Myrmecocystus colei

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Myrmecocystus colei
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Lasiini
Genus: Myrmecocystus
Subgenus: Eremnocystus
Species: M. colei
Binomial name
Myrmecocystus colei
Snelling, R.R., 1976

Myrmecocystus colei casent0005940 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels

A daytime foraging Myrmecocystus species that nests in compacted clayey soil.

At a Glance • Replete Workers  


A member of the subgenus Eremnocystus.

Key to Myrmecocystus subgenus Eremnocystus species.

This species does not appear to be very closely related to any of the other species of Eremnocystus. In the abundant appressed pubescence it is most like Myrmecocystus hammettensis, but workers of that species possess numerous fully erect hairs on the scapes and cheeks. The female Myrmecocystus colei has the mesoscutum densely and uniformly covered with fine punctures while that of hammettensis has the scutum sparsely and coarsely punctate. In colei females the penultimate segment of the maxillary palp is broad basally and tapers to a narrow apex; it is nearly parallel-sided in hammettensis. (Snelling 1976)

Keys including this Species


Known from coastal and intermediate valleys of southern California.

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 34.776° to 33.21103333°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: United States (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.


This ant is known to occur in the coastal sagebrush phytocenose, along stream drainages, up to areas where this habitat grades into the Oak-Juniper-Joshua tree association. Nests are constructed in compacted clayey soil, usually overlain with gravel or coarse sand. Foraging activities appear to be fully diurnal, with workers active out of the nest at midday. The workers are assiduous scavenger-predators and also collect large quantities of nectar from flowers. (Snelling 1976)

Previous records for this ant have been from coastal valley stations. New Mojave Desert samples were a little less pilose than those from coastal stations. Our samples were from the bed of a sandy wash dominated by Salsola iberica in rolling grassland which had been Joshua Tree Woodland until cleared. (Snelling (1982)




Myrmecocystus christineae

Myrmecocystus pyramicus

Myrmecocystus (near mexicanus 01)

Myrmecocystus melanoticus

Myrmecocystus navajo

Myrmecocystus (near mexicanus 02)

Myrmecocystus testaceus

Myrmecocystus testaceus

Myrmecocystus (near navajo)

Myrmecocystus creightoni

Myrmecocystus perimeces

Myrmecocystus hammettensis

Myrmecocystus arenarius

Myrmecocystus lugubris

Myrmecocystus tenuinodis

Myrmecocystus colei

Myrmecocystus tenuinodis

Myrmecocystus (near mendex 05)

Myrmecocystus (near colei)

Myrmecocystus kathjuli

Myrmecocystus wheeleri

Myrmecocystus (near mendax 01)

Myrmecocystus (near placodops 01)

Myrmecocystus (near placodops 02)

Myrmecocystus semirufus

Myrmecocystus (near mendex 02)

Myrmecocystus koso

Myrmecocystus (near placodops 02)

Myrmecocystus (near melliger)

Myrmecocystus (near mendax 03)

Myrmecocystus (near mendax 04)

Myrmecocystus yuma

Myrmecocystus flaviceps

Myrmecocystus (SON-1)

Myrmecocystus depilis

Myrmecocystus (near mimicus-flaviceps 01)

Myrmecocystus intonsus

Myrmecocystus (near mimicus-flaviceps 02)

Myrmecocystus (near mimicus-flaviceps 03)

Myrmecocystus nequazcatl

Myrmecocystus romainei

Myrmecocystus (near kennedyi-romainei)

Myrmecocystus kennedyi

Myrmecocystus kennedyi

Myrmecocystus (near kennedyi)

Based on van Elst et al. (2021).


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

  • colei. Myrmecocystus (Eremnocystus) colei Snelling, R.R. 1976: 94, figs. 203-211, 255-258 (w.q.m.) U.S.A.

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



Snelling 1976 figs. 203-211

Scape with a few scattered erect hairs; dorsum of propodeum with erect hairs; petiolar scale erect but not compressed; erect pronotal hairs apically acuminate; hind femur with numerous erect hairs on inner face. Female: Mesoscutum finely, densely, uniformly punctate; occiput shiny, with scattered fine punctures; mid and hind femora without conspicuous erect hairs except on ventral margin. Male: Forewing without marginal fringe beyond stigma; hind-wing without marginal fringe; petiole not, or scarcely, emarginate.

