Weekly Series
Nature Weekly
Short Notes on Nature Singapore

10 April 2016 | Common Household Ants |

photo photo While browsing the guide book on urban creatures published by Singapore Science Centre in a library recently, a page showing the Common Red Ant (Monomorium species) caught my attention. According to the description, there were 2 such species present in households, namely Monomorium pharaonis (Pharaoh Ant) and Monomorium destructor. Though not mentioned in the page, Monomorium destructor was commonly known as the Singapore Ant but it actually originated in North Africa. All seemed fine until I looked at the 2 pictures below the text. Clearly, the ants in the pictures were not a Monomorium species. They looked more like the Cocoa Black Ant (Dolichoderus thoracicus), which rarely appeared in households unless there is a park or semi-forested area near the house. Even so, these ants rarely migrate to households.

photo Ants belong to a Family called Formicidae. It is placed under the same Order as bees and wasps. Ant is a very poorly documented group in Singapore despite seeing them so often. I did an investigation on the ants roaming in my house in August last year. A total of at least 6 species were found, one of them happened to be the Cocoa Black Ant that came from the nearby park. It has disappeared without a trace since the early part of the year. The other ant that was also gone was a black ant (Nylanderia sp.). However, another larger black ant (Camponotus auriventris) had come along, occupying the vacated territory on the Air Potato climber that was once dominated by the Cocoa Black Ant. With that, I had at least 5 species of ants roaming at my balcony area.

While looking up for local information on ants, I came across a very recent publication (January 2016) on a new ant species (Leptanilla hypodracos) from Singapore authored by Mark Wong. This ant species is small, rare and illusive, making it highly unlikely to be encountered by ordinary folks like me. Mark had just successfully secured some funding through the Internet to further his research work on documenting the ants of Singapore. So far, his Instagram site on ants had already displayed pictures of 24 ant species. According to him, the most recent consolidation of ant species in Singapore was by Viehmeyer way back in 1915. Watch his WordPress site if you would like to keep track on his progress with the ant research.

photo photo Getting back to the Pharaoh Ant and Singapore Ant mentioned in the guide book, it was really difficult to identify them with confidence. Most ants are small and they look very similar. Based on their pictures found in the Internet, they look similar to the Bicoloured Pennant Ant (Tetramorium bicarinatum) that I had photographed. The other possible suspect was the one that I named Solenopsis geminata (Tropical Asian Fire Ant). This was a very common ant when I was a kid living in villages back in the 1970s. It liked to burrow holes in and construct elevated tracks on the ground, and was as aggressive as the Asian Army Ant (Carebara diversa). These days, they are rarely seen. Since the guide book on urban creatures was published more than 10 years ago in 2002, the ant species available might had undergone some changes over time.

The most common and conspicuous household ant as of this writing was the Black Crazy Ant (Paratrechina longicornis). It was simply everywhere.

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