosity. Only in KZN.
www.ispotnature.org/node/779804




Pheidole capensis: Brown house ant. 
Majors 4 to 5 mm; minors 2.5 mm. Major's heads are dark red to brownish black, thorax yellowish red, gaster and legs yellowish brown. In the minors the colouring is yellow-brown all over, with darker heads.
www.ispotnature.org/node/726116 

Pheidole strator subsp. fugax: Lowveld house ant
Majors >4 – 4mm; minors 1.8 – 2mm. The majors are reddish and paler than the minors, which can be quite dark brown; both shiny with prominent yellow pilosity. Generally nest under tree bark; in Mpumalanga, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
www.ispotnature.org/node/766321 

Pheidole kitschneri: Kitschner’s house ant
Majors 3.5 mm; minors 2.5mm. Majors and minors brownish, translucent yellow. There are two shallow ridges down the alitrunk, with weakly-developed propodeal spines. Confined to KZN.
www.ispotnature.org/node/778406 

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SOLENOPSIS: the Fire ants. 
Some Solenopsis are monomorphic, but both our species here are polymorphic, with a considerable range of sizes between maximae and minimae. The antennae are ten segmented with a two-segmented club [cf the similar-looking Monomorium, which has a three-segmented club]. There are four species with three subspecies in our region; iSpot has found two.

WARNING: Solenopsis have powerful stings which they use freely; the venom is a particularly harmful one which can cause anaphylactic shock in some humans.



Solenopsis geminata: Red fire ant. 
Maximae 6 mm; minimae 2.4 mm. Colour varies widely, from reddish to brownish yellow. This highly invasive alien species has fortunately not yet made much of an impact in our region: it has caused havoc elsewhere. Here it has been found in East London and Durban, but not apparently our other coastal cities [yet].
www.ispotnature.org/node/630833  [Graphic]




Solenopsis punctaticeps: Yellow fire ant. 
Maximae 4 mm down to minimae of 1.8 mm. Dirty yellow to yellow-red in colour with darker abdomens. The ants seem to remain underground for prolonged periods, only emerging in the dullest of weather.
www.ispotnature.org/node/555146 
www.ispotnature.org/node/475889 
www.ispotnature.org/node/568310 
www.ispotnature.org/node/630832  [Graphic]

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CATAULACUS: the Sculpted tree ants. 
Another curious genus in which the slow-moving ants appear to be armoured, having rugged skins with numerous projecting ‘teeth’ from the sides of the head and thorax, with a pair of spines on the propodeum. Most species are black with paler or yellowish legs and antennae; viewed from above, only the first segment of the gaster is visible. There are seven species in our region, with two so far on iSpot.

Cataulacus intrudens: Savanna sculpted tree ant. 
Workers 4 – 5 mm. Black with dark rusty red legs and scape; sparsely hairy and extremely rugged skin.
www.ispotnature.org/node/731224 

Cataulacus wissmannii: Mangrove sculpted tree ant. 
3.5 mm, occasionally larger. Smaller than C. intrudens, with larger and flatter eyes; black with brown legs, flagellum and mandible; scapes and tarsi [lower legs] reddish-yellow. Clothed all over in short hairs.
www.ispotnature.org/node/629223 

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CREMATOGASTER: the Cocktail ants. 
A very large genus with hundreds of species spread around the world. In our area there are 6 sub-genera with 48 species and 44 subspecies, of which only a paltry seven have made it on to iSpot. However, that’s not entirely your fault: the genus is in possibly the worst taxonomic mess of all ant genera [except Pheidole?] and it is extremely difficult to ID these ants from photos alone. Of the roughly 160 obs of Crematogaster on iSpot, more than half have not been identified below genus level.
Crematogaster have 10 or 11-segmented antennae, with well-developed eyes set at or just behind the midline of the head. Most species have two prominent propodeal spines, and the heart-shaped gasters are absolutely characteristic of the genus. Moreover, because of the construction of the petiole nodes all species are able to ‘cock their tails’, ie lift their gasters vertically above their heads as a defensive gesture. Many have stings and many release offensive substances when they so raise their gasters. Most species live both in the ground and in rotten wood and/or in carefully constructed ‘carton’ nests, made of well-chewed vegetable matter stuck together with saliva. Some species live under bark or in the thorns of savanna trees – it is somehow gratifying that the African species Crematogaster acaciae will never have its name stolen by Australians.




