Dolichoderus thoracicus

Every Ant Tells a Story - And Scientists Explain Their Stories Here
Revision as of 19:52, 18 June 2019 by SShattuck (talk | contribs)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Dolichoderus thoracicus
Dolichoderus thoracicus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Dolichoderinae
Genus: Dolichoderus
Species: D. thoracicus
Binomial name
Dolichoderus thoracicus
(Smith, F., 1860)

Dolichoderus thoracicus side view

Dolichoderus thoracicus top view

Specimen labels


This species is, in a simple sense, the most common and widely distributed Dolichoderus species in southeast Asia. Yet the form subsumed under this name appear to include a number of species that show consistent ecological and life history differences but are hard to distinguish morphologically (see the nomenclature section below).


Keys including this Species


Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Indo-Australian Region: Borneo, Indonesia (type locality), Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Sulawesi.
Oriental Region: Cambodia, India, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam.
Palaearctic Region: China.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Photo © Vladimir Zryanin

Dill (2002):

(all references prior to 1989 referring to Dolichoderus bituberculaltus auct.) Emery 1887: 254 [Java: in Dischidia rafflesiana Wallich, parabiosis with Crematogaster sp.]; Kershaw 1905 [with aphids, interaction with aphidophagous lycaenid Miletus chinensis (Felder)]; Forel 1909: 226 [in carton nests]; Jacobson 1909: 121-122 [nests between leaves, in rolled leaves or underneath banana leaves, partly built with fragile]; Meijere 1909: 173 [Java: with membracids, feeding of myrmccophilous Diptera with fluid from ]; Roepke 1910 [Java: with (L.) (Lycaenidae)]; Jacobson 1911 [Java: variable nesting behaviour, often between joint leaves; trophobiosis with aphids, coccids, membracids; prey Ptilocerus ochraceus Montandon (Reduviidae)]; Emery 1912: 13, pl. 2, fig. 1. [illustration of carton nest]; Forel 1913: 90 [Malay Peninsula: in termite nest; Java: in termite nest; Malay Peninsula: in nest of Macrotermes gilvus (Hagen)]; Roepke 1918 [Java: large, dense trophobiotic assemblies with Ebhul varius (Walker). Planococcus lilacinus (Cockerell) (Pseudococcus crotonis auctt.) and Cerataphis lataneae Bsdv.; Miletus boisduvali (Moore) (Lycaenidae) lives in thoracicus nest]; Roepke 1925 [Java: larvae and pupae fall prey to Hypophrictoides dolichoderella Roepke (Tincidae) inside nest; frequent nest migrations]; Karawajew 1926: 426 [Java: workers in whitish, silken web underneath leaves of Amherstia nobilis Wallich where they also lend scale in sects; large trail with workers and dealate queens]; China 1928 [Java: fall prey to Ptilocerus ochraceus (Reduviidae), illustration]; Karawajew 1928: 307-308 [nests mostly built of very fragile carton, but in Java multichambered pavilions on leaves out of stabile carton (fig. 5, pl. 1)]; Menozzi 1932: 7 [Sumatra: nest presumably in tree Artocapus sp.; holding coccid larvae (Monophlebinae, ? Steatococcus Ferr.) in mandibles]; Franssen 1937 [Java: with Dysmicoccus brevipes (Cockerell), carries young larvae instars of Dysmicoccus]; Sonan 1939 [Taiwan: inside houses]; Wheeler 1942: 212 [Sri Lanka and Java: in hollow twigs of Triplaris americana Vahl, common species); Wirjati, 1958: 17 [Java: with Pseudococcus dorsospinosus Wirjati]; Franz 1975a: 412, 1975b: 265 [Java: most common ant species of Java; trophobiosis with pseudococcids and lecanines; building pavilions as shelter for these trophobionts; flexible nesting behaviour; polygynous]; Seeley et al. 1982 [Thailand: interaction with Apis florea and A. dorsata]; Veeresh 1990: 19 [India: trophobiosis with aphids and coccids on crops]; Rohe 1991 [Malay Peninsula: polygynous; large colonies (> 20,000 workers); nest in cavities and between leaves, partly usage of fragile carton material; trophobiosis with aphids, pseudococcids, coccids, and membracids; collecting bird faeces and dead insects, visiting extrafloral nectaries]; Rosciszewski 1995: 44, 56 [Malay Peninsula, lowland rainforest: nest in hanging dead wood; polygynous].

