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Subfamily PONERINAE
Tribe PONERINI

Hypoponera punctatissima (Roger, 1859)
Pantropical mini-ponerine ant


Authors: Joe A. MacGown and Ryan J. Whitehouse
Uploaded 2009; last updated 5 December 2016

Hypoponera punctatissima, full face view of a worker (FL, Jefferson Co.)
Photo courtesy of http://www.antweb.org/

Hypoponera punctatissima, lateral view of a worker (FL, Jefferson Co.)
Photo courtesy of http://www.antweb.org/
Hypoponera punctatissima, dorsal view of a worker (FL, Jefferson Co.)
Photo courtesy of http://www.antweb.org/
Hypoponera punctatissima, full face view of a queen (MS, Jackson Co.) (photo by Ryan J. Whitehouse and Joe A. MacGown)
Hypoponera punctatissima, lateral view of a queen (MS, Jackson Co.) (photo by Ryan J. Whitehouse and Joe A. MacGown)
Hypoponera punctatissima, dorsal view of a queen (MS, Jackson Co.) (photo by Ryan J. Whitehouse and Joe A. MacGown)

Introduction
Hypoponera ants can be found around the world and are considered to be the most common and diverse Ponerinae ant species worldwide with 177 species with 5 species in the U.S. They can be found on the ground or just under the soil surface and nest in leaf litter, rotten wood and the soil. Some Hypoponera species are known to have unique reproductive strategies including ergatoid males and females and male mate competition.

Hypoponera species can be identified by having a waist with only one distinct segment; gaster being narrowly connected to the waist; presence of a sting; apex of gaster pointed downwards or posteriorly; frontal lobes covering antennal insertion point; head and body relatively smooth; mandibles triangular; only one pectinate spur on hind tarsi; and subpetiolar process simple and not toothed.

Hypoponera punctatissima (Roger) (Ponerinae) is small, yellowish brown stinging species thought to be native to Asia. Hypoponera punctatissima is possibly one of the most widespread tramp ants in the world. However, in the US, this species does not appear to be widespread or common, except in Florida where it is an occasional nuisance pest.

Taxonomic History (Bolton 2016)
Ponera punctatissima Roger, 1859: 246, pl. 7, fig. 7 (w.q.) POLAND, GERMANY. "Poland, Rauden, Opole Province; Germany, Berlin, coll. Roger." Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France (MNHN). CASENT0915490. http://www.antweb.org/specimen/CASENT0915490
Combination in Hypoponera: Taylor, 1967: 12. Senior synonym of Hypoponera androgyna: Emery & Forel, 1879: 455, Seifert, 2003: 69; of Hypoponera tarda: Dalla Torre, 1893}: 41, Seifert, 2003: 69; of Hypoponera kalakauae, Hypoponera mina, Hypoponera mumfordi: Wilson & Taylor, 1967: 29 (in text); of Hypoponera ergatandria: Smith, 1979: 1343; of Hypoponera mina: Taylor, 1987: 30; of Hypoponera exacta: Atanassov & Dlussky, 1992: 71, Seifert, 2003: 69; of Hypoponera jugata: Seifert, 2003: 69; of Hypoponera aemula, Hypoponera argonautorumHypoponera bondroiti, Hypoponera brevicepsHypoponera brevis, Hypoponera cognata, Hypoponera durbanensis, Hypoponera incisa, Hypoponera mesoepinotalis, Hypoponera petri, Hypoponera schauinslandi, Hypoponera sordida, Hypoponera sulcitanaHypoponera ursoidea: Bolton & Fisher, 2011: 87. Current subspecies: nominal plus Hypoponera punctatissima indifferens. See also: Emery, 1916: 110; Wheeler, 1937: 59; Collingwood, 1979: 30; Seifert, 2013: 189.