Crematogaster melanogaster: Brown cocktail ant. 
4.5 – 5.5 mm. Head, thorax and petiole brick to dull red; gaster black and fairly shiny; legs dark reddish brown. Fairly hairy [under magnification]; large eyes; propodeal spines narrower than C castanea. Occurs primarily in drier areas, west coast and Karoo. Apologies for fairly average photos.
www.ispotnature.org/node/496842 
www.ispotnature.org/node/497008 
www.ispotnature.org/node/705410 




Crematogaster peringueyi: Black cocktail ant. 
<4 mm - 5.5 mm [the size variation is considerable but not in the same nest]. Black with dark brown extremities; considerable pubescence but ants appear shiny, especially the gaster. This is the most common species in the southern half of our region; the west coast varieties tending to be larger and blacker than the south coast. Ants run in trails and are very aggressive, biting on contact; their carton nests in bushes and shrubs are a common feature in the coastal vegetation.
www.ispotnature.org/node/600786 
www.ispotnature.org/node/641417 
www.ispotnature.org/node/695810 
www.ispotnature.org/node/737477 
www.ispotnature.org/node/752359 




Crematogaster castanea: Red cocktail ant. 
>4 mm. Orange to reddish heads with darker gasters, often with paler areas on the anterior gaster segments. This is a massively confused, confusing and disputed species with no fewer than 97 described varieties, races and subspecies, and we have no doubt that some of the IDs on iSpot will be changed at some stage. In the meantime, when in doubt and it’s reddish, call it castanea – you probably won’t be wrong. Generally tree-dwelling in the moister eastern interior and coastal areas of the region, up into the tropics.
www.ispotnature.org/node/766325 
www.ispotnature.org/node/759538 
www.ispotnature.org/node/769483 
www.ispotnature.org/node/587881 
www.ispotnature.org/node/598371 

Crematogaster oscaris: Oscar’s cocktail ant. 3.5 - 4 mm. 
Body black, mandibles, antennae and legs blackish brown; sparse yellowish pubescence. The prominent, slightly out-and-up-turned propodeal spines and the distinct constrictions between the three segments of the antennal club are distinctive of the species, which seems to be confined to Namibia; they often build very large carton nests.
www.ispotnature.org/node/770637 

Crematogaster natalensis subsp braunsii: Small golden cocktail ant. 
3 – 3.5 mm. Head yellowish brown, thorax ochreous red, gaster reddish brown. Widespread in KZN down to the Cape, at higher altitudes under stones. Only one obs on iSpot.
www.ispotnature.org/node/524535 




Crematogaster orobia: Matroosberg cocktail ant. 
2.5 – 3.5 mm. Black with dark brown extremities; gaster nearly as long as head and thorax combined. Occurs at altitudes of 900m+ throughout the Cape, under stones. Two obs on iSpot; photos poor but there is a graphic too.
www.ispotnature.org/node/752159 
www.ispotnature.org/node/752161 




Crematogaster transvaalensis: Small black cocktail ant. 
2.4 – 2.8 mm. Dark brown to pitch black with brown legs and antennal club; mandible, antennae and tarsi reddish yellow. The gaster is large, almost as long as head and thorax combined. Despite the name they are widespread except in desert areas, the fynbos tending to host the ‘hammi’ variety which is often smaller and darker than others. If born-frees don’t understand the species name, well ... ask your parents. Apologies for poor quality of the only photos so far on iSpot.
www.ispotnature.org/node/687166 
www.ispotnature.org/node/761796  [Graphic]

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TETRAMORIUM: Fierce or Garden ants. 
The monomorphic Tetramorium is probably the hardest genus of all to define simply. Every ‘defining’ characteristic is shared with at least one other genus. Most are small and fairly obscure ants with 11 or 12 segmented antennae and at least one pair of spines on the propodeum. Many species have a distinctly thickened first and/or second petiole node, and this might be the best starting point in identification of most species. Almost all species, too, have distinctly ‘wrinkled’ or grooved faces. Nevertheless, this is the largest genus in our region with at least 102 species, yet we have collectively iSpotted just four of these.




