Myrmecia pyriformis

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Myrmecia pyriformis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmeciinae
Tribe: Myrmeciini
Genus: Myrmecia
Species group: gulosa
Species: M. pyriformis
Binomial name
Myrmecia pyriformis
Smith, F., 1858

Myrmecia pyriformis casent0217501 p 1 high.jpg

Myrmecia pyriformis casent0217501 d 1 high.jpg

Specimen Labels


Myrmecia pyriformis is a nocturnal forager whose activity outside the nest is largely restricted to night. Most foragers make only one foraging journey per night, leaving the nest individually at dusk to forage on nest-specific Eucalyptus trees. The majority of foragers return to the nest in the morning twilight, but individuals who capture prey often make multiple trips during the night. Foragers imbibe liquid food while abroad and likely share these resources via trophallaxis once within the nest. (Reid et al., 2013; Narendra et al., 2013)

Colonies can have either a normal, dealate queen or survive without a morphological queen (Dietemann et al., 2004). When the queen is absent a few mated workers are able to reproduce and maintain the colony (i.e. (gamergates). A colony collected without a queen continued to produce workers for the next three years (Sanetra, 2011). Queens generally mate with multiple males, estimated to be 2.6 on average. When gamergates are present, there are generally more than one (Sanetra, 2011).

At a Glance • Gamergate  

Photo Gallery

  • Myrmecia pyriformis worker, Mt Lofty Ranges, South Australia. Photo by Mark Newton.
  • A nocturnal solitary forager, Yandoit, Victoria, Australia (photo by Alex Wild).
  • Predator and prey: Myrmecia pyriformis with a European wasp. Yandoit, Victoria, Australia (photo by Alex Wild).
  • Myrmecia pyriformis dealate queen from Yandoit, Victoria, Australia (photo by Alex Wild).


Keys including this Species


Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: -27° to -39.91667°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Australasian Region: Australia (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.

Estimated Abundance

Relative abundance based on number of AntMaps records per species (this species within the purple bar). Fewer records (to the left) indicates a less abundant/encountered species while more records (to the right) indicates more abundant/encountered species.


Myrmecia pyriformis is a nocturnal forager. Most foragers make only one foraging journey per night, leaving the nest individually in a narrow light-window in the evening twilight to forage on nest-specific Eucalyptus trees. The majority of foragers return to the nest in the morning twilight, while few attempt to return to the nest throughout the night (mainly those that are returning with prey). Activity during the night varies with moon illumination, likely due to changes in light levels which influence navigation to and from the nest. As light levels drop, ants pause for longer, walk more slowly, the success in finding the nest is reduced and their paths became less straight. In both bright and dark conditions ants rely predominantly on visual landmark information for navigation and landmark guidance becomes less reliable at low light conditions. It is likely that poor navigational efficiency at low light levels cause the majority of foragers to restrict navigational tasks to the twilight periods, where sufficient navigational information is available (Reid et al., 2013; Narendra et al., 2013)

Colony life history

Wheeler (1916) described a mating flight near Armidale in New South Wales: "As soon as a male (and there were hundreds of males to every female) captured a female on a bush, other males surrounded the couple till there was a struggling mass of ants forming a ball as large as one's fist. As many as half a dozen of these balls would keep forming on every little bush and this went on throughout the morning". After mating, young winged queens found colonies independently in a non claustral manner (Life History). Colonies can grow up to a few thousand workers (Sanetra, 2011).

Association with Other Organisms

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  • This species is a host for the eucharitid wasp Austeucharis sp. (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (multiple encounter modes; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).

Life History Traits

  • Queen number: monogynous
  • Queen type: winged or dealate; gamergate
  • Colony type: monodomous
  • Nest site: hypogaeic
  • Diet class: omnivore
  • Foraging stratum: arboreal
  • Foraging behaviour: solitary forager
  • Activity time: nocturnal
  • Diet: generalist


Myrmecia pyriformis workers are markedly polymorphic in size; minor workers are almost half the size of majors. All workers have a spermatheca, and three gamergates (intermediate in body size) were found in one orphaned colony (Dietemann et al. 2004). This is the only record of gamergates in subfamily Myrmeciinae, and they apparently function as replacement reproductives, after death of the founding queen. In a colony collected from Calga, NSW, queens had 33.3±2.1 (n=5) ovarioles, workers had 21.4±5.4 (n=82)(Dietemann et al. 2004). In a colony collected from the campus of Flinders University in Adelaide, one queen had 30 ovarioles, workers had 8-12 (C. Peeters unpublished). This difference in ovariole numbers may indicate that these populations 1200km distant are genetically differentiated.

Images from AntWeb

Myrmecia pyriformis casent0902797 h 1 high.jpgMyrmecia pyriformis casent0902797 d 1 high.jpgMyrmecia pyriformis casent0902797 p 1 high.jpgMyrmecia pyriformis casent0902797 l 1 high.jpgMyrmecia pyriformis casent0902797 d 2 high.jpgMyrmecia pyriformis casent0902797 p 2 high.jpg
Syntype of Myrmecia pyriformisWorker. Specimen code casent0902797. Photographer Z. Lieberman, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by NHMUK, London, UK.


gulosa group

Myrmecia esuriens

Myrmecia midas

Myrmecia pulchra

Myrmecia mjobergi

Myrmecia regularis

Myrmecia forficata

Myrmecia brevinoda

Myrmecia erecta

Myrmecia pyriformis

Myrmecia browningi

Myrmecia sp.

