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Austroponera castanea (Mayr 1865)

Compiled by Warwick Don & Richard Harris. Updated 2020
Biostatus: Endemic


Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Genus: Austroponera
Species: castanea

Common name


Synonyms (Valentine & Walker 1991)

Pachycondyla castanea Mayr, Ponera castanea Mayr, Euponera (Mesoponera) castanea var. striata Stitz, Euponera (Mesponera) castanea (Mayr), Euponera castanea (Mayr), Tonera castanea (Mayr), Ponera (Mesoponera) castanea (Mayr), Mesoponera castanea (Mayr)


New Zealand has two endemic species, A. castanea and A. castaneicolor. Evidence points to a derivation of castanea from castaneicolor (R.W. Taylor pers. comm.). Those species of the genus inhabiting the Australian, Melanesian and Indo-Malayan regions appear to be closely related.


A. castanea is a widespread and common species in the North Island and also is found around Nelson, at the northern tip of the South Island.

General Description


This species shows considerable variation across its range. The mandibles are triangular with numerous small teeth along the inner margins; the mandibles touch the front of the clypeus when closed; the single node of the petiole has distinct front, top and rear faces; each tibia of the hind legs has two spurs, one large and comb-like and one small and simple.

Diagnostic features of the worker

Length 4.9–6.1 mm; antennae 12-segmented; eyes with about 30 ommatidia; mandibles long with about 10 teeth; metanotal groove deeply impressed; colour of head, body reddish to dark brown, antennae, legs yellowish-brown.


A. castanea has wingless and worker-like (ergatoid) queens, whereas A. castaneicolor has winged (alate) queens (Wilson & Taylor 1967). A. castanea seems to prefer nesting in shady native forests. Both species exploit the same nest sites — in soil under stones or in rotting logs. Highly predatory, they use an effective sting to immobilise prey.

Commonly sampled in pitfall traps, litter and on sweet baits.

Pest Status

Pachycondyla is commonly encountered in gardens, they have an effective sting and have been reported stinging people when the nests are disturbed.