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Nylanderia phantasma (Trager)
Nylanderia phantasma, full face view of a worker (click image to enlarge).
Nylanderia phantasma, side view of a worker (click image to enlarge).

Ants in the genus Nylanderia (Formicinae) are relatively small, pale yellow to almost black, and can be distinguished from other Formicinae in our region by the coarse, long, barbed and usually dark setae (macrochaetae or macrosetae), which are arranged in distinct pairs on the dorsum of the head and mesosoma and scattered on the gaster.

Trager (1984) revised the genus, then called Paratrechina, for the continental United States. LaPolla et al. (2010) elevated the subgenus Nylanderia to the generic level, which in effect, meant that all Nearctic Paratrechina species except for P. longicornis were now placed in Nylanderia. In 2012, Kallal and Lapolla (2012) revived the genus and provided an updated key for the Nearctic region. However, there are still some undescribed species in this group that which may be parasitic on other Nylanderia species.  These species apparently do not have a worker caste, and the males are unusual in that they have characteristics of both males and workers. 

Nylanderia phantasma is a small, whitish to pale yellow species that is confined to deep coastal or inland sand dunes in the southeastern United States.

Identification (from Trager 1984 and Kallal and LaPolla 2012)
Worker: 1.71-2.34 mm (TL). Pale yellow to whitish yellow with whitish pubescence and light colored macrochaetae. Overall shiny, with dense cephalic pubescence, but very sparse pubescence on mesosoma and gaster. Head quadrate and not emarginate along posterior border. Ocelli lacking. Scape relatively long, extending beyond posterior border of head by a length equal to 3-4 funicular segments.

Female: 4.60-470 mm (TL). Pale yellow to yellowish-orange; cuticle smooth and shiny; body covered in dense whitish pubescence; macrochaetae whitish.

Male: 1.84-2.16 mm (TL). Head and mesosoma light brown, gaster darker brown; scapes and legs yellowish-brown, meso- and metacoxae paler yellow brown. Pubescence on head moderate, mesonotum with dense pubescence, and gaster mostly lacking pubescence; macrochaetae and pubescence whitish. Genitalia with short, triangular parameres, digiti and cuspides long, slender, and curved toward each other.

Nylanderia phantasma is most similar to N. arenivaga, but is smaller, and has only 0-4 scape macrochaetae, and restricted to deep white sand habitats.

Biology and Economic Importance
Nylanderia phantasma appears to be relagated to living in white, deep sand dunes along the Gulf Coast and in inland sand ridges or other similar dune systems. Originally, it was thought that this species was confined to the Lake Wales Ridge in central Florida, but we have collected it on the Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast and inland sand dunes in Georgia. This species is nocturnal. It is almost impossible to find workers foraging during the day. However, if you are in the right habitat at night, they can be quite abundant. Nests are polydomous with numerous small crater entrances (Trager 1984). I have attempted to dig colonies out during the day and found this to be a waste of time! Nests are deep. According to Trager (1984), reproductives are produced in the fall and fly in late winter to early spring.

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi


Kallal, R. J. and J. S. LaPolla. 2012. Monograph of Nylanderia (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the World, Part II: Nylanderia in the Nearctic. Zootaxa 3508: 1-64.

Lapolla, J. S., S. G. Brady, and S. O. Shattuck. 2010. Phylogeny and taxonomy of the Prenolepis genus-group of ants (Hymenoptera:  Formicidae).  Systematic Entomology 35: 118-131.

Trager, J. C. 1984.  A revision of the genus Paratrechina (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the continental United States. Sociobiology 9:  49-162. 


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