Myrmecia analis

Myrmecia minuscula

Myrmecia comata

Myrmecia rowlandi

Myrmecia flavicoma

Myrmecia tarsata

Myrmecia tridentata

Myrmecia eungellensis

Myrmecia fabricii

Myrmecia athertonensis

Myrmecia auriventris

Myrmecia borealis

Myrmecia gulosa

Myrmecia forceps

Myrmecia simillima

Myrmecia arnoldi

Myrmecia fulgida

Myrmecia pavida

Myrmecia vindex

Myrmecia fuscipes

Myrmecia (near nigriceps)

Myrmecia desertorum

Myrmecia nigriceps

Myrmecia nigriceps

Myrmecia inquilina

nigrocincta group

Myrmecia flammicollis

Myrmecia petiolata

Myrmecia nigrocincta

picta group

Myrmecia fucosa

Myrmecia picta

Myrmecia infima

Myrmecia urens

apicalis group

Myrmecia apicalis

pilosula group

Myrmecia testaceipes

Myrmecia acuta

Myrmecia chasei

Myrmecia clarki

Myrmecia dispar

Myrmecia occidentalis

Myrmecia tepperi

Myrmecia elegans

Myrmecia varians

Myrmecia banksi

Myrmecia croslandi

Myrmecia impaternata

Myrmecia haskinsorum

Myrmecia pilosula

Myrmecia pilosula

Myrmecia (near pilosula)

Based on Mera-Rodríguez et al. (2023).


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

  • pyriformis. Myrmecia pyriformis Smith, F. 1858b: 144, pl. 10, figs. 1-6 (w.q.m.) AUSTRALIA (Victoria, New South Wales).
    • Type-material: 1 syntype worker, 1 syntype queen.
    • Type-locality: Australia: Victoria, Melbourne (by restriction of Clark, 1951: 101); non-type locality syntype: New South Wales, Hunter River.
    • Type-depository: BMNH.
    • [Misspelled as piriformis by Dalla Torre, 1893: 21.]
    • Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1971d: 252 (l.); Imai, Crozier & Taylor, 1977: 345 (k.).
    • Subspecies of forficata: Forel, 1910b: 2.
    • Status as species: Roger, 1861a: 35; Mayr, 1862: 726 (in key); Roger, 1863b: 22; Mayr, 1863: 430; Mayr, 1865: 85; Lowne, 1865b: 336; Mayr, 1876: 96; Emery, 1887b: 443; Dalla Torre, 1893: 21; Wheeler, W.M. 1909a: 27; Emery, 1911d: 20; Forel, 1915b: 4; Crawley, 1926: 377 (redescription); Clark, 1927: 37; Clark, 1951: 99 (redescription); Brown, 1953j: 9; Kugler, C. 1980b: 265; Taylor & Brown, 1985: 15; Taylor, 1987a: 45; Ogata, 1991a: 358; Ogata & Taylor, 1991: 1636 (in key); Bolton, 1995b: 273.
    • Senior synonym of sanguinea: Brown, 1953j: 9; Taylor & Brown, 1985: 15; Taylor, 1987a: 45; Ogata & Taylor, 1991: 1629; Bolton, 1995b: 273.
    • Distribution: Australia.
  • sanguinea. Myrmecia sanguinea Smith, F. 1858b: 148 (w.) AUSTRALIA (Tasmania).
    • Type-material: holotype worker.
    • Type-locality: Australia: Tasmania, (“Smith coll. Pres. by Mrs Farren White”).
    • Type-depository: BMNH.
    • Mayr, 1876: 94 (q.); Forel, 1910b: 3 (m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1952a: 112 (l.).
    • Status as species: Roger, 1861a: 35; Mayr, 1862: 725 (in key); Roger, 1863b: 22; Mayr, 1863: 430; Mayr, 1865: 84; Mayr, 1876: 94; Dalla Torre, 1893: 22; Forel, 1907h: 267; Forel, 1910b: 3; Emery, 1911d: 20; Forel, 1915b: 4; Crawley, 1915b: 232; Crawley, 1926: 378 (redescription).
    • Junior synonym of forficata: Clark, 1951: 93.
    • Junior synonym of pyriformis: Brown, 1953j: 9; Taylor & Brown, 1985: 15; Taylor, 1987a: 45; Ogata & Taylor, 1991: 1629; Bolton, 1995b: 273.

Type Material



  • n = 41, 2n = 81 (Australia) (Imai et al., 1977).


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Andersen A. N., B. A. Myers, and K. M. Buckingham. 1991. The ant fauna of a Mallee outlier near Melton, Victoria. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 103(1): 1-6.
  • Andersen A. N., T. D. Penman, N. Debas, and M. Houadria. 2009. Ant community responses to experimental fire and logging in a Eucalypt forest of south-eastern Australia. Forest Ecology and Management 258: 188-197.
  • Crawley W. C. 1926. A revision of some old types of Formicidae. Transactions of the Entomological Society of London 1925: 373-393.
  • Emery C. 1911. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Ponerinae. Genera Insectorum 118: 1-125.
  • Emery, C. "Catalogo delle formiche esistenti nelle collezioni del Museo Civico di Genova. Parte terza. Formiche della regione Indo-Malese e dell'Australia (continuazione e fine)." Annali del Museo Civico di Storia Naturale Giacomo Doria (Genova) (2) 5, no. 25 (1887): 427-473.
  • Imai H. T., R. H. Crozier, and R. W. Taylor. 1977. Karyotype evolution in Australian ants. Chromosoma 59: 341-393.
  • Taylor R. W. 1987. A checklist of the ants of Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) Division of Entomology Report 41: 1-92.
  • Taylor R. W., and D. R. Brown. 1985. Formicoidea. Zoological Catalogue of Australia 2: 1-149. 
  • Ward P. S., and D. A. Downie. 2005. The ant subfamily Pseudomyrmecinae: phylogeny and evolution of big-eyed arboreal ants. Systematic Entomology 30: 310-335.