Pheidole moerens

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Pheidole moerens
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Pheidole
Species: P. moerens
Binomial name
Pheidole moerens
Wheeler, W.M., 1908

Pheidole moerens casent0104525 profile 1.jpg

Pheidole moerens casent0104525 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen Label


On Sanibel Island, Florida, I found colonies of moerens abundant, nesting in sandy soil at the base of trees in parks and around houses; and in Houston in a rotting tree limb on the ground of a park. Naves (1985) records nests in northern Florida from a wide range of sites, under boards, at the base of trees and fence posts, along tree roots, under palm leaves, inside wall crevices, but only rarely in the soil. According to Naves, the colonies are monogynous, with nuptial flights usually occurring in July. Colonies grow to populations of 600 or more workers, of which somewhat fewer than 20 percent are majors. In nature they feed on seeds and insects, the latter taken alive or scavenged. (Wilson 2003)


See the description in the nomenclature section.

Keys including this Species


Scattered populations occur in the West Indies (Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Culebra) and southern United States (Florida; Mobile, Alabama; Houston, Texas). The native range is unknown, but may be the Greater Antilles. (Wilson 2003)

Deyrup, Davis & Cover (2000) consider this species to be introduced into Florida, where it is common throughout the state, including the western part where it occurs in both disturbed areas and mesic or moist woods. Pest status: none. First published Florida record: Wojcik et al. 1975.

Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: 19.76° to 10.46°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: United States.
Neotropical Region: Dominican Republic, Greater Antilles, Haiti, Puerto Rico (type locality).

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.



San Cristóbal, República Dominicana. Video by Judá Isaí Martínez Uribe.

Naves (1985) - P. moerens is a common species in north Florida Its color was observed in lab colonies to vary from reddish yellow to almost black due possibly to variation in the diet. Colonies fed with honey and seeds retained a lighter color than those fed with freshly killed house flies.

This species was found nesting in various places such as under boards, at base of oak trees and fence posts, along roots, under palm leaves, inside wall crevices, and rarely in the ground Usually small chambers are constructed. It is a monogynous species which has a small blackish female. Its main flight is usually in July. Several queens may start founding a nest, but before the first brood emerges, the dominant female will have killed the others.

The chambers usually are built with small soil or debris particles and have small openings. A colony may have over 100 majors and over 500 workers. They feed on seeds and scavenge and prey on small dead or live arthropods. They forage very close to the nesting sites and sometimes a major is found foraging along with the workers.


Deyrup, Davis & Cover (2000): Occurring throughout Florida in a great variety of habitats, this species may have already partially replaced Pheidole dentigula and Pheidole floridana. Nests are in rotten wood, in leaf litter, and in hollow twigs and nuts on the ground or occasionally arboreal, so P. moerens may compete for nest sites with native species in the genera Paratrechina, Solenopsis, Hypoponera, Strumigenys and Brachymyrmex. It seems likely that dense populations of this species have some effect on native insects that serve as prey, but the diet of P. moerens has not been investigated in detail in Florida. The general diet appears to be small arthropods and scavenged human food. This species rarely enters houses.

Flight Period

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


Life History Traits

  • Queen number: monogynous (Frumhoff & Ward, 1992)








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

  • moerens. Pheidole moerens Wheeler, W.M. 1908a: 136, pl. 12, figs. 22, 23 (s.w.) PUERTO RICO. Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1972b: 244 (l.). Senior synonym of dominicensis: Naves, 1985: 65; of creola: Wilson, 2003: 461.
  • dominicensis. Pheidole moerens subsp. dominicensis Wheeler, W.M. 1913d: 241 (s.) DOMINICA. Junior synonym of moerens: Naves, 1985: 65.
  • creola. Pheidole moerens subsp. creola Wheeler, W.M. & Mann, 1914: 25 (s.w.) HAITI. Wheeler, W.M. 1936b: 198 (q.). Junior synonym of moerens: Wilson, 2003: 461.

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.


From Wilson (2003): DIAGNOSIS Similar to Pheidole exigua, Pheidole flavens, Pheidole nitidicollis, Pheidole nuculiceps, Pheidole orbica, Pheidole pholeops and Pheidole sculptior, easily confused with the sympatric and abundant Pheidole flavens, distinguished as follows.

Major: variably reddish brown; occiput smooth and shiny, and most of rest of head carinulate, with a small patch of rugoreticulum just behind the antennal fossa on each side; intercarinal spaces on head sparsely foveolate, subopaque to feebly shining; anterior half of pronotum carinulate; postpetiole from above elliptical.

