Every Ant Tells a Story - And Scientists Explain Their Stories Here
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Belonopelta deletrix
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Ponerinae
Tribe: Ponerini
Alliance: Pachycondyla genus group
Genus: Belonopelta
Mayr, 1870
Type species
Belonopelta attenuata
2 species
(Species Checklist, Species by Country)

Casent0003157 p 1 high.jpg

Belonopelta deletrix

Casent0003157 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Label


Belonopelta is a small genus (two described species) restricted to the Neotropics. Little is known about their habits, but they are apparently cryptobiotic predators of diplurans and other soft-bodied arthropods.


Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Belonopelta workers are easily differentiated from those of most other ponerine genera by their narrow curved mandibles, which have several long teeth. Emeryopone is quite similar to Belonopelta, but they can be separated by their frontal lobes (very small and closely approximated in Belonopelta, medium sized and mildly separated anteriorly in Emeryopone) and by their body sculpturing and pilosity (pruinose and without upright pilosity in Belonopelta, foveolate with abundant pilosity in Emeryopone). Thaumatomyrmex also has curved mandibles with an attenuated apical tooth, but its teeth are much longer than in Belonopelta and it has much more widely spaced frontal lobes and larger eyes.

AntWeb icon 02.png See images of species within this genus

Keys including this Genus



Belonopelta is restricted to the Neotropics, ranging from southern Mexico to Colombia (Wilson, 1955a; Baroni Urbani, 1975).

Distribution and Richness based on AntMaps


Schmidt and Shattuck (2014) - Very little is known about the habits of Belonopelta, as they are rarely collected (Wheeler, 1935). Their vestigial eyes are suggestive of a cryptobiotic lifestyle, and field observations confirm this, as individual workers are found among leaf litter, under logs or in soil (Mann, 1922; Brown, 1950; Longino, 2013), and nests are constructed in rotting wood (Wilson, 1955a). Colonies are small, with roughly 16 or fewer workers and a single dealate queen (Wilson, 1955a; W. L. Brown, pers. comm. cited in Longino, 2013). Records of Belonopelta food preferences are scant, but Wilson (1955a) observed that Belonopelta deletrix workers in captivity readily preyed on diplurans, small geophilid centipedes, and a small cicadellid, but largely ignored large centipedes, termites, beetles (both larvae and adults), moth larvae, isopods, and millipedes. Wilson hypothesized that in nature B. deletrix is largely a specialist predator of diplurans, and observed that the method of prey capture by B. deletrix is typical for ponerines despite their highly specialized mandibular structure. Wilson (1955a) also observed that B. deletrix workers are very timid and readily flee from non-prey arthropods. The degree to which Wilson’s observations of B. deletrix apply also to Belonopelta attenuata is uncertain.



Worker Morphology

 • Antennal segment count 12 • Antennal club gradual • Palp formula 3,3 • Total dental count 5-6 • Spur formula 1 pectinate, 1 pectinate • Sting present

Male Morphology

 • Caste unknown


The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • BELONOPELTA [Ponerinae: Ponerini]
    • Belonopelta Mayr, 1870a: 374. Type-species: Belonopelta attenuata, by monotypy.
    • Belonopelta senior synonym of Leiopelta: Hölldobler & Wilson: 1990: 10; Bolton, 1994: 164.
  • LEIOPELTA [junior synonym of Belonopelta]
    • Leiopelta Baroni Urbani, 1975b: 309. Type-species: Belonopelta deletrix, by original designation.
    • Leiopelta junior synonym of Belonopelta: Hölldobler & Wilson, 1990: 10; Bolton, 1994: 164; Bolton, 1995b: 33.

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.


Schmidt and Shattuck (2014):


Small (TL 4–5 mm) ants with the standard characters of Ponerini. Mandibles narrow and curved, with five or six teeth, the apical tooth greatly attenuated, without a distinct basal margin or basal groove. Anterior clypeal margin triangular, sometimes with a prominent tooth medially. Frontal lobes very small and closely approximated. Eyes very small, located anterior of head midline. Metanotal groove shallow or reduced to a simple suture. Propodeum mildly narrowed dorsally. Propodeal spiracles round. Metatibial spur formula (1p). Petiole nodiform, wider than long. Subpetiolar process sometimes with an anterior fenestra. Gaster with a moderate girdling constriction between pre- and postsclerites of A4. Stridulitrum present on pretergite of A4. Head and body shining to pruinose, with scattered small foveae or punctations, very sparse pilosity and a dense short pubescence. Color reddish-brown to nearly black.


Described for Belonopelta deletrix by Wilson (1955a): similar to worker but slightly larger, alate, with ocelli, larger compound eyes, and the modifications of the thorax typical for alate ponerine queens.


Described for Belonopelta deletrix by Wheeler & Wheeler (1964).


  • Ashmead, W. H. 1905c. A skeleton of a new arrangement of the families, subfamilies, tribes and genera of the ants, or the superfamily Formicoidea. Can. Entomol. 37: 381-384 (page 382, Belonopelta in Pachycondylinae, Pachycondylini)
  • Baroni Urbani, C. 1975b. Contributo alla conoscenza dei generi Belonopelta Mayr e Leiopelta gen. n. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Mitt. Schweiz. Entomol. Ges. 48: 295-310 (page 298, Key to species)
  • Bolton, B. 2003. Synopsis and Classification of Formicidae. Mem. Am. Entomol. Inst. 71: 370pp (page 160, Belonopelta in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 43, Belonopelta in Ponerinae)
  • Emery, C. 1895l. Die Gattung Dorylus Fab. und die systematische Eintheilung der Formiciden. Zool. Jahrb. Abt. Syst. Geogr. Biol. Tiere 8: 685-778 (page 767, Belonopelta in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Emery, C. 1911e. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125 (page 87, Belonopelta in Ponerinae, Ponerini [subtribe Ponerini])
  • Forel, A. 1895b. A fauna das formigas do Brazil. Bol. Mus. Para. Hist. Nat. Ethnogr. 1: 89-139 (page 116, Belonopelta in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Forel, A. 1917. Cadre synoptique actuel de la faune universelle des fourmis. Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 51: 229-253 (page 238, Belonopelta in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Hölldobler, B.; Wilson, E. O. 1990. The ants. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, xii + 732 pp. (page 10, Belonopelta senior synonym of Leiopelta)
  • Mayr, G. 1870a. Formicidae novogranadenses. Sitzungsber. Kais. Akad. Wiss. Wien Math.-Naturwiss. Cl. Abt. I 61: 370-417 (page 374, Belonopelta as genus)
  • Schmidt, C.A. & Shattuck, S.O. 2014. The higher classification of the ant subfamily Ponerinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), with a review of ponerine ecology and behavior. Zootaxa 3817, 1–242 (doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3817.1.1).
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1910b. Ants: their structure, development and behavior. New York: Columbia University Press, xxv + 663 pp. (page 135, Belonopelta in Ponerinae, Ponerini)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1922i. Ants of the American Museum Congo expedition. A contribution to the myrmecology of Africa. VII. Keys to the genera and subgenera of ants. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 45: 631-710 (page 649, Belonopelta in Ponerinae, Ponerini)