Linepithema iniquum (Mayr 1870)

Dolichoderinae, Formicidae, Hymenoptera, Insecta, Arthropoda, Animalia

worker lateral view

worker face view

Above images of specimen from Ecuador, courtesy of AntWeb.

Additional image: line drawing of worker mesosoma, from Wild (2007) (click here).


Central America, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, and the northern coast of South America south along the Andes to Paraguay and southeastern Brazil. Incidental worldwide.


Mesonotal dorsum with deep, step-like mesal impression; dorsum of head posterior of clypeus with > 5 erect setae; mesopleura and metapleural bulla lacking pubescence and strongly shining.

Natural History

From Wild 2007:

Linepithema iniquum is primarily an arboreal ant. Thirteen nest records are from dead branches or dead wood inside living trees, four are from dead twigs or vines, two records are from the base of a bromeliad, one from a bamboo sheath, two from rotting wood on the ground, and nine nests intercepted in ports-of-entry around the world have been in orchids. Wheeler (1908: 153) reports the ant in Puerto Rico (as Iridomyrmex melleus) nesting in hollow twigs, in leaf petioles of plantain, and in “friable carton (earth mixed with vegetable debris) on the under sides of the huge reniform leaves [of Coccoloba rugosa (Ortegon)],” and in Dominica “‘under and in dead stalks of bananas and plantains’”(Wheeler 1913: 242). On St. John Island, Pressick and Herbst (1973) report L. iniquum nesting in twigs and in logs in moist forest and grassy field habitats. Leuderwaldt (1926) reports two nests in bamboo (as I. iniquus), one under bark (as I. iniquus var. succinea), and one in a dry branch (as I. iniquus var. succinea) in southern Brazil. Linepithema iniquum has been collected rarely in leaf-litter surveys, but these likely reflect incidental ground foragers.

Linepithema iniquum has been collected from sea level to over 2000 meters in elevation. This species is exclusively montane in Central America and northern South America, and is found at varying elevations in the Caribbean, southern Brazil, and Paraguay. 25 museum records are from human disturbed habitats such as 2nd growth forest edges, roadsides, orchards, and pastures. Four are from tropical humid montane forest, seven from primary Atlantic forest in Brazil and Paraguay, three Paraguayan records are Malaise trap samples from low inundated forest, and one Paraguayan record is from an inundated grassland. In Ecuador this species can be locally abundant along roadsides, in pastures, and in Psidium guayaba orchards, and in Puerto Rico L. iniquum is among the most abundant ants in the mountains (Wheeler 1908, Wild, pers obs).

Linepithema iniquum is probably polydomous, as individual arboreal nests frequently contain no queens (Wild, pers obs). Of five full nest excavations conducted by the author in Ecuador and Puerto Rico that found dealate queens, four colonies had a single dealate queen and one had two dealate queens. This pattern suggests that L. iniquum is monogynous to weakly polygynous, although confirmation will require molecular genetic data. Male and female alates have been observed in nests in Brazil from October to April, in Ecuador in August and December, in Costa Rica in November, and in Puerto Rico year round. Both male and female alates have been attracted to lights in November in Puerto Rico.

In Puerto Rico this species has been observed tending Coccus and Saissetia scale on coffee (Smith 1942: 22), tending pseudococcids on Cecropia (Wild, pers. obs), and visiting extra floral nectaries (Wild, pers. obs). There is one observation of aphid-tending in Ecuador (Wild, pers. obs). Smith (1929) and Wheeler (1929) describe the behavior of introduced L. iniquum in North American greenhouses in Illinois and Massachusetts, respectively, and observe the ant tending scale, visiting flowers, and nesting in and under soil pots.

Like its better-known congener L. humile, L. iniquum is carried around the world with human commerce. More than a dozen museum records of this species are intercepts at various ports-of-entry and quarantine in the United States and Europe, usually carried with epiphytes. Unlike L. humile, this species apparently has not been successful in establishing outdoor populations in spite of the opportunity to do so, although there are a few records of this ant persisting in greenhouses in the temperate zone (Wheeler 1929, Creighton 1950).

Wild (2007) reports several collections from the Central Valley area, all from high elevation. Kenji Nishida collected the species at the 2000m site on the Barva Transect in Braulio Carrillo National Park.

Literature Cited

Creighton, W. S. 1950. The ants of North America. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 104:1-585.

Luederwaldt, H. 1926. Observaćões biologicas sobre formigas brasileiras especialmente do estado de Sčo Paulo. Revista do Museu Paulista 14:185-303.

Pressick, M. L., and Herbst, E. 1973. Distribution of ants on St. John, Virgin Islands. Caribb. J. Sci. 13:187-197.

Smith, M. R. 1929. Two introduced ants not previously known to occur in the United States. J. Econ. Entomol. 22:241-243.

Smith, M. R. 1942. The relationship of ants and other organisms to certain scale insects on coffee in Puerto Rico. J. Agri. Univ. Puerto Rico 26:21-27.

Wheeler, W. M. 1908. The ants of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 24:117-158.

Wheeler, W. M. 1913. Ants collected in the West Indies. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 32:239-244.

Wheeler, W. M. 1929. Two Neotropical ants established in the United States. Psyche (Camb.) 36:89-90.

Wild, A. L. 2007. Taxonomic Revision of the Ant Genus Linepithema (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, USA.

Page authors:
Alex Wild
John T. Longino
Date of this version: 11 May 2007.
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