Morphology and phenology of sexuals and new distribution data on the blind Mediterranean ant Hypoponera abeillei (Hymenoptera, Formicidae)




Ponerinae, reproductive castes, nuptial flights, queen, gyne, male


Hypoponera abeillei is the sole member of the otherwise exclusively Afrotropical abeillei group to occur in the West-Palearctic and since its first description on the basis of two Corsican workers in 1881, it remained little-known. Workers of this species are thought to entirely lack eyes, a rare trait among ants of the region, yet their lifestyle remains undocumented. On the other hand, the male caste has been described from 4 Tunisian specimens in 1921, and queens remained so far undescribed. We present an updated description of the male caste based on 45 specimens and a first description of the queen caste based on 14 specimens. The H. abeillei material we examined comes from Italy, Spain and Malta (mostly originating from coastal localities), and comprises 11 inedit distribution records, including the first findings in the islands of Mallorca, Malta and Sardinia. Moreover, we provide a first phenological overview of the species’ nuptial flights. Our data show that H. abeillei sexuals flight during the summer, mostly in August, and demonstrate that they can easily be distinguished from all the other Hypoponera species inhabiting the Mediterranean region based on their morphology. The remarkable diversity of Mediterranean Hypoponera males and queens suggest that sexuals may have a role in future attempts to understand relationships within this genus, yet the number of species in which sexual castes are documented is still extremely reduced.


Download data is not yet available.


Alicata, A. & Schifani, E. (2019). Three endemic Aphaenogaster from the Siculo-Maltese archipelago and the Italian Peninsula: part of a hitherto unrecognized species group from the Maghreb?(Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae). Acta Entomologica Musei Nationalis Pragae, 59: 1-16. doi: 10.2478/aemnp-2019-0001

Albert, G. & Arcos, J. (2015). Hormigas del Parque Natural de Serra Gelada y citas interesantes para la mirmecofauna alicantina (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Iberomyrmex, 7: 3-6.

André, E. (1881). Adresse les descriptions de trois nouvelles espèces de Fourmis. Bulletin Bimensuel de la Société Entomologique de France, 1: 60-62.

Baroni Urbani, C. (1962). Studi sulla mirmecofauna d'Italia. I. Redia, 47: 129-138.

Boieiro, M. R. C., X. Espadaler, A. R. Azedo, & Serrano, A. M. (2002). Four new species to the ant fauna of Portugal (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Boletim da Sociedade Portuguesa de Entomologia, 7: 253-259.

Boieiro, M., Espadaler, X., Azedo, A. R., Collingwood, C., & Serrano, A. R. M. (2009). One genus and three ant species new to Portugal (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Boletin de la SEA, 45: 515-517.

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.

Bolton, B. (2021). An online catalog of the ants of the world. Available from

Borowiec, L. (2014). Catalogue of ants of Europe, the Mediterranean Basin and adjacent regions (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Genus, 25: 1-340.

Collingwood, C.A. (1985). Hymenoptera: Fam. Formicidae of Saudi Arabia. Fauna of Saudi Arabia, 7: 230-302.

Emery, C. (1895). Sopra alcune formiche della fauna mediterranea. Memorie della Reale Accademia delle Scienze dell’Istituto di Bologna, 5: 59-75

Espadaler, X., & López-Soria, L. (1991). Rareness of certain Mediterranean ant species: fact or artifact? Insectes Sociaux, 38: 365-377.

Espadaler, X. (1997). Catàleg de les formigues (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) dels països catalans. Sessió Conjunta d’Entomologia, 9: 23-42.

Espadaler, X. & Lopez-Colón, J. I. (2011). Hormigas (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) de una zona de yesos de la comunidad de Madrid (Espana). Boletín de la SEA, 49: 261-264.

Espadaler, X., Marí, M., Prats, I. & Calvo, J. (2013). Formigues (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) dels illots des Vedrà, es Vedranell i els illots de Ponent (Eivissa). Bolletí de la Societat d'Història Natural de les Balears, 56: 51-58.