The following papers deal with the usage of D. thoracicus in pest control, mainly against species of Helopeltis (Miridae) in cocoa plantations in Southeast Asia (Java, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra), and partly also contain data on the general biology and life history of D. thoracicus: Van der Goot 1916, 1917; Meer-Mohr 1927; De Jong 1934; Wijnschenk Dom 1934; Betrem 1950; Giesberger 1983 [review]; Azhar 1985; Ia 1985; Bakri et al. 1986; Chong 1987; Ang 1988; Khoo & Chung 1989; Wat & Khoo 1989; Graham 1991; Way & Khoo 1991; Ho 1991; Azhar 1992 [control of Conopomorpha cramerella]; Heirbaut & Van Damme 1992; Khoo & Ho 1992; Mohamed & Mardi 1992; Way & Khoo 1992 [review]; Tuck 1994; [brief summary of biological information drawn from these papers: large colonies (trails reaching across several hectares); polygynous; nests in dark, dry places such as leaf litter, dead wood, cavities, folded leaves etc., partly using some carton material; arboreal as well as on the ground; in Indonesia (but not in Peninsular Malaysia) carton pavilions for trophobionts; prefers arboreal trails; trophobiotic associations with a variety of Hemiptera (e. g. Pseudococcidae: Cataenococcus hispidus (Morrison), Maconellicoccus hirsutus (Green), Planococcus lilacinus (Cockerell), Pseudococcus elisae Borchsenius, now known to be P. jackbeardsleyi Gimpel & Miller Coccidae: Coccus viridis (Green), Aphidoidea: Toxoptera aurantii (Boyer de Fonscolombe), Membracidae: Ebhul varius (Walker); defense of trophobionts against parasitoids; honeydew as main part of diet, supplemented by various nutrition: plant material, bird feces, eggs of Helopeltis; only infrequent foraging off the trails; not aggressive predators; competition and territorial conflicts with Oecophylla smaragdina (Fabr,) and Anoplolepis gracilipes (A. longipes auct.)].


Dealate queen surrounded by workers and brood. From Sakaerat, Korat province, Thailand. (Image by Christian Peeters)



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

  • thoracicus. Tapinoma thoracica Smith, F. 1860a: 69 (w.) INDONESIA (Sulawesi). Combination in Dolichoderus: Dalla Torre, 1893: 162; in D. (Hypoclinea): Emery, 1913a: 14. Senior synonym of bituberculatus (and its junior synonym sellaris): Donisthorpe, 1932c: 457; Shattuck, 1994: 70. Current subspecies: nominal plus bilikanus, borneonensis, lacciperdus, levior, nasutus, rufescens (unresolved junior homonym). See also: Shattuck, 1994: 70.
  • bituberculata. Hypoclinea bituberculata Mayr, 1862: 705 (w.) PHILIPPINES. Emery, 1887a: 254 (q.); Karavaiev, 1926d: 426 (q.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1951: 174 (l.); Imai, Brown, et al. 1984: 68 (k.). Combination in Dolichoderus: Emery, 1887a: 254; in D. (Hypoclinea): Emery, 1894c: 229. Senior synonym of sellaris: Mayr, 1867a: 76; of emarginata: Xu, 1995a: 35. Junior synonym of thoracicus: Donisthorpe, 1932c: 457; Shattuck, 1994: 70. See also: Bingham, 1903: 295.
  • emarginata. Dolichoderus (Hypoclinea) bituberculatus var. emarginata Santschi, 1920h: 168 (w.) LAOS. [Also described as new by Santschi, 1924c: 108.] Subspecies of thoracicus: Shattuck, 1994: 70. Junior synonym of bituberculatus: Xu, 1995a: 35.
  • sellaris. Hypoclinea sellaris Roger, 1863a: 213 (w.) SINGAPORE. Junior synonym of bituberculatus: Mayr, 1867a: 76.

