Pheidole

This is a cosmopolitan genus with species in tropical and temperate regions. They are characterized by large, broad-headed workers, some with a relatively small body and large head. Workers are 2.2-4.5 mm long and the body is yellowish brown to dark brown. Antennae terminate in a distinct three-segmented club. The thorax is punctate and the epino-tum has distinct spines; the pedicel is two-segmented. Nests usually are under stones or in soil, sometimes around building foundations. Nests may contain several hundred workers; small workers have normal-sized heads, while larger ones have greatly enlarged heads with very large mandibles. Natural food includes seeds, which are brought back to the nest by small workers, and then crushed into fragments by large-headed workers.

Pheidole bicarinata (Fig. 9.6e) Workers are 1.6-3 mm long and the body is yellowish brown to dark brown. The head is longer than broad and has a median furrow; the anterior portion of the head has longitudinal grooves, while the posterior portion is without grooves, and shiny. The scape extends to the midlength of the head. This species occurs in a range of habitats, including deserts, mountains, and beaches. Nests in natural habitats are in rotting wood, exposed soil, or under stones and other objects. Natural foods are honeydew, seeds, and small insects. Indoors, workers forage for meat, bread, and grease. This species is native to North America and occurs from Nebraska to New York and south to Arizona and Florida.

Pheidole dentata (Fig. 9.6f) Workers are 2.4-3.8 mm long and light brown to dark brown. The head is bilobed with a median furrow; the anterior margin ofthe clypeus has a median emargination or tooth. The anterior portion of the head is sculptured and opaque, while the posterior half is smooth and shiny; the sides of the thorax, excluding the prothorax, are sculptured. The scape extends beyond the midlength of the head. The dorsal surface of the gaster has long, erect setae. Nests in natural habitats are in exposed soil, under objects, in logs and rotting wood. Natural food is live and dead insects, seeds, and honeydew. Indoors they forage for high-protein food, including meat, and grease; they also feed on sugary material such as fruit juices. This species is native to North America and occurs from Kansas toVirginia south to Texas and Florida.

Coastal brown ant, big-headed ant, Pheidole edax (= P. megacephala) Workers are 1.5-2.5 mm long and yellowish brown to dark brown. The head is bilobed and has a median furrow; colonies contain distinct large-and small-headed workers. Epinotal spines are short. Nests in natural habitats are in exposed soil; their large size and extensive tunnels dominate an area and often eliminate native ant species. In peridomestic habitats, the nests may undermine paving stones, small structures, and the root systems ofsome plants; indoors they nest in wall voids. Colonies have several functional queens, and colonies spread by groups of workers accompanying fertilized queens separating from the main colony. This process is referred to as budding. Natural foods include live and dead insects, honeydew, and sap-sucking insects. Indoors they feed on meat, grease, pet food, and other high-protein material; workers forage in kitchens and bathrooms during warm months. This species is native to Africa, but it is a pest in domestic habitats in coastal and inland sites in Australia and Hawaii.

Pheidole floridana (Fig. 9.6g) Workers are 1.5-2.6 mm long and yellowish brown to very light brown. The head is bilobed with a median furrow; the scape extends to about midlength of the head, and a groove along the side of the head accepts the scape. The head is punctate and nearly opaque, exceptfor a smooth and shiny area that may be the posterior third or fourth of the head, or only a narrow area around the eyes. Nests in natural habitats are in exposed soil or under objects; they also nest in logs and stumps, and in litter at the base of trees. In the urban environment, they nest around the perimeter of buildings and houses. This species may be confined to coastal areas. This species is native to North America and occurs from North Carolina to Florida and south through the Gulf Coast states to Texas.

Other Pheidole The small-sized species, P. hyatti, sometimes occurs indoors feeding on grease and meats; it occurs in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys of California and east to Texas.

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