Tetramorium signatum: Feigning fierce ant. 
4.5 – 5 mm. Blackish brown with dark red legs, antennae and mandibles; petiole nodes notably thick. Head proportionately large to gaster. Prefers drier areas especially in the west; this ant notably feigns death by curling up in a ‘foetal’ position when accosted. They seem to be harvesters and are often seen carrying seeds, etc.
www.ispotnature.org/node/505528 
www.ispotnature.org/node/508626 
www.ispotnature.org/node/559040 

Tetramorium setuliferum: Red fierce ant
4 – 5 mm; red to red-brown, very fine adpressed silvery hairs give legs a shiny appearance; robust rounded heads. Widespread except in the Western Cape.
www.ispotnature.org/node/777481 





Tetramorium sericeiventre: Black garden ant. 
3 mm to 4 mm [but not in same colony]. Head and thorax usually dull red but can be yellowish to almost black; gaster shiny black. Four spines on the propodeum, two dorsal, two ventral. Lives in small colonies in the ground; freezes when accosted by other ants. The species T. quadrispinosum has been absorbed into this species, thus swapping one unspellable scientific name for an even worse one.
www.ispotnature.org/node/724302 
www.ispotnature.org/node/705454 
www.ispotnature.org/node/714445 
www.ispotnature.org/node/751360 
www.ispotnature.org/node/763351 

Tetramorium angulinode: Fat-waisted fierce ant. 
2.7 mm. Black with brown mandibles, antennae and upper limbs, with an overall white pilosity; abdomen smooth and shiny. Both petiole nodes are thickened and oval to cuboid. Northern parts of our region.
www.ispotnature.org/node/682064 

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MERANOPLUS: the Cautious or Furry ants. 
Small, very furry, slow-moving ants in which the upper segments of the thorax are fused into a shield-like plate with a distinct margin or shelf which, at the posterior end, overhangs the propodeal spines. The ants resemble smaller versions of Cataulacus, with which they were once lumped; all are brown to dark brown; the antennae are 9-segmented [scape + 8]. Seven species recorded from our area; iSpot has two so far.



Meranoplus peringueyi: Hairy cautious ant. 
3 – 4.2 mm. Dark brown to almost black and very woolly; the overall shape is superficially similar to Crematogaster until you get right up close. Small colonies under stones.
www.ispotnature.org/node/729286 
www.ispotnature.org/node/731388  [Graphic]

Meranoplus inermis: Spineless cautious ant. 
2 – 2.5 mm. Medium to dark brown, the gaster is often darker than the rest. The common name is not a judgement call on the ant’s courage, but refers to the fact that this is the only Meranoplus that lacks distinct spines on the propodeum.
www.ispotnature.org/node/760031 

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MONOMORIUM: the Timid ants. 
Monomorphic [all same size] ants that are surprisingly common, yet often overlooked. They resemble ants in the genus Tetramorium, and also Pheidole minor workers, but all Monomorium have no spines on the propodeum, and most have smooth heads; the antennal ‘club’ has three segments, which separates Monomorium from Solenopsis, which only has 2-segmented clubs. Monomorium are generally small and timid, quietly keeping to themselves, with a few notable exceptions. There are 77 species in our region, of which a paltry 12 have been noticed by iSpotters.



Monomorium excelsior: Large brown timid ant. 
3.2 – 3.5 mm. Dark brown all over and very shiny; although first recorded at 2200m in the Matroosberg, it is widespread down to sea-level.
www.ispotnature.org/node/627914 
www.ispotnature.org/node/719683 
www.ispotnature.org/node/738958 
www.ispotnature.org/node/627861  [Graphic]

Monomorium albopilosum: Carrion timid ant
3 – 3.5 mm; elongate; head/alitrunk dark reddish brown; head/alitrunk closely punctured and dull; gaster shining or slightly shining with blueish sheen; legs shiny; fine white pilosity. Gaster pilosity semi-erect. Legs long and slender. All provinces except Western Cape.
www.ispotnature.org/node/775234 

Monomorium junodi: Junod’s timid ant
3 – 3.5 mm; elongate; head/alitrunk dark reddish brown; head/alitrunk closely punctured and dull; gaster shining or slightly shining, dark brown; legs shiny; fine white pilosity. Gaster pilosity semi-erect. Legs long and slender. All provinces except Western Cape. Very similar to M albipilosum above but without the overall pilosity
www.ispotnature.org/node/774629   



Monomorium fridae: Friday's fierce timid ant. 
3 – 3.2mm. Uniform brown to dark brown. Occurs in large colonies in drier areas where it builds a mound of loose detritus around the nest entrance; intensely aggressive when disturbed, hence the apparently contradictory name.
www.ispotnature.org/node/705211 
www.ispotnature.org/node/705425 
www.ispotnature.org/node/724307 



Monomorium havilandi: Haviland's timid ant. 
2.5 mm. Black, mandibles reddish; antennae and legs rusty brown; head and gaster shiny.
www.ispotnature.org/node/746654 