Identification
Worker: (Measurements from Bolton and Fisher 2011, description from Bolton and Fisher 2011 and from photos of specimens on AntWeb.org). Minute (HL 0.56–0.72 mm, HW 0.46–0.60 mm, SL 0.35–0.48 mm, MeSL 0.70–0.90 mm). Overall coloration yellowish brown to dark brown. Head longer than wide; shiny integuent somewhat dulled by numerous piligerous pits; entire head with dense appressed, short setae, setae denser along lateral edges; eyes small, located laterally on the anterior 1/4 of the head; mandibles triangular in shape; antennae 12-segmented with a three segmented club, scape does not reach posterior margin of the head. Mesosomal dorsum mostly flat in lateral view, promesonotal and metanotal sutures present; dorsum with dense, short semi erect to erect setae; mesopleuron and sides of pronotum and propodeum smoth and shining, mostly glabrous. Waist single segmented; petiolar node subrectangular, about as wide as tall, broadly rounded apically, with numerous short, erect setae present anteriorly, dorsally, and posteriorly and glabrous and shiny laterally; subpetiolar process simple, rounded. Gaster wity a definite constriction between segments one and two; first two segments twice the length or longer than the remaining segments; numerous setae  present including a mixture of short hair-like setae and longer erect setae; prominent sting present.

Queen: (MEM measurements) Minute, slightly larger than workers (HL: 0.62-0.66mm, HW: 0.51-0.53mm, SL: 0.37-0.42mm, EL: 0.13-0.15mm, MeSL: 0.84-0.92mm) (n=5,). Overall coloration orangish-brown to brown, antennae and legs yellowish brown. Head longer than wide; shiny integuent somewhat dulled by numerous piligerous pits; entire head with dense appressed, short setae, setae denser along lateral edges; eyes large, located laterally on the anterior 1/3 of the head; ocelli present; mandibles triangular in shape; antennae 12-segmented with a three segmented club, scape does not reach posterior margin of the head. Mesosomal dorsum mostly flat in lateral view, enlarged for wings; promesonotal and metanotal sutures present; dorsum with dense short, hair-like setae; pronotum, mesopleuron, and propodeal sides with less dense setae, more shiny in appearance than dorsum. Waist single segmented, petiolar node subrectangular, about as wide as tall broadly rounded apically, with numerous short, erect setae present anteriorly, dorsally, and posteriorly and glabrous and shiny laterally; subpetiolar process simple, rounded. Gaster wity a definite constriction between segments one and two; first two segments twice the length or longer than the remaining segments; numerous setae  present including a mixture of short hair-like setae and longer erect setae; prominent sting present.

Male: (from Bolton and Fisher 2011) Ergatoid males are produced and fall into two categories with one group being larger, brown and with small eyes present and the second group being smaller, yellow and eyeless (Yamauchi, et al. 1996). These ergatoid males are very worker-like, especially in head structure, but have shorter scapes (SI 68–72), only 12-segmented antennae (as do workers, intercastes and queens), and fully developed male genitalia. Alate males have never been observed, and it is assumed that they do not exist.

This species can be separated from similar ants in the area by the presence of a simple untoothed, subpetiolar process, mesopleuron that is shiny and lacks sculpturing and a relatively short petiole.

Biology and Economic Importance
Hypoponera punctatissima is a widely distributed tramp species that has spread throughout the world following the spread of humans. Colonies occur in soil, rotting wood, gardens, and various disturbed habitats. Ideal temperature requirements for successful establishment of colonies appears to be at least 21°C. However, colonies  may also become established in cooler climates by nesting in greenhouses, homes, in compost piles, horse manure, or in and around heat sources associated with humans. In fact, Delabie and Blard (2002) stated that horse stables are good potential places to collect this minute, cryptic species. Winged males of this  species are not known, but instead ergatoid males are produced. These males mate with alate queens that then disperse to find new areas to start colonies.

This cosmopolitan species is not considered to be economically important, but is considered to be an occasional stinging pest. Stings are usually from winged queens that become trapped beneath clothing or in sweat.

Distribution
Native Range: Possibly Central Asia (the native place of the domestic horse (Delabie and Blard, 2002).

Australian: Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Guam, Hawaii, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, New guinea, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Island, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Wallis and Fortuna Islands (AntWiki.org).
Ethiopian: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mayotte, Nigeria, Reunion, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Sao Tome and Principe, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe (AntWiki.org).
Nearctic: Canada, United States (AntWiki.org and MEM).
Neotropical: Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Galapagos Islands, Greater Antilles, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (AntWiki.org).
Oriental: Philippines (AntWiki.org).
Palearctic: Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Balearic Islands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iberian Peninsula, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (AntWiki.org).

