Hypoponera punctatissima (Roger 1859)
Roger’s ant (Delabie & Blard 2002), Tropical stinging ant (www9)
Synonyms ( )
Ponera punctatissima Roger
Synonyms or changes in combination or taxonomy: Ponera androgyna Roger, Ponera punctatissima var. exacta Santschi, Ponera punctatissima subsp. schauinslandi Emery, Ponera tarda Charsley
Current subspecies: nominal plus Hypoponera punctatissima subsp. indifferens Forel, Hypoponera punctatissima subsp. jugata Forel
The origin of this pantropical tramp ant is unclear, and there are unresolved questions related to its real name. Probably of African origin (Wilson & Taylor 1967; Delabie & Blard 2002). McGlynn (1999) suggested Western Europe but this may be an error due to the original description being from hothouses in Germany (Roger 1859).
Probably first introduced to Europe during the first millennium of the Christian era (Seifert 1996, quoted in Delabie & Blard 2002). It has more recently been introduced to the southern hemisphere with collections from a number of Pacific islands since the 1930s (Wilson & Taylor 1967), including Norfolk Island (www4) and the Kermadecs (Wilson & Taylor 1967), and South America in 1996 (Delabie & Blard 2002). Recently it has also established in the northern United States and is expanding its range (www8).
Distribution (see map)
Found in a hotel in Dunedin in July 2003 and likely present at least 6 months earlier.
Diagnostic features of the worker
Total length from 2.5 to 3.0 mm. Dark yellow-brown in colour. Antennae 12-segmented, including an indistinct 3-segmented club; antennal scapes short, not reaching posterior margin of head when laid straight back. Eyes very small, circular, appearing as a single facet or up to about 5 nearly fused facets; positioned close to mandibles. Mandibles triangular, with 4 or 5 apical teeth, followed by several small denticles. Clypeus without longitudinal carinae. The forward sections of the frontal lobes and antennal sockets are very close together and are separated by at most a very narrow rearward extension of the clypeus. Head large with convex sides. Propodeum without spines. One node (petiole) present, thick in lateral view, with anterior and posterior faces nearly parallel, very weakly converging, and with a broadly rounded to nearly flat dorsal face. The underside of the petiole (subpetiolar process) is uniformly convex and smooth. The tibiae of the hind legs each have a single large, comb-like (pectinate) spur at their tips (best viewed from the front). Gaster usually with a slight but distinct impression between the first and second segments; large, curved sting present. Surface sculpture: shiny or with minute puncturations. The subpetiolar process in Hypoponera lacks the anterior translucent fenestra (or window) and bilaterally paired small teeth that essentially characterize Ponera. Males are ergatoid (wingless and worker-like); these can be distinguished by the presence of genitalia, and 13 antennal segments.
Sources: Bolton 1994; Wilson & Taylor 1967 (key), www1, www4, www18
Formal description: Collingwood 1985.
This ant is a pantropical tramp, found worldwide outdoors in subtropical and tropical climates. In tropical areas, where introduced, they are not found in high numbers, with nests confined to decomposing matter and wood detritus either close to (Delabie & Blard 2002) or isolated from human establishments (Carpintero et al. 2003). In temperate regions predominantly found in permanently heated buildings, but also in sawdust heaps, rubbish dumps, and piles of horse manure where elevated temperatures are maintained (Timmins & Stradling 1993).
Workers are carnivorous, forage mostly underground, and are very rarely seen. They use their sting to prey on small invertebrates.
Mating takes place in the nest. Winged queens are produced in moderate numbers throughout the year (www8). Winged queens leave the nest after mating to look for places to start new nests.
A contaminant in hospitals (Grey et al. 1995) and probably other commercial premises. The ecological importance of this species is “probably minimal” (Wetterer 1998a). There are reports of stings when mating swarms occur in or around buildings where queens are attracted to lights (www8), but this has so far not been reported in New Zealand.
Very difficult to control as the whereabouts of colonies very difficult to determine (www8). Temperature may be a potential control tool, e.g., turning off heating for a period in winter as the ant is reported as living only where the temperature is no less than 21oC (Timmins & Stradling 1993).
Compiled by Richard Harris & Jo Berry