Monomorium pharaonis: Pharoah ant. 
2.5 mm. Yellow-orange, with the apex of the gaster a darker brown. A world-wide invader, it has been recorded in Cape Town since 1860 but has become uncommon; found mostly in the ‘leafy suburbs’ near Newlands.
www.ispotnature.org/node/626678  [Graphic]


Monomorium australe: Southern timid ant. 
2.4 mm. Reddish brown with darker gaster; mandibles etc slightly paler. There can occasionally be a range of sizes in the same nest, with minimae down to 1.8 mm. Occurs in drier areas.
www.ispotnature.org/node/626054  [Graphic]


Monomorium macrops: Teardrop-eyed timid ant. 
2 mm. Reddish brown with darker gaster; legs paler. Very large, tear-drop-shaped eyes; in shady places in drier areas.
www.ispotnature.org/node/754061  [Graphic]

Monomorium boerorum
Farmer’s timid ant
1.8 mm. Very pale legs and mandibles, dark brown body with coarse pilosity on gaster. Very tiny ants that are seldom noticed.
www.ispotnature.org/node/774306 [queen]

Monomorium xanthognathum: Yellow-jaw timid ant. 1.8 mm. Pitch black with yellow-red mandibles; legs dark brown; all polished and shiny. Cape Peninsula.
www.ispotnature.org/node/571901  [may be an incorrect ID]

Monomorium rhopalocerum: Small yellow timid ant. 
1.7 mm. Translucent pale yellow, shiny. Almost identical in appearance to Syllophopsis modesta but with slightly larger eyes.
www.ispotnature.org/node/606250 
www.ispotnature.org/node/607755  [Graphic: needs improvement]

Monomorium torvicte: Tiny brown timid ant. 
1.5 – 1.6 mm. Tiny, brown to dark brown ants with small eyes.
www.ispotnature.org/node/661191 

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MELISSOTARSUS : The Bee-legged ants. 
These are uncommon and bizarre little ants that live permanently under the bark or in the heartwood of various shrubs. There are two species in our area, but these may turn out to be one after all. 



Melissotarsus emeryi: Bee-legged boring ant
Only known to occur living in the proteaceous Leucospemum praemorsum, which occurs in a few scattered populations (with up to several thousand plants) in the Clanwilliam / Nieuwoudtville areas, and further north near Hondeklipbaai. Small [3 mm] yellow-brown ants that never emerge from their burrows and bizarrely walk with four legs down and two on the roof of their tunnels. They live on the secretions of coccids (mealy bugs) which the young queens probably introduce into the shrubs after their mating flights.
Western and Northern Cape, KZN, Mpumalanga and Zimbabwe.
www.ispotnature.org/node/779798 

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SYLLOPHOPSIS: the Minute timid ants
This small genus of very small ants was only recently erected as an African genus, when several almost-blind Monomorium ants were moved into the genus. They are all very small, pale yellow and with compound eyes that consist of a single facet only.

Syllophopsis modesta: Modest minute timid ant. 1.6 – 1.7 mm. Yellow, smooth and shining; rectangular head with tiny, single-facetted eyes. The iSpot dictionary is always slow to update, so the following are still listed there as ‘Monomorium modestum’.
www.ispotnature.org/node/752618 
www.ispotnature.org/node/642106  [Graphic: needs improvement]

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AENECTINAE: the False army ants

This monogeneric sub-family was raised by Bolton in 1990, when it was decided that the genus Aenictus was inappropriately placed in the Dorylinae sub-family. The name comes from the Latin ‘aenigma’, meaning ‘puzzling’ or ‘ambiguous’. For a long time the genus was known only from winged male specimens; indeed, there are several species that are still only known from a handful of male specimens, no workers ever having been collected.

