Pheidole desertorum

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Pheidole desertorum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Pheidolini
Genus: Pheidole
Species: P. desertorum
Binomial name
Pheidole desertorum
Wheeler, W.M., 1906

Pheidole desertorum casent0005736 profile 1.jpg

Pheidole desertorum casent0005736 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label


P. desertorum occurs to at least 1700 m in a wide range of desert habitats, including mesquite or acacia-dominated bajadas, rocky slopes, and desert grasslands. The colonies construct large crater nests with single entrance holes. Helms (1995) reports that colonies in southeastern Arizona are large, at maturity comprising 2,500–25,000 workers and one to multiple queens, and often occur in multiple nests. Foragers, mostly minors but with a few majors also present, are active outside the nest at night and following rains. On diet, Stefan Cover (personal communication) has stated from extensive personal experience, “Contrary to previous reports in the literature (Davidson 1977a, b; Whitford 1978), P. desertorum is an aggressive predator and scavenger, not a granivore. Seeds are only rarely collected, and then in small quantities.” Most colonies produce reproductives each year, which are extremely sex-biased from colony to colony. Winged reproductives have been found in nests from early June to late August. According to Helms, mating flights occur prior to sunrise in the late summer, following rainfall. Males form aerial swarms into which the winged queens fly; mating then occurs on the ground, after which the queens fly away in search of nest sites. Colonies are usually founded by single queens, but occasionally by small groups. Droual (1983) has described the remarkably efficient maneuvers of nest defense and evacuation by desertorum colonies under attack by army ants (Neivamyrmex nigrescens). Droual and Topoff (1981) have demonstrated that emigrations to new nest sites also occur at a high frequency even under apparently stable environmental conditions. (Wilson 2003)


See the description in the nomenclature section.


Abundant from western Oklahoma and Texas west to southern Utah, Nevada, and California, and south into northern Mexico. (Wilson 2003)

This taxon was described from the United States.

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The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants. Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.


From Wilson (2003): Similar to Pheidole hyatti, Pheidole portalensis, Pheidole vistana; see also Pheidole ariel, Pheidole sitiens and Pheidole skwarrae, distinguished from these and other members of the fallax group as follows.

Major: slender; yellow; antennal scapes very long, slightly exceeding the occipital corner; humerus subangular in dorsal-oblique view; propodeal spines short and slender in side view; a loose rugoreticulum extends from the lateral margins of each frontal lobe to the eye; central half of the dorsum of the head, mesopleuron, propodeum, and waist foveolate and opaque; the rest of the body smooth and shiny.

Minor: slender; yellow; antennal scape very long, exceeding the occipital corner by almost half its length; occiput greatly narrowed, its profile concave in full-face view, but lacking nuchal collar.

MEASUREMENTS (mm) Lectotype major: HW 1.36, HL 1.42, SL (scape missing), EL 0.28, PW 0.64 (Portal, Arizona, major, HW 1.36, SL 1.32). Paralectotype minor: HW 0.58, HL 0.82, SL 1.10, EL 0.22, PW 0.40.

COLOR Major: reddish yellow except for gaster, which is yellowish brown.

Minor: concolorous reddish yellow.

Pheidole desertorum Wilson 2003.jpg

Figure. Upper: lectotype, major (antennae missing; companion outline of full-face view of head shows antennal scape of major from Portal, Arizona, to illustrate scape). Lower: paralectotype, minor. Scale bars = 1 mm.

Type Material

Museum of Comparative Zoology - as reported in Wilson (2003)

Type Locality Information

From Wilson (2003): TEXAS: Ft. Davis, Jeff Davis Co., 1650 m (W. M. Wheeler).


L desertorum, of the wastelands (deserts). (Wilson 2003)


Wilson, E. O. 2003. Pheidole in the New World: A dominant, hyperdiverse ant genus. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Text and images from this publication used by permission of the author.

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