Maui December 2013 Trip #8
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Subfamily Myrmicinae: Big-Headed Ants (Pheidole megacephala)

Introduction: The genus (Pheidole) is one of my favorite groups of ants, probably because I studied these ants in my backyard during my formative years. Pheidole is the largest genus of ants with a worldwide distribution, especially the tropics. It is certainly an evolutionary success story, both ecologically and in terms of species diversity, with more than 1100 described species. In his book Pheidole in the New World (2003), E.O. Wilson describes 625 species, including 818 pages and 650 illustrations. There is a marked difference in the worker caste sizes (majors and minors). Majors have an unusually large head in proportion to their body. In fact, this group is often referred to as "big-headed ants." Ants are such a diverse and complex group of insects that a subdivision of entomology called myrmecology is dedicated solely to ants. Pheidole is such an enormous and complex genus that a subdivision of myrmecology called pheidology is dedicated soley to members of this genus. In fact, one who studies big-headed ants is a pheidologist!

Elaine discovered my first Hawaiian big-headed ant in a packing box at the local Farmer's Market in Kihei. They were hiding (nesting?) in the corrugations of the carboard box. In order to collect the ants it was necessary to cut open (separate) the corrugations, a fairly tedious job not commonly undertaken by Maui visitors.

Close-up view of big-headed ant major worker coming out of a corrugation.

Close-up view of major and minor workers of Pheidole megacephala.

More Major Workers Of Pheidole megacephala

Image Of Pheidole megacephala Using Photoshop Poster Filter

Subfamily Dolichoderinae: White-Footed Ant Technomyrmex albipes
Note: This species is very similar to Technomyrmex difficilis

White-footed ant (Technomyrmex albipes), a very common ant in lowland coastal areas of Maui. It is fairly easy to identify with its distinctive white tarsal segments. I found this species on sweet-smelling Mucuna flowers in rain forest areas and on the hammock near our room at the Hotel Wailea Maui.