Minor: medium to dark brown; small, loose rugoreticulum present mesad to each eye; rugulae extend posterior to eyes; all of head and mesosoma foveolate.

P. moerens is distinguished from Pheidole flavens by the broader smooth space of the occiput and feebler intercarinular foveolation on the head of the major, and especially by the darker color and more extensive sculpturing of the minor.

MEASUREMENTS (mm) Syntype major: HW 0.84, HL 0.90, SL 0.46, EL 0.10, PW 0.40. Syntype minor: HW 0.42, HL 0.48, SL 0.44, EL 0.06, PW 0.26.

COLOR Major: medium reddish brown, with vertex a shade darker. Minor: body medium to dark brown, appendages brownish yellow. According to Naves (1985), the shade of color in laboratory colonies fed with house flies is darker than in colonies fed only with honey.

Pheidole moerens Wilson 2003.jpg

Figure. Upper: syntype, major. Lower: syntype, minor. PUERTO RICO: Utuado. Scale bars = 1 mm.

Type Material

Culebra Island, West Indies. American Museum of Natural History and Museum of Comparative Zoology - as reported in Wilson (2003)


Unknown, possibly Gr Moira, goddess of destiny. (Wilson 2003)


References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Barberena-Arias M. F., and T. M. Aide. 2003. Species Diversity and Trophic Composition of Litter Insects During Plant Secondary Succession. Caribbean Journal of Science 39(2): 161-169.
  • Brandao, C.R.F. 1991. Adendos ao catalogo abreviado das formigas da regiao neotropical (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Rev. Bras. Entomol. 35: 319-412.
  • Deyrup M., L. Davis, and S. Buckner. 1998. Composition of the ant fauna of three Bahamian islands. Proceedings of the seventh symposium on the natural history of the Bahamas. 23-32. Bahamian Field Station, San Salvador, Bahamas
  • Garcia M. A. The vulnerability of leaflitter ants to forest disturbances in the islands of Puerto Rico, Greater Antilles. Novitates Caribaea 13: 74-91.
  • Kempf, W.W. 1972. Catalago abreviado das formigas da regiao Neotropical (Hym. Formicidae) Studia Entomologica 15(1-4).
  • Naves M. A. 1985. A monograph of the genus Pheidole in Florida, USA (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Insecta Mundi 1: 53-90
  • Osorio-Perez K., M. F. Barberena-Arias, and T. M. Aide. 2007. Changes in Ant Species Richness and Composition During Plant Secondary Succession in Puerto Rico. Caribbean Journal of Science 43(2): 244-253.
  • Perez-Gelabert D. E. 2008. Arthropods of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti): A checklist and bibliography. Zootaxa 1831:1-530.
  • Smith M. R. 1937. The ants of Puerto Rico. Journal of Agriculture of the University of Puerto Rico 20: 819-875.
  • Snelling R. 1993. Ants of Guana Island, British Virgin Islands. Notes From Underground 8: 11-12.
  • Snelling R. R. 2005. Wasps, ants, and bees: aculeate Hymeoptera. Pp. 283-296 in: Lazell, J. 2005. Island. Fact and theory in nature. Berkeley: University of California Press, xx + 382 pp.
  • Torres J.A. 1984. Niches and Coexistence of Ant Communities in Puerto Rico: Repeated Patterns. Biotropica 16(4): 284-295.
  • Torres, Juan A. and Roy R. Snelling. 1997. Biogeography of Puerto Rican ants: a non-equilibrium case?. Biodiversity and Conservation 6:1103-1121.
  • Wetterer J.K. and J.L.W. Keularts. 2008. Population explosion of the hairy crazy ant, Paratrechina pubens (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), on St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Florida Entomologist 91(3): 423-427.
  • Wetterer, J.K. and J.L.W. Keularts. 2008. Population Explosion of the Hairy Crazy Ant, Paratrechina pubens (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), on St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. The Florida Entomologist 91(3):423-427
  • Wheeler W. M. 1908. The ants of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 24: 117-158.
  • Wheeler W. M., and W. M. Mann. 1914. The ants of Haiti. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 33: 1-61.
  • Wheeler, William Morton. 1936. Ants From Hispaniola and Mona Island. Bulletin: Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College. 80(2):192-211.
  • Wilson, E.O. 2003. Pheidole in the New World: A Dominant, Hyperdiverse Genus. Harvard University Press