Strongylognathus testaceus

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Strongylognathus testaceus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Crematogastrini
Genus: Strongylognathus
Species: S. testaceus
Binomial name
Strongylognathus testaceus
(Schenck, 1852)

Strongylognathus testaceus casent0103240 profile 1.jpg

Strongylognathus testaceus casent0103240 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


This species is a queen-tolerant inquiline and is only found in nests with its hosts Tetramorium alpestre, Tetramorium brevicorne, Tetramorium caespitum, Tetramorium ferox, Tetramorium impurum and Tetramorium moravicum (de la Mora et al., 2021; Sanetra & Buschinger, 2000; Seifert, 2018). It occurs in a range of habitats including steppe habitats and pine forests in Russia (Zryanin & Zryanina, 2007).

At a Glance • Inquiline  

Photo Gallery

  • Strongylognathus testaceus queen near a nest of its host, Tetramorium caespitum (workers to the left). When the workers noticed her she was attacked. Darmstadt, Germany. Photo by Philipp Hönle.
  • Queen Strongylognathus testaceus. Note the sickel-shaped mandibles and protruding posterior corners of head. Darmstadt, Germany. Photo by Philipp Hönle.
  • Tetramorium atratulum dealate gyne moving freely in Tetramorium caespitum nest associated with the social parasite Strongylognathus testaceus (photo: A. Purkart, from Purkart et al., 2021, Fig. 8).


Yellowish brown. Head rectangular with pronounced occipital emargination and postero-lateral angles. Body shining with long fine pale hairs present also on appendages. Sculpture variable, with longitudinal striae present or more or less effaced on head and mesosoma. Length: 2.0-3.6 mm (Collingwood 1979).


Pyrenees to Ukraine, North Italy to Sweden (Collingwood 1979).

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 57.415378° to 36.833333°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Palaearctic Region: Andorra, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany (type locality), Greece, Hungary, Iberian Peninsula, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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.


Collingwood (1979) - This species occurs only in the nests of its host Tetramorium caespitum. Workers and brood of both host and parasite are present but only the sexuals of Strongylognathus are developed, the original Tetramorium queen as well as the adoptive Strongylognathus queen usually being found present together.

S. testaceus workers are normally greatly outnumbered by Tetramorium workers. Observations on this and related species suggest that neighbouring nests of the host species are raided to recruit more Tetramorium pupae to the colony which is often very populous with up to 20,000 individuals. Alatae are present in July and August.

Guillem et al., 2014 - S. testaceus is a degenerate slave-maker of Tetramorium caespitum and T. impurum. The Strongylognathus queen does not kill the host queen, but instead pheromonally inhibits production of the host sexual brood. As the number of parasite workers rarely exceeds 1%, they rarely (or perhaps never) raid additional colonies for extra slaves (Sanetra and Gusten, 2001; Czechowski et al., 2002; Tinaut et al., 2005). Thus, this species may be considered an intermediate stage between slave-makers and inquilines.

Strongylognathus testaceus were collected from two colonies of Tetramorium c.f. impurum and a single colony of T. semilaeve in the Catalan Pyrenees, Spain during June 2011. Colonies were found under stones. The colony found with T. semilaeve contained S. testaceus sexuals (both males and females). Within Iberia, S. testaceus has only been recorded from T. caespitum and T. impurum (Tinaut et al., 2005), so this is also the first record of S. testaceus with T. semilaeve. Approximately one in 50 colonies of Tetramorium was parasitized.

Guillem et al. (2014) examined cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) profiles between this parasite and its hosts. They found that the parasitic species had CHC profiles that were indistinguishable from that of their hosts, even when the parasite is using more than one host species. The level of chemical mimicry even extended to the more subtle between-colony differences in profiles. In all cases the profiles of un-parasitized colonies were similar to those that were parasitized indicating that it is the parasites that have adjusted their profile to match that of their host and not vice versa. This explains why these social parasites are fully integrated members of each colony and are treated as nest-mates.

It should be noted that in some species, for example Harpagoxenus sublaevis (Winter and Buschinger, 1986), raiding workers are frequently killed or driven off when trying to raid or invade new host colonies, since they are carrying their own host colony odour, which is likely to be different from that of the one they are raiding. This is why parasites continue to use a wide range of other chemical and morphological adaptations associated with their parasitic lifestyle. These include a thickened cuticle and production of appeasement or propaganda compounds (e.g. Allies et al., 1986; Lloyd et al., 1986; Ollett et al., 1987; D'Ettorre et al., 2000). These tactics allow the parasite time to make the necessary adjustments to its profile. Acquiring a host profile may be possible in just a few hours (R. Kather, pers. comm., cited in Guillem et al. (2014)).