Measurements. HL 0.76-1.26 (1.06); HW 0.60-1.13 (0.93); SL 0.90-1.33 (1.20); WL 1.10-1.66 (1.46); PW 0.46-0.73 (0.66).

Head: In all sizes from distinctly to slightly longer than wide, CI 77-93 (87); in full face view, sides straight (barely convex in largest workers), slightly convergent toward mandibular insertions; occiput flat with comers rounded, but distinct; shorter than scape, SI 105-121 (112). Eye small, slightly longer than first flagellomere; OMD 1.25-1.75 (l.45) X EL. Mandible septendentate, occasionally with intercalary denticle between basal and penultimate basal teeth.

Thorax: Moderately robust, PW 0.39-0.48 (0.47) x WL. Mesonotum, in profile, evenly convex from front to back except in largest workers where it is abruptly declivitous behind. Basal face of propodeum distinct, sharply rounded into the longer posterior face.

Petiole: Scale erect, in profile about twice higher than thick; posterior face straight, anterior rather abruptly narrowed in upper third; crest narrow in frontal view, flat in smallest workers, slightly concave in largest; from above, about twice wider than long.

Vestiture: Pubescence sparse on malar area and clypeus; sparse to abundant on frontal lobes and abundant on occiput, but not obscuring surface; abundant and long on thoracic dorsum and pleura, but sparser and finer on propleura, loosely appressed to subappressed; abundant, but not concealing integument, on first three terga (sparser on third tergum of some minors), sparse on remaining segments.

Scape, inner face of fore femur, outer faces of middle and hind tibiae with fine suberect to erect hairs; malar area, in frontal view, with a few reclinate to suberect hairs; clypeal disc, front of head and occiput with numerous erect hairs, those of occiput about half as long as minimum eye diameter. Pronotum and mesonotum with conspicuous fully erect hairs, usually fewer than 15 on each segment, shorter than those of occiput; posterior half of propodeal dorsum with at least 10 fully erect short hairs. All terga with numerous erect, short hairs, progressively longer caudad.

Integument: Clypeus shiny, with scattered fine piligerous punctures; remainder of head moderately shiny, lightly shagreened. Thorax lightly shagreened, moderately shiny, more so on sides. Gaster moderately shiny, distinctly though finely shagreened.

Color: Integument light to dark brownish, appendages lighter; mandibles, clypeus and lower portions of malar area yellowish.


Measurements. HL 1.40-1.46; HW 1.361.43; SL 1.36-1.43; EL 0.36-0.40; OMD 0.53-0.56; WL 2.8-3.1; PW 1.8-2.0.

Head: As broad as, or broader than, long; CI 100-104; in full face view with sides straight, not convergent toward mandibular insertions; occiput flat or slightly convex, comers narrowly rounded; as long as, or longer than, scape, SI 96-100. Eye a little longer than first flagellomere; OMD 1.33-1.42 X EL. Ocelli subequal; IOD 3.0-3.3 x OD; OOD 2.6-3.0 x OD. Mandible septendentate. Penultimate maxillary palpal segment elongate-triangular, greatly narrowed apically; segment three narrowed basally and apically, otherwise uniform in breadth; segment four uniformly broadened from base to apex.

Thorax: Robust, PW 0.58-0.67 x WL. Mesoscutum low in profile, somewhat flattened and gently curved into profile of scutellum; scutellum gently convex, a little more strongly sloping behind; propodeum with distinct transverse basal horizontal face and precipitous posterior face, their juncture sharply rounded.

Petiole: In profile, compressed above, crest sharp; in frontal view, sides convergent toward crest, crest broadly and deeply angularly excised; from above about three times wider than thick.

Vestiture: Pubescence sparse on clypeus; abundant elsewhere on head, thorax and gaster; long, subappressed to reclinate on occiput, pleura and propodeum.

