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: M. pyriformis
Binomial name
Myrmecia pyriformis
Smith, F., 1858

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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


Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Australasian Region: Australia (type locality).

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


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).


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.


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. Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1971d: 252 (l.); Imai, Crozier & Taylor, 1977: 345 (k.). Subspecies of forficata: Forel, 1910b: 2. Revived status as species: Clark, 1927: 36. Senior synonym of sanguinea: Brown, 1953j: 9. See also: Crawley, 1926: 377; Clark, 1951: 99.
  • sanguinea. Myrmecia sanguinea Smith, F. 1858b: 148 (w.) AUSTRALIA (Tasmania). Mayr, 1876: 94 (q.); Forel, 1910b: 3 (m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1952a: 112 (l.). Junior synonym of forficata: Clark, 1951: 93; of pyriformis: Brown, 1953j: 9. See also: Crawley, 1926: 378.

Type Material



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


  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1953j. Revisionary notes on the ant genus Myrmecia of Australia. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 111: 1-35 (page 9, Senior synonym of sanguinea)
  • Clark, J. 1927. The ants of Victoria. Part III. Vic. Nat. (Melb.) 44: 33-40 (page 36, Revived status as species)
  • Clark, J. 1951. The Formicidae of Australia. 1. Subfamily Myrmeciinae: 230 pp. CSIRO, Melbourne. [(31.xii).1951.]
  • Crawley, W. C. 1926. A revision of some old types of Formicidae. Trans. Entomol. Soc. Lond. 1925: 373-393 (page 377, see also)
  • Dietemann, V., Peeters, C, Hölldobler, B. 2004. Gamergates in the Australian ant subfamily Myrmeciinae. Naturwissenschaften, 91: 432–435
  • Forel, A. 1910b. Formicides australiens reçus de MM. Froggatt et Rowland Turner. Rev. Suisse Zool. 18: 1-94 (page 2, Race of forficata)
  • Imai, H. T.; Crozier, R. H.; Taylor, R. W. 1977. Karyotype evolution in Australian ants. Chromosoma (Berl.) 59: 341-393 (page 345, karyotype described)
  • Jayatilaka,P., Narendra,A., Reid,S.F., Cooper,P., Zeil,J. 2011. Different effects of temperature on foraging activity schedules in sympatric Myrmecia ants. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 214, 2730-2738 (doi:10.1242/jeb.053710).
  • Narendra,A., Reid,S.F., Greiner,B., Peters,R.A., Hemmi,J.M., Ribi,W.A., Zeil,J. 2011. Caste-specific visual adaptations to distinct daily activity schedules in Australian Myrmecia ants. Proc. R. Soc. B 278(1709): 1141-1149.
  • Narendra,A., Reid,S.F., Hemmi,J.M. 2010. The twilight zone: ambient light levels trigger activity in primitive ants. Proc. R. Soc. B vol.277 no.1687, 1531-1538 (doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.2324).
  • Narendra A, Reid SF, Raderschall CA (2013) Navigational Efficiency of Nocturnal Myrmecia Ants Suffers at Low Light Levels. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58801. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058801
  • Ramirez-Esquivel, F., Zeil, J. & Narendra, A. 2014. The antennal sensory array of the nocturnal bull ant Myrmecia pyriformis. Arthropod Structure & Development, 43, 543e558.
  • Reid,S.F., Narendra,A., Hemmi,J.M., Zeil,J. 2011. Polarised skylight and the landmark panorama provide night-active bull ants with compass information during route following. Journal of Experimental Biology 214, 363-370 (doi:10.1242/jeb.049338).
  • Reid, S.F., Narendra, A., Taylor, R.W. & Jochen Zeil, J. 2013. Foraging ecology of the night-active bull ant Myrmecia pyriformis. Australian Journal of Zoology, 61, 170–177 (
  • Sanetra, M. (2011) Nestmate relatedness in the Australian ant Myrmecia pyriformis Smith, 1858 (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News, 15, 77-84.
  • Smith, F. 1858a. Catalogue of hymenopterous insects in the collection of the British Museum. Part VI. Formicidae. London: British Museum, 216 pp. (page 144, pl. 10, figs. 1-6 worker, queen, male described)
  • Tepper, J. G. O. 1882. Observation about the habits of some South Australian ants. Trans. Proc. R. Soc. S. Austr. 5, 24 – 26. 106 – 107.
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1971d. Ant larvae of the subfamily Myrmeciinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pan-Pac. Entomol. 47: 245-256 (page 252, larva described)
  • Wheeler W.M. 1916. The marriage-flight of a Bull-dog ant (Myrmecia sanguinea F. Smith). Journal of Animal Behavior 6: 70-73.

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.