Flight Period

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Source: Seifert, 2018;

Parasitic Colony Foundation

Colony foundation behavior has not been published for any of the Strongylognathus spp. yet, but in recent years a few European hobby ant keepers have collected young queens of Strongylognathus testaceus during their mating flights. Reports are found in various ant forums:

Incipient colonies with queens of both species even were sold by ant shops, eg:

The parasite queens were swarming simultaneously with their host species (Tetramorium cf. caespitum), or a few days later. After landing on the ground the queens of the parasite species appear to join host queens for starting claustral colony foundation together.

I myself (A. Buschinger) received three such „pairs“ from a German ant keeper. They had swarmed on 28 June 2021. In one of them about 15 Tetramorium-workers have been reared (no Strongylognathus yet) until 5 October, the two queens still cooperating. Other such founding associations of the ant keeper have produced a few Strongylognathus workers, too. These observations indicate that joined colony foundation in fact is the regular behavior of Strongylognathus testaceus!

The ant keeper produced a highly impressive video on Youtube on the behavior of a Tetramorium queen towards the small Strongylognathus queen just after the two were put together into a test tube (with water behind a stopper of cotton wool, a usual method in ant keeping): The Tetramorium queen is licking vigorously the Strongylognathus queen all over its body including the appendages. Probably the parasite queen has a very attractive secretion on its cuticle. The author, Eric V. Martens, has observed the mating flight of the two species on his own property, a pasture at Neetze (Germany) in the „Lüneburger Heide“

These recent observations and the video might stimulate researchers to study colony foundation in the other species of Strongylognathus, most of which are considered active slavemakers.

Video of host species queen licking parasite queen

Strongylognathus testaceus and Tetramorium caespitum


Images from AntWeb

Strongylognathus testaceus casent0103241 head 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0103241 profile 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0103241 dorsal 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0103241 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0103241. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Strongylognathus testaceus casent0173184 head 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0173184 profile 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0173184 dorsal 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0173184 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0173184. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.


Images from AntWeb

Strongylognathus testaceus casent0173185 head 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0173185 profile 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0173185 dorsal 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0173185 label 1.jpg
Queen (alate/dealate). Specimen code casent0173185. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.


Images from AntWeb

Strongylognathus testaceus casent0173196 head 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0173196 profile 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0173196 profile 2.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0173196 profile 3.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0173196 dorsal 1.jpgStrongylognathus testaceus casent0173196 label 1.jpg
Male (alate). Specimen code casent0173196. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by CAS, San Francisco, CA, USA.


