Home > Species > Pheidole megacephala: The bigheaded ant

Pheidole megacephala is a species of ant in the family Formicidae and is thought to have originally been confined to Mauritius. It has spread via human shipping activities and is now present in the USA where it is commonly known as the bigheaded ant. It is known as the coastal brown ant in Australia where it is considered a very successful invasive species and poses a danger to native ants.

There are two types of worker ant, the major and the minor worker. The major are about four millimetres in length, twice as long as the minor workers. The colour of both types varies from yellowish-brown or reddish-brown to nearly black. The rear half of the head is smooth and glossy and the front half sculptured. The twelve-segmented antennae are curved and have club-like tips. The waist or petiole is two-segmented with the node immediately behind conspicuously swollen. There are a pair of short, upward-facing spines on the waist. The body has sparse, long hairs.

To call the major workers "soldiers" would be misleading. The common name of bigheaded ant derives from the major workers disproportionately large head which have large mandibles used primarily to crush seeds, not for specialist nest protection.

Pheidole megacephala nest underground. Colonies can have several queens and super-colonies can be formed by budding, when a queen and workers leave the original nest and set up a new colony nearby without swarming.

Tags: USA | Pheidole | Australia | megacephala

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