U.S. Distribution: AL, AZ, CA, FL, HI, IA, LA, MS, NC, NM, SC, TX, WA (AntWeb.org and MEM).
Southeastern U.S. Distribution: Al, FL, LA, MS, NC, SC (AntWeb.org and MEM).

Acknowledgments
Funding for the ant work being done by the MEM in Alabama and Mississippi is from several sources including the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture, under Project No. MIS-012040, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station at Mississippi State University, with support from State Project MIS-311080, NSF Grants BSR-9024810 and DFB-9200856, the Tombigbee National Forest (U.S. Forest Service), the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi Natural Heritage Program Research Grant, USDA Forest Service Agreement No. 08-99-07-CCS-010, the William H. Cross Expedition Fund, and primarily by the USDA-ARS Areawide Management of Imported Fire Ant Project (2001-2014) and USDA-ARS Areawide Management Invasive Ants Project. Additionally, special cooperation has been provided by State Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges, the Natchez Trace Parkway, and from various private landowners in both Alabama and Mississippi.

Literature Cited

Atanassov, N.; Dlussky, G. M. 1992. Fauna of Bulgaria. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. [In Bulgarian.]. Fauna na Bûlgariya 22:1-310.

Bolton, B. 2016.  Bolton World Catalog Ants. Available online: http://www.antweb.org/world.jsp. Accessed 9 March 2016.

Bolton, B.; Fisher, B. L. 2011. Taxonomy of Afrotropical and West Palaearctic ants of the ponerine genus Hypoponera Santschi (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 2843:1-118. 

Collingwood, C. A. 1979. The Formicidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica 8:1-174.

Dalla Torre, K. W. 1893. Catalogus Hymenopterorum hucusque descriptorum systematicus et synonymicus. Vol. 7. Formicidae (Heterogyna). Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 289 pp. 

Delabie, J.H.C. & Blard, F. (2002) The tramp ant Hypoponera punctatissima (Roger) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Ponerinae): new records from the Southern Hemisphere. Neotrop. Entomol., 31, 149-151.

Emery, C.; Forel, A. 1879. Catalogue des Formicides d'Europe. Mitteilungen der Schweizerischen Entomologischen Gesellschaft 5:441-481.

Emery, C. 1916 ("1915"). Fauna entomologica italiana. I. Hymenoptera.-Formicidae. Bullettino della Società Entomologica Italiana 47:79-275.

Roger, J. 1859. Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Ameisenfauna der Mittelmeerländer. I. Berliner Entomologische Zeitschrift 3:225-259. 

Seifert, B. 2003. Hypoponera punctatissima (Roger) and H. schauinslandi (Emery) - two morphologically and biologically distinct species (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Abhandlungen und Berichte des Naturkundemuseums Görlitz 75(1):61-81.

Seifert, B. 2013. Hypoponera ergatandria (Forel, 1893) - a cosmopolitan tramp species different from H. punctatissima (Roger, 1859) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Soil Organisms 85:189-201.

Smith, D. R. 1979. Superfamily Formicoidea. Pp. 1323-1467 in: Krombein, K. V.; Hurd, P. D.; Smith, D. R.; Burks, B. D. (eds.) 1979. Catalog of Hymenoptera in America north of Mexico. Volume 2. Apocrita (Aculeata). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. i-xvi, 1199-2209.

Taylor, R. W. 1967. A monographic revision of the ant genus Ponera Latreille (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pacific Insects Monograph 13:1-112.

Taylor, R. W. 1987. A checklist of the ants of Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) Division of Entomology Report 41:1-92.

Wheeler, W. M. 1937. Mosaics and other anomalies among ants. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 95 pp.

Wilson, E. O.; Taylor, R. W. 1967. The ants of Polynesia (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Pacific Insects Monograph 14:1-109.

Yamauchi, K., Kimura, Y., Corbara, B., Kinomura, K. & Tsuji, K. 1996. Dimorphic ergatoid males and their reproductive behavior in the ponerine ant Hypoponera bondroiti. Insectes Sociaux 43: 119-130

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