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

  • testaceus. Eciton testaceum Schenck, 1852: 117 (w.q.m.) GERMANY.
    • Type-material: syntype workers, syntype queens, syntype males (numbers not stated).
    • Type-locality: Germany: Nassau (Schenck).
    • Type-depository: unknown.
    • [Note: according to Horn & Kahle, 1936: 242, Schenck’s Hymenoptera specimens were deposited in “Zool. Univ. Mus., Marburg”.]
    • Combination in Strongylognathus: Mayr, 1853d: 390.
    • Status as species: Mayr, 1853d: 390 (redescription); Mayr, 1855: 431 (footnote, redescription); Nylander, 1856b: 101; Smith, F. 1858b: 134; Mayr, 1861: 57 (in key); Roger, 1863b: 26; Mayr, 1863: 454; Dours, 1873: 169; Forel, 1874: 71 (in key); André, 1874: 188 (in key); Emery, 1878b: 52; Emery & Forel, 1879: 457; André, 1883a: 282 (in key); Lameere, 1892: 67; Dalla Torre, 1893: 130; Wasmann, 1894: 164; Forel, 1900e: 278 (in key); Wheeler, W.M. 1901c: 710; Ruzsky, 1902d: 33; Ruzsky, 1905b: 542; Viehmeyer, 1906: 67; Wasmann, 1906: 120; Forel, 1908a: 22; Emery, 1909d: 707; Wheeler, W.M. 1909g: 186; Bondroit, 1910: 499; Wasmann, 1910: 522; Karavaiev, 1912b: 585; Stitz, 1914: 76; Forel, 1915d: 15 (in key); Emery, 1916b: 198; Escherich, 1917: 324; Bondroit, 1918: 111; Soudek, 1922: 28; Kutter, 1923: 338; Emery, 1924d: 285; Vandel, 1926: 198; Betrem, 1926: 218; Stärcke, 1926: 85 (in key); Karavaiev, 1927a: 293; Karavaiev, 1927c: 271 (in key); Santschi, 1927b: 127; Lomnicki, 1928: 4; Kuznetsov-Ugamsky, 1929b: 43; Soudek, 1931: 8; Gösswald, 1932: 85; Arnol'di, 1933b: 598 (in key); Karavaiev, 1934: 160 (redescription); Grandi, 1935: 102; Donisthorpe, 1936c: 114 (in list); Finzi, 1939b: 90; Novák & Sadil, 1941: 87 (in key); van Boven, 1947: 170 (in key); Bernard, 1950a: 19; Baroni Urbani, 1962: 131; Bernard, 1967: 238 (redescription); Kutter, 1968a: 60; Kutter, 1968b: 205; Collingwood & Yarrow, 1969: 73; Baroni Urbani, 1971c: 151; Collingwood, 1971: 162; Bolton & Collingwood, 1975: 3 (in key); Pisarski, 1975: 26; Bolton, 1976: 306; van Boven, 1977: 89; Kutter, 1977c: 166; Arnol’di & Dlussky, 1978: 546 (in key); Collingwood, 1978: 86 (in key); Collingwood, 1979: 80; Agosti & Collingwood, 1987a: 57; Agosti & Collingwood, 1987b: 278 (in key); Dlussky, Soyunov & Zabelin, 1990: 210; Radchenko, 1991: 86; Atanassov & Dlussky, 1992: 156; Douwes, 1995: 91; Bolton, 1995b: 395; Poldi, et al. 1995: 6; Espadaler, 1997b: 31; Gallé, et al. 1998: 215; Sanetra, Güsten & Schulz, 1999: 343; Czechowski, et al. 2002: 70; Schulz, A. & Sanetra, 2002: 163; Tinaut, Ruano & Martinez, 2005: 468; Bračko, 2006: 140; Markó, Sipos, et al. 2006: 70; Petrov, 2006: 101 (in key); Bračko, 2007: 18; Seifert, 2007: 252; Zryanin & Zryanina, 2007: 232; Gratiashvili & Barjadze, 2008: 142; Casevitz-Weulersse & Galkowski, 2009: 493; Lapeva-Gjonova, et al. 2010: 31; Boer, 2010: 66; Csösz, et al. 2011: 57; Legakis, 2011: 20; Borowiec, L. & Salata, 2012: 537; Czechowski, et al. 2012: 187; Kiran & Karaman, 2012: 24; Borowiec, L. 2014: 165; Lebas, et al. 2016: 338; Radchenko, 2016: 258; Steiner, et al. 2017: 16; Salata & Borowiec, 2018c: 48; Seifert, 2018: 236; Werner, et al. 2018: 7.
    • Senior synonym of diveri: Brown, 1955c: 113; Baroni Urbani, 1962: 131; Kutter, 1968b: 205; Collingwood, 1971: 162; Bolton, 1976: 306; van Boven, 1977: 89; Radchenko, 1991: 86; Bolton, 1995b: 395; Radchenko, 2016: 258.
    • Senior synonym of emarginatus: Mayr, 1853d: 390; Mayr, 1855: 431 (footnote); Nylander, 1856b: 101; Smith, F. 1858b: 134; Roger, 1863b: 26; Dours, 1873: 169; Forel, 1874: 100 (in list); Emery & Forel, 1879: 457; Dalla Torre, 1893: 130; Ruzsky, 1905b: 542; Wheeler, W.M. 1911f: 168; Emery, 1924d: 286; Karavaiev, 1934: 160; Bolton, 1976: 306; Radchenko, 1991: 86; Bolton, 1995b: 395; Radchenko, 2016: 258.
    • Distribution: Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France (+ Corsica), Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy (+ Sardinia), Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine.
    • [Note: distribution from Borowiec, L. 2014: 165.]
  • diveri. Strongylognathus diveri Donisthorpe, 1936c: 113, figs. 1, 2, 7 (w.) GREAT BRITAIN.
    • Type-material: 3 syntype workers.
    • Type-locality: Great Britain: England, Dorsetshire, Studland (C. Diver).
    • Type-depository: BMNH.
    • Junior synonym of testaceus: Brown, 1955c: 113; Baroni Urbani, 1962: 131; Kutter, 1968b: 205; Collingwood, 1971: 162; Bolton, 1976: 306; van Boven, 1977: 89; Radchenko, 1991: 86; Bolton, 1995b: 395; Radchenko, 2016: 258.
  • emarginatus. Myrmus emarginatus Schenck, 1853: 188 (w.) GERMANY.
    • Type-material: syntype workers (number not stated).
    • Type-locality: Germany: Nassau, vii. (Schenck).
    • Type-depository: unknown.
    • [Note: according to Horn & Kahle, 1936: 242, Schenck’s Hymenoptera specimens were deposited in “Zool. Univ. Mus., Marburg”.]
    • Junior synonym of testaceus: Mayr, 1853d: 390; Mayr, 1855: 431 (footnote); Nylander, 1856b: 101; Smith, F. 1858b: 134; Roger, 1863b: 26; Dours, 1873: 169; Forel, 1874: 100 (in list); Emery & Forel, 1879: 457; Dalla Torre, 1893: 130; Ruzsky, 1905b: 542; Wheeler, W.M. 1911f: 168; Emery, 1924d: 286; Karavaiev, 1934: 160; Bolton, 1976: 306; Radchenko, 1991: 86; Bolton, 1995b: 395; Radchenko, 2016: 258.



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