Atta mexicana

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Atta mexicana
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Atta
Species: A. mexicana
Binomial name
Atta mexicana
(Smith, F., 1858)

Atta mexicana casent0421379 profile 1.jpg

Atta mexicana casent0421379 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label

Photo Gallery

  • Major worker.


Identification Keys including this Taxon

Key to US Atta species


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 33.78962° to -34.471447°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: United States.
Neotropical Region: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Countries Occupied

Number of countries occupied by this species based on AntWiki Regional Taxon Lists. In general, fewer countries occupied indicates a narrower range, while more countries indicates a more widespread species.


Explore-icon.png Explore Fungus Growing 
For additional details see Fungus growing ants.

A handful of ant species (approx. 275 out of the known 15,000 species) have developed the ability to cultivate fungus within their nests. In most species the fungus is used as the sole food source for the larvae and is an important resource for the adults as well. Additionally, in a limited number of cases, the fungus is used to construct part of the nest structure but is not as a food source.

These fungus-feeding species are limited to North and South America, extending from the pine barrens of New Jersey, United States, in the north (Trachymyrmex septentrionalis) to the cold deserts in Argentina in the south (several species of Acromyrmex). Species that use fungi in nest construction are known from Europe and Africa (a few species in the genera Crematogaster, Lasius).

The details of fungal cultivation are rich and complex. First, a wide variety of materials are used as substrate for fungus cultivating. The so-called lower genera include species that prefer dead vegetation, seeds, flowers, fruits, insect corpses, and feces, which are collected in the vicinity of their nests. The higher genera include non leaf-cutting species that collect mostly fallen leaflets, fruit, and flowers, as well as the leafcutters that collect fresh leaves from shrubs and trees. Second, while the majority of fungi that are farmed by fungus-feeding ants belong to the family Lepiotaceae, mostly the genera Leucoagaricus and Leucocoprinus, other fungi are also involved. Some species utilise fungi in the family Tricholomataceae while a few others cultivate yeast. The fungi used by the higher genera no longer produce spores. Their fungi produce nutritious and swollen hyphal tips (gongylidia) that grow in bundles called staphylae, to specifically feed the ants. Finally, colony size varies tremendously among these ants. Lower taxa mostly live in inconspicuous nests with 100–1000 individuals and relatively small fungus gardens. Higher taxa, in contrast, live in colonies made of 5–10 million ants that live and work within hundreds of interconnected fungus-bearing chambers in huge subterranean nests. Some colonies are so large, they can be seen from satellite photos, measuring up to 600 m3.

Based on these habits, and taking phylogenetic information into consideration, these ants can be divided into six biologically distinct agricultural systems (with a list of genera involved in each category):

Nest Construction

A limited number of species that use fungi in the construction of their nests.

Lower Agriculture

Practiced by species in the majority of fungus-feeding genera, including those thought to retain more primitive features, which cultivate a wide range of fungal species in the tribe Leucocoprineae.

Coral Fungus Agriculture

Practiced by species in the Apterostigma pilosum species-group, which cultivate fungi within the Pterulaceae.

Yeast Agriculture

Practiced by species within the Cyphomyrmex rimosus species-group, which cultivate a distinct clade of leucocoprineaceous fungi derived from the lower attine fungi.

Generalized Higher Agriculture

Practiced by species in several genera of non-leaf-cutting "higher attine" ants, which cultivate a distinct clade of leucocoprineaceous fungi separately derived from the lower attine fungi.

Leaf-Cutter Agriculture

A subdivision of higher attine agriculture practiced by species within several ecologically dominant genera, which cultivate a single highly derived species of higher attine fungus.

Note that the farming habits of Mycetagroicus (4 species) are unknown. Also, while species of Pseudoatta (2 species) are closely related to the fungus-feeding genus Acromyrmex, they are social parasites, living in the nests of their hosts and are not actively involved in fungus growing. ‎

Association with Other Organisms

Explore-icon.png Explore: Show all Associate data or Search these data. See also a list of all data tables or learn how data is managed.
  • This species is a host for the pteromalid wasp Spalangia attae (a parasite) (Universal Chalcidoidea Database) (associate).
  • This species is a host for the fungus Beauveria bassiana (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission within nest).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora mexicanae (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Neodohrniphora sp. (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).

Flight Period

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec




Images from AntWeb

Atta mexicana casent0421377 head 1.jpgAtta mexicana casent0421377 profile 1.jpgAtta mexicana casent0421377 dorsal 1.jpgAtta mexicana casent0421377 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0421377. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.



Atta mexicana

Atta insularis

Atta texana

Atta cephalotes

Atta colombica

Atta robusta

Atta sexdens

Atta saltensis

Atta vollenweideri

Atta bisphaerica

Atta goiana

Atta laevigata

Atta capiguara

Atta opaciceps

Based on Barrera, C.A. et al., 2021. Note that only selected species are included.


The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's Online Catalogue of the Ants of the World.