Scape with abundant short, reclinate hairs; anterior femur without erect hairs on inner face; middle and hind tibiae with abundant suberect hairs. Malar area, in frontal view, with 6-8 long, erect yellowish hairs; clypeus with numerous erect yellowish hairs of highly variable length; frons with numerous erect yellowish hairs; occipital hairs much longer, some more than 0.5 x MOD; scutum with numerous widely spaced erect yellowish hairs, less than 0.5 x MOD; scutellum with longer erect hairs, some equal to MOD; metanotum with a few long erect hairs; propodeum with a few short erect hairs on dorsal face; pleura with scattered long erect yellowish hairs, more numerous below; petiolar scale with numerous fine whitish hairs; first three terga with short, erect yellowish hairs, becoming more abundant from first to third; subsequent terga with hairs longer, sparser than on third. Wing membranes with fine whitish hairs, costal margin of forewing, to stigma, with sparse fringe.

Integument: Clypeus polished, with coarse setigerous punctures; remainder of face shiny (but somewhat obscured by pubescence), with dense fine piligerous punctures and scattered coarse, setigerous punctures; malar area with abundant coarse, elongate punctures; occiput duller, closely shagreened, and with fine, close punctures. Mesoscutum shiny, uniformly finely, densely punctate; scutellum shiny, evenly, more sparsely punctate; pleura duller, closely shagreened and with abundant fine and sparser, coarser punctures; propodeum dull, densely shagreened, with dense fine, obscure punctures; terga shiny, lightly shagreened and with abundant fine punctures.

Snelling 1976 figs.

Color: Brownish, mesosoma darker; mandibles, sides of clypeus and lower half (or less) of malar area, yellowish.


Measurements. HL 0.63-0.73; HW 0.60-0.66; EL 0.26; SL 0.66-0.76; OMD 0.16-0.20; WL 1.30-1.66; PW 0.80-0.90.

Head: Margins nearly parallel below eyes, not notably convergent toward mandibular bases; head a little longer than broad, CI 90-95 (95), a little shorter than scape, SI 105-110 (105); occiput gently convex, with distinct lateral angles. Eye large, OMD 0.63-0.75 (0.63) x EL; ocelli subequal; IOD 3 x OD; OOD 1.5-2.0 x OD. Mandibles with preapical cleft and low preapical tooth, margin edentate or with one or two minute denticles.

Thorax: Stout, PW 0.53-0.57 x WL. Mesoscutum broad, anterior face vertical, anterior half strongly convex, posterior half more flattened; scutellum nearly vertical behind; propodeum with transverse, horizontal basal area and vertical posterior face, their juncture angulate.

Petiole: In profile, cuneate; crest, seen from front, nearly flat or with obscure median emargination; in dorsal view, about twice wider than long.

Vestiture: Appressed white pubescence sparse on head; more abundant and somewhat yellowish on thoracic dorsum; more abundant, whitish, on pleura and propodeum; denser on first three terga.

Erect hairs sparse, conspicuously longer on occiput than elsewhere on head, those of scutellum longer than elsewhere on thorax; disc of first tergum with a few erect yellowish hairs; remaining terga with a more numerous, conspicuously longer yellowish hairs. Wing membrane, with numerous very short whitish hairs; fringe hairs present along costal margin of forewing to stigma.

Type Material

Holotype worker, allotype male, 12 queens, 73 males and 29 woker paratypes: San Gabriel R., 500', Irwindale, Los Angeles Co., CALIF., 22 Feb. 1963 (R. H. Crandall and R. R. Snelling) in Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Additional paratypes: 8 males, 27 Symbol , type locality, 24 Feb. 1963 (R. R. Snelling; LACM). Three paratypes to each of the following collections: American Museum of Natural History, GCW, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Musee d'Histoire Naturelle Genève, and National Museum of Natural History.


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Des Lauriers J., and D. Ikeda. 2017. The ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California, USA with an annotated list. In: Reynolds R. E. (Ed.) Desert Studies Symposium. California State University Desert Studies Consortium, 342 pp. Pages 264-277.
  • Snelling R. R. 1976. A revision of the honey ants, genus Myrmecocystus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Science Bulletin 24: 1-163
  • Snelling R. R. 1982. A revision of the honey ants, genus Myrmecocystus, first supplement (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences 81: 69-86
  • Snelling, R.R. 1982. A revision of the honey ants, genus Myrmecocystus, first supplement (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences 81(2):69-86