Oecophylla smaragdina

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Oecophylla smaragdina
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Oecophyllini
Genus: Oecophylla
Species: O. smaragdina
Binomial name
Oecophylla smaragdina
(Fabricius, 1775)

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Specimen Label

Subspecies
Synonyms

Aggressive arboreal ants that use larval silk to weave together leaves to form their nesting cavities. A mature colony of Oecophylla smaragdina can entirely dominate a tree (sometimes several) with nests distributed throughout their heavily defended arboreal territory.


Photo Gallery

  • Foragers gathering honeydew from scale insects. Prachuap Khiri Khan province, Thailand. Photo by Christian Peeters.
  • Leaf nest woven with larval silk. Prachuap Khiri Khan province, Thailand. Photo by Christian Peeters.
  • Oecophylla smaragdina worker with Camponotus prey, Murray Falls, Kirrama National Park, Queensland, Australia. Photo by Jordan Dean.
  • Pleometrotic colony foundation from Kakadu, NT, Australia. The first workers born were small, accentuating the dimorphism in body size relative to queens. Photo by David Maitland.
  • Oecophylla smargdina attending a Redspot butterfly Larva (Zesius chrysomallus, Lycaenidae). The ants protect the caterpillar from predators while receiving sugary nectar from the dorsal nectar glands of the larva. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.
  • Lycaenid-Ant Interaction: Caterpillars of lycaenid butterflies (in this case Arhopala sp.) have evolved specialized organs that secrete chemicals to feed and appease tending ants. Surla, Goa, India. Photo by Kalesh Sadasivan.
  • Oecophylla smaragdina with mimetic spider that was detected and attacked. Photo by Pavan Ramachandra.
  • A male of the mimetic spider Myrmaplata plataleoides (family Salticidae) from Thailand. Photo by Eric C. Maxwell.

Identification

Distribution

Wetterer (2017) - The vast majority of O. smaragdina records come from areas with Tropical climates according to the Köppen-Geiger system: rainforest, monsoon, and savanna. However, >250 records come from areas classified on the map as having Subtropical climates, mostly in the Himalayan foothills of India and Nepal, southern China, northern Vietnam, and the southern coast of Queensland, Australia. Almost all these sites are classified as dry winter subtropical climate. A few O. smaragdina sites are classified as having Arid climates, all from warm semi-arid areas.

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Australasian Region: Australia (type locality).
Indo-Australian Region: Borneo, Indonesia, Krakatau Islands, Malaysia, New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore.
Oriental Region: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India (type locality), Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand.
Palaearctic Region: China.


Distribution based on AntMaps

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Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Biology

Oecophylla smaragdina from Bali, Indonesia. Video by Novita Listyani.

There is a webpage with a list of some recent publications about weaver ants. You can also read an overview of their biology from the a chapter in The Ants: The Weaver Ants (Hölldobler and Wilson 1990).

Peeters and Andersen (1989) - A few aggregations of dealate queens were collected in coastal regions of Northern Territory, Australia. Newly mated queens can cooperate to found new colonies, but only one survives in established colonies of 0. smaragdina.

Pinkalski et al. (2015) - Colonies nesting in mango trees (Mangifera indica) in Darwin, Australia were found to deposit significant amounts of nitrogen on their host trees via their waste. This deposition increased when the ants were provided access to additional sucrose resources.

Cooperative retrieval of prey. From Thailand. Photo by Christian Peeters.

Oecophylla smaragdina, together with Anoplolepis gracilipes and Dolichoderus thoracicus, is one of the most common ant species which tends honeydew-producing hemipterans in Indonesia. Fanani et al. (2020) examined the influence of these species on the introduced parasitoid Anagyrus lopezi, a species used to control the invasive cassava mealybug Phenacoccus manihoti (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae). They found that when ants were absent the average time spent foraging by individual parasitoids was significantly longer (27.39 minutes) compared to when ants were present (2.47- 4.68 minutes). As a result, parasitoids spent less time in finding hosts and a longer time in handling hosts. This resulted in more oviposition activities and a 2-3 fold increase in parasitism and the number of wasps that emerged from their hosts.

Ethnoentomology

Bhotwate & Kumar (2020) report that selected rural and tribal groups within India mash live workers with salt, red chillies and mustard oil, and eat them with rice. They are reported to prevent gastritis and provide nutritive value.

Association with Other Organisms

Hymenoptera

  • This species is a host for the chalcid wasp Smicromorpha doddi (a parasite) (Universal Chalcidoidea Database) (primary host).
  • This species is a host for the chalcid wasp Smicromorpha keralensis (a parasite) (Universal Chalcidoidea Database) (primary host).
  • This species is a host for the chalcid wasp Smicromorpha masneri (a parasite) (Universal Chalcidoidea Database) (associate, primary host).
  • This species is a host for the encyrtid wasp Paraphaenodiscus udayveeri (a parasite) (Universal Chalcidoidea Database) (associate).

Fungi

  • This species is a host for the fungus Ophiocordyceps oecophyllae (a pathogen) (Araujo et al., 2018).

Castes

Males and large workers outside a leaf nest. From Prachuap Khiri Khan province, Thailand. Photo by Christian Peeters.

Worker

Queen

Nomenclature

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

  • smaragdina. Formica smaragdina Fabricius, 1775: 828 (q.) INDIA. Jerdon, 1851: 121 (w.m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1953e: 176 (l.); Crozier, 1970: 115 (k.). Combination in Oecophylla: Smith, F. 1860b: 102. Senior synonym of viridis: Smith, F. 1857a: 53; Taylor & Brown, D.R. 1985: 127; of macra, zonata: Roger, 1863b: 10; Dalla Torre, 1893: 176; of virescens: Mayr, 1872: 143; Taylor & Brown, D.R. 1985: 127. Current subspecies: nominal plus fuscoides, gracilior, gracillima, selebensis, subnitida.
  • virescens. Formica virescens Fabricius, 1775: 392 (w.) AUSTRALIA. Smith, F. 1858b: 30 (m.). Combination in Oecophylla: Smith, F. 1860b: 102. Status as species: Dalla Torre, 1893: 177; Emery, 1921c: 102. Subspecies of smaragdina: Emery, 1887a: 242; Forel, 1915b: 95; Wheeler, W.M. 1922a: 228 (in key); Emery, 1925b: 52; Karavaiev, 1933a: 315. Junior synonym of smaragdina: Mayr, 1872: 143; Taylor & Brown, D.R. 1985: 127.
  • viridis. Formica viridis Kirby, W. 1819: 478 (w.) AUSTRALIA. Junior synonym of virescens: Roger, 1863b: 10; Dalla Torre, 1893: 177; Emery, 1925b: 52; of smaragdina: Smith, F. 1857a: 53; Taylor & Brown, D.R. 1985: 127.
  • macra. Formica macra Guérin-Méneville, 1831, pl. 8, fig. 1 (w.) "Offack". Junior synonym of virescens: Smith, F. 1858b: 29; of smaragdina: Roger, 1863b: 10; Dalla Torre, 1893: 176; Arnold, 1922: 609.
  • zonata. Formica zonata Guérin-Méneville, 1838: 205 (q.) "Port Praslin". Junior synonym of smaragdina: Roger, 1863b: 10; Dalla Torre, 1893: 176.

Type Material

Description

Karyotype

  • 2n = 16, karyotype = 16M (India) (Imai et al., 1984).
  • n = 8 (Malaysia) (Crozier, 1970b).

References