Novomessor albisetosus

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Novomessor albisetosus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Stenammini
Genus: Novomessor
Species: N. albisetosus
Binomial name
Novomessor albisetosus
(Mayr, 1886)

Aphaenogaster albisetosa casent0102824 profile 1.jpg

Aphaenogaster albisetosa casent0102824 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label


This is the second most common species of the genus in the arid regions of the Southwestern United States and northern México (after Novomessor cockerelli). Nests are usually found under stones with the entrance surrounded by gravel. These ants are very aggressive and although they cannot sting, their bite is irritating (Mackay and Mackay 2002).


This species can be distinguished from species of Aphaenogaster by the poorly marked metanotal suture, long legs and well-developed spines on the propodeum. Most workers can be distinguished from the closely related Novomessor cockerelli as they have a less elongate head. Specimens of these two species are often difficult to separate. It can be easily separated from the Mexican species Novomessor ensifer by the lack of a constricted neck.

Keys including this Species


Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: United States (type locality).
Neotropical Region: Mexico.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Habitats range from Chihuahuan Desert to oak forests. When found in arid ecosystems, it usually occurs in the bottoms of arroyos or in areas near water. The soil in these areas is often rocky with boulders.

Wheeler and Creighton (1934) - It is unlikely that anyone who has seen the nests of these insects could have failed to be impressed with their extraordinary coarseness of construction. There is not a single feature of the nest which does not appear abnormally large in view of the size of the insects themselves. The irregular central opening of the nest may be three or four inches across. Through this one looks down into a steeply descending, roughly constructed tunnel which more nearly resembles a rat's burrow than the entrance to an ant's nest. Around the central opening the insects ordinarily build a disc of very coarse gravel mixed with excavated soil. This disc may be six feet in diameter in Novomessor cockerelli but is usually smaller and sometimes absent in N. albisetosus. Toward the center of the disc there is often a thicker pile of soil and gravel which has been formed into a rude crater. Nests of albisetosus whick lack the disc and crater are generally constructed under stones but otherwise do not differ from the nests of the more common type.

During the summer months the foraging activities of these insects begin late in the afternoon and continue through the night hours.... As a rule by the middle of the morning the workers have returned to the nest where they remain during the midday hours. When foraging the workers do not form files. Each stalks slowly about in a deliberate manner, which gives it a ludicrous air of bland solemnity. It may be doubted if these insects are capable of quick movement since, even when disturbed, their best efforts at speed are neither rapid nor sustained. The workers show no particular preference for seeds since, in addition to these, they gather small bits of plant tissue, pieces of fruit, and the disarticulated parts of insects. The latter are probably secured from insects which are dead or in a moribund condition since the slow movements of Novomesser would scarcely permit successful predatism. Little if any of the various substances brought into the nest are stored there.

Life History Traits

  • Queen number: polygynous (Frumhoff & Ward, 1992)
  • Mean colony size: 350 (Holldobler et al., 1978; Beckers et al., 1989)
  • Foraging behaviour: mass recruiter (Holldobler et al., 1978; Beckers et al., 1989)



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

  • albisetosus. Aphaenogaster albisetosa Mayr, 1886d: 446 (w.) U.S.A. Wheeler, W.M. & Creighton, 1934: 350 (q.m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1953b: 70 (l.). Combination in Stenamma (Aphaenogaster): Emery, 1895c: 306; in Novomessor: Emery, 1915d: 73; in Aphaenogaster: Brown, 1974b: 47; in Novomessor: Demarco & Cognato, 2015: 5. Senior synonym of minor Enzmann: Brown, 1949a: 49. See also: Hölldobler, Stanton & Engel, 1976: 32; Hölldobler, Stanton & Markl, 1978: 163; Smith, D.R. 1979: 1360; Bolton, 1982: 340.
  • minor. Novomessor cockerelli var. minor Enzmann, J. 1947b: 148, pl. 8 (w.) U.S.A. [Unresolved junior secondary homonym of Aphaenogaster minor André, 1883b: 355, above.] Junior synonym of albisetosus: Brown, 1949a: 49.

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


Mayr 1886. Page 446.
Mayr 1886. Page 447.