Taxonomic Notes

Dill (2002) - D. thoracicus obviously is the most common and most widely distributed Dolichoderus species of Southeast Asia. As already stated by Donisthorpe (1932), D. thoracicus is the senior synonym of Mayr’s D. bituberculatus. Despite this early synonymization, this species had usually been identified and described as D. bituberculatus until the 1980s. D. thoracicus is part of a taxonomically very difficult complex consisting of many very similar species or subspecies, some of which are still undescribed. While a clear delimination of these forms based upon morphological characters is very difficult, there are in some cases very obvious biological or ethological differences. For example, the rather rare Dolichoderus sp., with the very distinctive habit of building pavilions out of spider silk (Maschwitz, Dumpert et al. 1991, corrected in Dumpert 1994) also belongs morphologically to this complex. Even the Dolichoderus referred to as “D. bituberculalus” in older works seems to fall apart into groups with rather distinctive biological traits. For instance, some have rather loose nests with or without fragile carton, while the nests of others are very stabile, multi-chambered out of firm carton material. Again, certain groups build stable-nest pavilions on leaves out of carton or silk (see review of literature on biology above).

While, on the one hand, the thoracicus complex seems to consist of various, still unidentified sibling species, there are, on the other hand, several existing taxa that most probably should be lumped. The majority of the many described subspecies is based only on very variable characters, stich as colour or very slight differences in the sculpturing or shape of the propodeum, which may not stand the test of a critical review. Furthermore, a synonymy with thoracicus has been already assumed for Dolichoderus gibbus by Emery (1889, 1901) and for Dolichoderus lactarius by Donisthorpe (1932). A thorough taxonomic review of this complex appears to be urgently indicated, not at least because of the frequent occurrence, wide distribution and considerable economic importance (e. g. usage in biological pest control) of these ants.

Type Material

Dill (2002) - Workers, Sulawesi: Makassar (A. R. Wallace) (Oxford University Museum of Natural History).

The following notes on F. Smith type specimens have been provided by Barry Bolton (details):

Tapinoma thoracica

Two worker syntypes in Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Labelled “Mak.”



  • 2n = 30 (Indonesia; Malaysia; Sarawak) (Imai et al., 1983; Imai et al., 1985) (as D. bituberculatus).
  • 2n = 33 (Malaysia) (Imai et al., 1983) (as D. bituberculatus).


  • Cuc, N.T.T., Van Mele, P. 2002. Beneficial effects of black ants (Dolichoderus thoracicus Smith) in sapodilla production in Vietnam. In: Loke, Wai Hong; Sastroutomo, Soetikno S; Caunter, Ivor G; Ali, Jambari; Lum, Keng Yeang; Vijaysegaran, S; Yong, Hoi Sen [Eds]. Biological control in the tropics: towards efficient biodiversity and bioresource management for effective biological control. Proceedings of the Symposium on Biological Control in the Tropics held at MARDI Training Centre, Serdang, Malaysia from 18-19 March 1999. CABI Publishing, Wallingford. 2002: i-vi, 1-155. Chapter pagination: 29-33.
  • Dalla Torre, K. W. von. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. (page 162, Combination in Dolichoderus)
  • Dill, M. 2002. Taxonomy of the migrating herdsman species of the genus Dolichoderus Lund, 1831, with remarks on the systematics of other Southeast-Asian Dolichoderus. Pp. 17-113 in: Dill, M., Williams, D. J. and U. Maschwitz. 2002. Herdsmen ants and their mealybug partners. Abhandlungen der Senckenbergischen Naturforschenden Gesellschaft Frankfurt am Main. 557:1-373. PDF
  • Donisthorpe, H. 1932c. On the identity of Smith's types of Formicidae (Hymenoptera) collected by Alfred Russell Wallace in the Malay Archipelago, with descriptions of two new species. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. 10(10): 441-476 (page 457, Senior synonym of bituberculatus (and its junior synonym sellaris))
  • Emery, C. 1913a [1912]. Hymenoptera. Fam. Formicidae. Subfam. Dolichoderinae. Genera Insectorum 137: 1-50 (page 14, Combination in D. (Hypoclinea))
  • Shattuck, S. O. 1994. Taxonomic catalog of the ant subfamilies Aneuretinae and Dolichoderinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Univ. Calif. Publ. Entomol. 112:i-xix, 1-241. (page 70, Senior synonym of bituberculatus (and its junior synonym sellaris)
  • Smith, F. 1860a. Descriptions of new species of hymenopterous insects collected by Mr. A. R. Wallace at Celebes. J. Proc. Linn. Soc. Lond. Zool. 5(17b)(suppl. to vol. 4 4: 57-93 (page 69, worker described)