  • mexicana. Oecodoma mexicana Smith, F. 1858b: 185, pl. 10, fig. 20 (q.m.) MEXICO (no state data).
    • Type-material: syntype queen(s), syntype male(s) (numbers not stated).
    • Type-locality: Mexico: (no further data).
    • Type-depository: BMNH.
    • Norton, 1868c: 9 (s.w.).
    • Combination in Atta: Roger, 1863b: 35;
    • combination in Atta (Archeatta): Gonçalves, 1942: 343.
    • Junior synonym of fervens: Roger, 1863b: 35; Mayr, 1865: 81; Forel, 1885a: 362; Mayr, 1886d: 442; Dalla Torre, 1893: 152; Forel, 1899c: 33.
    • Subspecies of insularis: Emery, 1913b: 259; Emery, 1924d: 354.
    • Status as species: Mayr, 1863: 438; Norton, 1868a: 66; Norton, 1868c: 9; Wheeler, W.M. 1907c: 703; Wheeler, W.M. 1934f: 140; Wheeler, W.M. 1935g: 34; Gonçalves, 1942: 343; Borgmeier, 1950d: 261; Smith, M.R. 1951a: 832; Smith, M.R. 1958c: 138; Borgmeier, 1959b: 351 (redescription); Smith, M.R. 1967: 363; Kempf, 1972a: 27; Hunt & Snelling, 1975: 22; Smith, D.R. 1979: 1413; Cherrett & Cherrett, 1989: 53; Bolton, 1995b: 76; Branstetter & Sáenz, 2012: 257.
    • Distribution: El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, U.S.A..


Female. Length 8-9 lines. Obscurely ferruginous, nearly black;closely resembling Atta cephalotes, but the thorax is more elongate; the second node of the abdomen wider, with the lateral angels produced and acute; the base of the abdomen truncated, the first segment longer than broad; in other respects resembling Atta cephalotes, but more hairy or downy.

Male. In size and form resembling the male of Atta cephalotes but of a uniform pale reddish yellow; the second abdominal node much wider.

The insect described as Atta laevigata is probably the worker of this species; in the Museum are several specimens from Mexico.


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Alatorre-Bracamontes, C.E. and M Vasquez-Bolanos. 2010. Lista comentada de las hormigas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) del norte de México. Dugesiana 17(1):9-36
  • Author Unknown. 2004. Mirmecofauna (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) comu?n del estero “El Salado” y Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Me?xico. Dugesiana 11(1):13-20.
  • Cancino, E.R., D.R. Kasparan, J.M.A. Coronado Blanco, S.N. Myartseva, V.A. Trjapitzin, S.G. Hernandez Aguilar and J. Garcia Jimenez. 2010. Himenópteros de la Reserva “El Cielo”, Tamaulipas, México. Dugesiana 17(1):53-71
  • Castano-Meneses, G., M. Vasquez-Bolanos, J. L. Navarrete-Heredia, G. A. Quiroz-Rocha, and I. Alcala-Martinez. 2015. Avances de Formicidae de Mexico. Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.
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  • Dattilo W. et al. 2019. MEXICO ANTS: incidence and abundance along the Nearctic-Neotropical interface. Ecology
  • Fernandes, P.R. XXXX. Los hormigas del suelo en Mexico: Diversidad, distribucion e importancia (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).
  • Flores-Maldonado K. Y., S. A. Phillips, and G. Sanchez-Ramos. 1999. The myrmecofauna (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) along an altitudinal gradient in the Sierra Madre Oriental of Northeastern Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist 44(4): 457-461.
  • Flores-Maldonado, K. Y., S. A. Phillips-Jr, and G. Sanchez-Ramos. 1999. The myrmecofauna (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) along an altitudinal gradient in the Sierra Madre Oriental of Northeastern Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist 44: 457-461.
  • Fortanelli Martinez, J., and M. E. Servin Montoya. 2002. Desechos de hormiga arriera (Atta mexicana Smith), un abono organico para la produccion horticola. Terra Latinoamericana 20: 153-160.
  • Gonçalves C. R. 1942. Contribuiça~o para o conhecimento do gênero Atta Fabr., das formigas saúvas. Bol. Soc. Bras. Agron. 5: 333-358.
  • Hernandez, F. Varela and G. Castano-Meneses. 2010. Checklist, Biological Notes and Distribution of Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from Barranca de Metztitlán Biosphere Reserve, Hidalgo, Mexico. Sociobiology 56(2):397-434
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  • Johnson R. Personnal Database. Accessed on February 5th 2014 at
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  • Mico, E., A.B.T. Smith, and M.A. Moron. 2000. New Larval Descriptions for Two Species of Euphoria Burmeister (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Cetoniinae: Cetoniini: Euphoriina) with a Key to the Known Larvae and a Review of the Larval Biology. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 93:795-802
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  • Mintzer, A., L. N. Quiroz-Robledo, and C. Deloya. 1991. Foundation of colonies of Atta mexicana (F. Smith) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the laboratory. Folia Entomologica Mexicana 82: 133-138.
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