Worker Morphology

  • Caste: monomorphic


  • Beckers R., Goss, S., Deneubourg, J.L., Pasteels, J.M. 1989. Colony size, communication and ant foraging Strategy. Psyche 96: 239-256 (doi:10.1155/1989/94279).
  • Bolton, B. 1982. Afrotropical species of the myrmecine ant genera Cardiocondyla, Leptothorax, Melissotarsus, Messor and Cataulacus (Formicidae). Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History). Entomology, 46: 307-370 (page 340, see also)
  • Bolton, B. 1995b. A new general catalogue of the ants of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 504 pp. (page 68, catalogue)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1949a. Synonymic and other notes on Formicidae (Hymenoptera). Psyche (Camb.) 56: 41-49 (page 49, Senior synonym of minor Enzmann)
  • Brown, W. L., Jr. 1974b. Novomessor manni a synonym of Aphaenogaster ensifera (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Entomol. News 85: 45-47 (page 47, Combination in Aphaenogaster)
  • Demarco, B.B. & Cognato, A.I. 2015. Phylogenetic analysis of Aphaenogaster supports the resurrection of Novomessor (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 1–10 (doi:10.1093/aesa/sau013).
  • Emery, C. 1895d. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der nordamerikanischen Ameisenfauna. (Schluss). Zool. Jahrb. Abt. Syst. Geogr. Biol. Tiere 8: 257-360 (page 306, Combination in Stenamma (Aphaenogaster))
  • Emery, C. 1915k. Definizione del genere Aphaenogaster e partizione di esso in sottogeneri. Parapheidole e Novomessor nn. gg. Rend. Sess. R. Accad. Sci. Ist. Bologna Cl. Sci. Fis. (n.s.) 19: 67-75 (page 73, Combination in Novomessor)
  • Hölldobler, B.; Stanton, R. C.; Engel, H. 1976. A new exocrine gland in Novomessor (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and its possible significance as a taxonomic character. Psyche (Camb.) 83: 32-41 (page 32, see also)
  • Hölldobler, B.; Stanton, R. C.; Markl, H. 1978. Recruitment and food-retrieving behavior in Novomessor (Formicidae, Hymenoptera). I. Chemical signals. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 4: 163-181 (page 163, see also)
  • Mackay, W.P. & Mackay, E.E. 2002. The Ants of New Mexico: 400 pp. Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston, N.Y.
  • Mayr, G. 1886d. Die Formiciden der Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 36: 419-464 (page 446, worker described)
  • Smith, D. R. 1979. Superfamily Formicoidea. Pp. 1323-1467 in: Krombein, K. V., Hurd, P. D., Smith, D. R., Burks, B. D. (eds.) Catalog of Hymenoptera in America north of Mexico. Volume 2. Apocrita (Aculeata). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Pr (page 1360, see also)
  • Wetterer J.K., Himlet A.G., Yospin M.M. 2002. Forager size, load size, and resource use in an omnivorous ant, Aphaenogaster albisetosa (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 39(2), 335-343.
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1953b. The ant larvae of the myrmicine tribe Pheidolini (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 55: 49-84 (page 70, larva described)
  • Wheeler, W. M.; Creighton, W. S. 1934. A study of the ant genera Novomessor and Veromessor. Proc. Am. Acad. Arts Sci. 69: 341-387 (page 350, queen, male described)

References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Cover S. P., and R. A. Johnson. 20011. Checklist of Arizona Ants. Downloaded on January 7th at
  • Creighton W. S. 1955. Studies on the distribution of the genus Novomessor (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Psyche (Cambridge) 62: 89-97.
  • Dattilo W. et al. 2019. MEXICO ANTS: incidence and abundance along the Nearctic-Neotropical interface. Ecology
  • Johnson R. Personnal Database. Accessed on February 5th 2014 at
  • Johnson, R.A. 2000. Reproductive biology of the seed-harvester ants Messor julianus (Pergande) and Messor pergandei (Mayr) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in Baja California, Mexico. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 9(2):377-384.
  • Mackay W. P., and E. E. Mackay. 2002. The ants of New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 400 pp.
  • Mackay, W.P. and E. Mackay. XXXX. The Ants of New Mexico
  • Moody J. V., and O. F. Francke. 1982. The Ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) of Western Texas Part 1: Subfamily Myrmicinae. Graduate Studies Texas Tech University 27: 80 pp.
  • O'Keefe S. T., J. L. Cook, T. Dudek, D. F. Wunneburger, M. D. Guzman, R. N. Coulson, and S. B. Vinson. 2000. The Distribution of Texas Ants. The Southwestern Entomologist 22: 1-92.
  • Van Pelt, A. 1983. Ants of the Chisos Mountains, Texas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) . Southwestern Naturalist 28:137-142.
  • Wheeler W. M., and W. S. Creighton. 1934. A study of the ant genera Novomessor and Veromessor. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 69: 341-387.
  • Wheeler, G.C. and J. Wheeler. 1985. A checklist of Texas ants. Prairie Naturalist 17:49-64.