In the eastern United States, the peculiarities of the mandibles, eyes, and petiolar attachment distinguish this species from all others. In the field it is easily mistaken for Solenopsis of the subgenus Diplorhoptrum, some of which are similar to P. antillana in size and pale coloration.
Prionopelta antillana has been introduced into Florida from the Lesser Antilles or Central America. Pest status: none. First published Florida record: Smith 1967; earlier specimen: 1957. It is common in rotten wood in parts of Marion and Sumter Counties. It is clearly exotic, but its distribution is strangely different from those of the dozens of other tropical exotic ants of Florida: it is present in natural habitats in Ocala National Forest, but absent from warmer and more disturbed areas in south Florida. The simplest explanation is that this species was imported directly into the Ocala area, and has been spreading very slowly ever since. The first Florida specimen was collected in 1957 (Deyrup et al. 2000). It is even possible that it might have been brought from the Neotropics with potted plants imported for the filming of swimming sequences of Johnny Weismuller's Tarzan films, which were shot in the clear springs of the Ocala area. The general distribution is the Lesser Antilles and northern South America (Brown 1960). This is one of only two species of tropical exotic ants whose range in Florida does not include the tropical parts of the state. (Deyrup, Davis & Cover, 2000.)
Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists
Nearctic Region: United States.
Neotropical Region: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Lesser Antilles, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela.
Distribution based on AntMaps
Distribution based on AntWeb specimens
Check data from AntWeb
The biology of this species has not been studied, but the closely related species Prionopelta amabilis is either monodomous or polydomous, and feeds on small soil arthropods, especially Campodeidae (Holldobler and Wilson 1986) (Deyrup, Davis & Cover, 2000).
In Florida, where it has been introduced, it has been collected from soil in mesic hammocks around springs and in dense old stands of sand pine scrub. Litter samples from the sites where P. antillana was collected yielded many small japygids, but few campodeids. The male appears to be unknown, or at least undescribed. A recent collection (2004) near the Big Scrub Campground in Ocala National Forest, produced hundreds of specimens from a dense population under low evergreen scrub oaks. No males or morphologically differentiated queens were obtained.
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- antillana. Prionopelta punctulata subsp. antillana Forel, 1909a: 239 (w.) ANTILLES. Raised to species: Brown, 1960a: 177.
This genus includes some variable species, and Brown (1960) suggested that Prionopelta amabilis from Brazil might be a variant of P. antillana.
- Brown, W. L., Jr. 1960a. Contributions toward a reclassification of the Formicidae. III. Tribe Amblyoponini (Hymenoptera). Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 122: 143-230 (page 177, raised to species)
- Deyrup, M., Davis, L. & Cover, S. 2000. Exotic ants in Florida. Transactions of the American Entomological Society 126, 293-325.
- Forel, A. 1909a. Ameisen aus Guatemala usw., Paraguay und Argentinien (Hym.). Dtsch. Entomol. Z. 1909: 239-269 (page 239, worker described)