AENICTUS: The False army ants
Aenictus, the ‘enigma ants’, are eyeless, ground-dwelling ants that occur across the Old World, from Africa into China and down to Australia. Mostly tropical, there are 181 described species, with 37 of these in Africa. There are several species awaiting description, but there are also a number of obscure species that might be combined in future.
The African species are all specialised predators of other ants, especially eggs, larvae and pupae. The colonies are very large and prey species are overcome by sheer weight of numbers. Raids are mounted upon nearby ant colonies, when large numbers of workers attack and assist each other in collecting and removing their prey. The columns of attacking and/or triumphantly returning ants resemble the habits of army ants such as Dorylus, hence the common name, ‘False army ants’ (‘True’ army ants move in nomadic columns that attack and consume anything edible that they find along the way). Columns move half-concealed through leaf litter, etc; it is not known whether the nests are permanent, or whether the ants are occasionally nomadic – the latter seems probable. 
Most species are very small (>2mm) to medium-small (>5mm), another feature which distinguishes them from true army ants. The antennae are 10-segmented [scape + 9], with a shortened, often curved scape; no eyes; much reduced clypeus bringing the antennal sockets very close to the front of the head; two-segmented petiole creates a superficial resemblance to ants of the Myrmicinae sub-family. In most species there are ventral processes on the petiole nodes.
The genus is reputed to be monomorphic [all ants same size or shape] but this is doubtful as some species have major workers that have different head shapes and colouring than the minors. In fact, most of our local species are polymorphic, with a smooth gradation from the minors to the (differently shaped) majors.
There are ten species from our region, of which four are so obscure that only males have ever been found; these are not dealt with here, but for the record they are
Aenictus alluaudi 
Aenictus crucifer 
Aenictus fuscovarius
Aenictus inconspicuus

Two species are recorded on iSpot:

Aenictus eugenii: Eugene’s false army ant
The workers are 3.7 to 4.0 mm long, larger and much darker-coloured than the very similar A. rotundatus, and varying less in size than the workers of that species. The head and alitrunk are a bright chestnut red with a lighter coloured gaster. The legs are yellowish red, and the sides of the alitrunk and the mandibles are a brownish red.
We presume that the species is named after the famed naturalist, Eugene Marais (1871 – 1936); whom Emery met as a young man.
Fantastic pics by Wynand Uys are on iSpot at:
www.iSpotnature.org/node/770032 

Aenictus rotundatus: Golden false army ant
The workers range from 2.3 to 3.8 mm in length. How such a wide range – where the majors are nearly twice as large as the minors – can be described as ‘monomorphic’ is ridiculous, especially as the majors have wider heads and are darker in colour than the minors. In fact the species is polymorphic, with a continuous range of sizes from largest to smallest. The body colour is golden red, with some ants having a paler basal gaster segment. There is a long, yellowish and rather sparse pilosity on the petiole and gaster, and less regular and scantier, on the head, scape and alitrunk.
Major workers’ heads are as wide as they are long, while minors’ heads are about 20% longer than wide. 
“Rotundatus’ means ‘rotund’ or ‘round-shaped’ and presumably refers to the shape of the major workers’ heads.
Fairly good pics by Ricky Taylor, which I erroneously originally identified as Solenopsis puntaticeps, are on iSpot at
www.ispotnature.org/node/767545 

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PSEUDOMYRMICINAE: the Slender ants. 

There is only one African genus in this small subfamily: Tetraponera. These are all slender, elongated ants with relatively short legs and often with large eyes, with strong stings that they do not hesitate to use. All live in dead wood or hollow stems, eg the dead stems of Iridaceae such as Watsonea, Aristea, etc. There are twelve species in our region, with five on iSpot.

Tetraponera natalensis: Natal slender ant. 
7 – 8 mm. Yellow/red with darker apex to gaster; eyes large, set on or slightly behind the midline of the head; the thoracic area has a distinct margin. Commonest in grasslands where in lives mainly under tree bark and has taken to the invasive Acacia mearnsii [Black wattle]. The commonest subsp is caffra, which some think should be re-instated as a separate species [Tetraponera caffra, Santschi 1914]
www.ispotnature.org/node/764178 
www.ispotnature.org/node/763233 
www.ispotnature.org/node/534763   



Tetraponera emeryi: Emery’s yellow slender ant. 
4 – 4.5 mm. Yellow all over; eyes medium, set before the midline of the head. Widespread over the whole country, in hollow stems and twigs.
www.ispotnature.org/node/607778 
www.ispotnature.org/node/769856 [graphic]

Tetraponera ambigua: Small yellow slender ant. 
4 – 4.5 mm. Yellow to yellow-red all over, the apex of the gaster a little darker. Large eyes, set on or behind the midline of the head. North and eastern parts of our region, on trees or nesting in hollow twigs.
www.ispotnature.org/node/746178 