García, F., Espadaler, X., Roig, X., Serrano, S. & Segura, A. D. C. (2020). Vuelos nupciales en hormigas: estudio de los sexuados ahogados en cuatro masas de agua ibéricas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). In: 40 años sin Félix: homenaje al Dr. Rodríguez de la Fuente. Monografías Tercer Milenio, 10: 255-268. Sociedad Entomológica Aragonesa, SEA.

Mantero. G. (1908). Res Ligusticae XL. Materiali per un catalogo degli Imenotteri Liguri. Parte V. Supplemento ai Formicidi, Crisidi, Mutillidi, Braconidi e Cinipidi. Annali del Museo civico di storia naturale di Genova, 4: 43-74.

Mei, M. (1995). Arthropoda di Lampedusa, Linosa e Pantelleria (Canale di Sicilia, Mar Mediterraneo). Hymenoptera Formicidae (con diagnosi di due nuove specie). Il Naturalista Siciliano, 19: 753-772.

Ortuño, V. M., Gilgado, J. D. & Tinaut, A. (2014). Subterranean ants: the case of Aphaenogaster cardenai (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Insect Science, 14: 212. doi: 10.1093/


R Core Team (2021). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.

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

RStudio Team (2020). RStudio: Integrated Development for R. RStudio, PBC, Boston, MA.

Santschi, F. (1907). Fourmis de Tunisie capturées en 1906. Revue Suisse de Zoologie, 15: 305-334.

Santschi, F. (1908). Nouvelles fourmis de l’Afrique du Nord (Égypte, Canaries, Tunisie). Annales de la Société Entomologique de France, 77: 517-534.

Santschi, F. (1910). Nouvelles fourmis de Tunisie (suite). Bulletin de la Société d’Histoire Naturelle de l’Afrique du Nord, 1: 70-72.

Santschi, F. (1921). Nouvelles fourmis paléarctiques. 3ème note. Boletín de la Real Sociedad Española de Historia Natural, 21: 165-170

Schifani, E. (2019). Exotic ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) invading mediterranean Europe: a brief summary over about 200 years of documented introductions. Sociobiology, 66: 198-208. doi: 10.13102/sociobiology.v66i2.4331

Schifani, E., Nalini, E., Gentile, V., Alamanni, F., Ancona, C., Caria, M., Cillo, D., & Bazzato, E. (2021). Ants of Sardinia: an updated checklist based on new faunistic, morphological and biogeographical notes. Redia, 104, 21-35. doi: 10.19263/REDIA-104.21.03

Schneider, C. A., Rasband, W. S. & Eliceiri, K. W. (2012). NIH Image to ImageJ: 25 years of image analysis. Nature Methods, 9: 671-675. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2089

Scupola, A. & Ballarin, R. (2009). The genus Leptanilla Emery, 1870 in Sicily (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News, 12, 129-132.

Sharaf M.R., B.L. Fisher, H.M. Al Dhafer, A. Polaszek, & Aldawood, A.S. (2018). Additions to the ant fauna (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Oman: an updated list, new records and a description of two new species. Asian Myrmecology 10: e010004. doi: 10.20362/am.010004

Seifert, B. (2012). Clarifying naming and identification of the outdoor species of the ant genus Tapinoma Förster, 1850 in Europe north of the Mediterranean region with description of a new species. Myrmecological News, 16: 139-147.

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

Seifert B. (2018). The Ants of Central and North Europe. Lutra Verlags- und Vertriebsgesellschaft, Tauer, Germany.

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

Vonshak, M., & Ionescu-Hirsch, A. (2009). A checklist of the ants of Israel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Israel Journal of Entomology, 39, 33-55.

Wagner, H. C., Arthofer, W., Seifert, B., Muster, C., Steiner, F. M., & Schlick-Steiner, B. C. (2017). Light at the end of the tunnel: Integrative taxonomy delimits cryptic species in the Tetramorium caespitum complex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News, 25, 95-129.

Wickham, H. (2016). ggplot2: Elegant Graphics for Data Analysis. Springer-Verlag New York.


Additional Files





Research Article - Ants

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 > >>