Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Nylanderia spp


Family:  Formicidae
Subfamily:  Formicinae
Tribe:  Ponerini
Genus:  Nylanderia
Species:  spp

Common name(s) 

Generic common name – parrot ants (derived phonetically from genus name - Andersen 2002)

Synonyms ( )

Not yet formally described.


The genus Nylanderia contains 133 known species and subspecies (LaPolla, J.S.; Brady, S.G.; Shattuck, S.O. 2010). The genus is 'a common though often inconspicuous element of the ant faunas of almost all continental areas habitable by ants' (Trager 1984). Australia has 10 described species and subspecies and they occur in Melanesia, New Caledonia and several Pacific countries. There are several species (~3) of Nylanderia currently in New Zealand; scientists are currently working on diagnostic features to identify these species. The first records in collections in New Zealand are from Auckland, and date from the early 1940s.

Distribution (see map)

Collection records would suggest Nylanderia spp. have a special affinity for Auckland City, but this in part may simply be a reflection of a preponderance of collectors in the area. Sporadic collections have been made elsewhere – mainly in Northland, Waikato, Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty, and Hawke’s Bay. In more recent times Nylanderia spp. have been collected in Nelson City and adjacent areas, as well as in and near Christchurch. Given the species’ obvious preference for warmer climes, a single male collected from Rainbow State Forest near Lake Rotoiti in the South Island is probably unlikely to indicate permanent establishment in the area.

General description


In Nylanderia, the upper surface of the mesosoma (alitrunk) on the pronotum and mesonotum bears pairs of large hairs.

Diagnostic features of the worker

Length about 3 mm; antennae 12-segmented; mandibles with 6 teeth; colour of head and body light to dark brown, legs and antennae light brown.


The biology of this species is poorly known. In Auckland City, nests often occur under pumice stones. Colonies can be populous. In Australia Nylanderia species generally nest in open soil or under rocks, or in rotten wood on the ground (Shattuck 1999). Some species forage primarily at night, but Nylanderia spp. is active throughout the day (RJH pers. obs.).

Workers of some species of the genus tend plant-sucking insects. Nylanderia spp. has been found tending aphids on shrubbery in the suburbs of Auckland (Brown 1958a), tending hemipteran insects on apple, citrus, and tamarillo (Lester et al. 2003), and tending the mealybug, Pseudococcus longispinus, for its honeydew (Charles 1993). Charles (1993), after noting that there have been no documented cases of ant-induced mealybug outbreaks in this country, points out that in Israel, ' …where ants apparently do not induce mealybug outbreaks either, they may dramatically alter the species composition of parasitoids attacking coccids.'

Brown (1958a) notes, 'in some parts of the world Nylanderia species are agricultural pests.'

Pest status

Because this species can be very abundant in gardens, it is considered a nuisance. Trails of foragers can be seen going up into trees and shrubs, and the tending of scales may have minor consequences for horticultural crops. It seems this species does not commonly enter buildings in search of food.


Compiled by Warwick Don & Richard Harris
Updated Darren Ward 2010

References ››

Figures and maps