Tetraponera braunsi: Brauns’ slender ant
4 – 4.4 mm. The ants are black with reddish or orange appendages; the eyes are not angled but in line with the head. The head shape is distinctive, ‘bulging’ slightly behind the eyes. 
The type variety braunsi is found in the Willowmore area and down to the South Coast.
The variety equidentata is also black but is smaller, workers at 3.5 – 4 mm, than braunsi and occurs mainly in the Western Cape.
The subspecies durbanensis has workers that are 3.8 – 4 mm long and are entirely dark ochreous yellow, with the head, alitrunk and gaster smooth and shining. As the name implies they occur mainly in the Durban area.
www.ispotnature.org/node/779719 



Tetraponera clypeata: Black slender ant. 
3.5 to 4 mm. Black all over, legs dark brown; antennae reddish yellow but brown towards the base; very shiny. Widespread but especially in fynbos, nesting in hollow stems and dead wood.
www.ispotnature.org/node/523643 
www.ispotnature.org/node/526508 

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DOLICHODERINAE: the Smelly ants [Stinkmiere]. 
Considered by some to be a ‘sister subfamily’ of the Formicinae, its members have no stings but secrete acid or other offensive substances as defence. However, unlike in the Formicinae the pupae are always naked, without cocoons. The common family name comes from the fact that all species give off a pungent smell when crushed. The subfamily is very large in Australasia but there are only four genera in our region, and all but one are represented on iSpot to species level. All the species described are small, 3 mm or less.

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AXINIDRIS: a small genus of only three species, all reputedly wood-dwellers and uncommon. The species from Namibia and St Lucia have not yet been iSpotted.


Axinidris lignicola: Grandfather’s wood ant. 
3 mm. First described in 2007, the ants are uncommon and have so far only been found at Grootvadersbosch. Head and body dark brown, and only slightly hairy.
www.ispotnature.org/node/628741  [Graphic]

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TECHNOMYRMEX: Pale-footed ants. Very similar to the genus Tapinoma [not represented here yet] but viewed from above always has five gastral segments visible; the petiole node is insignificant and sometimes almost invisible; propodeum unarmed; legs and antennae usually paler than body. There are ten species reported from our region [one, T. albipes, is dubious]; we have two on iSpot. All smell foul when crushed.

Technomyrmex ilgi: Ilg’s pale footed ant. 
2.7 – 3.2 mm. Colour uniform light brown, brown or dark brown, but not varied in the same nest. Tarsi [lower leg] on hind and middle legs a little paler. Nests in the ground or under rotten wood.
www.ispotnature.org/node/752612  [very poor photos: a Graphic is in progress]


Technomyrmex pallipes: Pallid pale-footed ant. 
2.2 – 2.5 mm. Dark brown, base and apex of scape, flagellum, mandibles brownish yellow; legs pale yellow, darker in the upper limb. Very widespread indigenous species which has adapted to living in human dwellings, where it invades [and wrecks] electronic and electrical devices. Forms super-colonies centred on a dwelling or erf, in which it appears to be semi-nomadic, moving brood and queens to random and often apparently quite unsuitable locations. Runs in trails. The species has ergatoid queens and males, and is apparently able to defeat and exclude Argentine ants through chemical secretions. Likes to be near a water supply, so common in kitchens and bathrooms.
www.ispotnature.org/node/567902 
www.ispotnature.org/node/747270 
www.ispotnature.org/node/627743 
www.ispotnature.org/node/734797 
www.ispotnature.org/node/604210  [Graphic]

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LINEPITHEMA: a small genus from mainly Central and South America, one species has become a dangerous world wide invader, especially in temperate coastal cities but already in the interior of our region, both in farmlands and towns and cities. It is economically destructive as a vector of plant pests, attacking laying hens, etc etc, as well as disrupting natural seed-dispersal strategies in fynbos, etc.:


Linepithema humile: Argentine ant. 
2.5 – >3 mm. Arnold’s 1915 description of this ant being up to 3.5 mm long is wrong; the workers never quite reach 3 mm in length. Overall brown with slightly paler legs, antennae and mandibles; gaster very slightly darker. Large eyes, some pilosity, especially on posterior segments of gaster. Ants smell like Parmesan cheese when crushed. Run in trails, sometimes dense; queens are occasionally seen running with the workers. Live in huge, interconnected super-colonies and have a reputation for wiping out all indigenous species in areas they invade. However, recent surveys have suggested that the indigenous species are fighting back and reclaiming some areas.
www.ispotnature.org/node/483781 
www.ispotnature.org/node/520438 
www.ispotnature.org/node/719680 
www.ispotnature.org/node/734959 
www.ispotnature.org/node/504441 
www.ispotnature.org/node/604208  [Graphic]

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