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First Recorded Mating Flight of the Hypogeic Ant, Acropyga epedana, with its Obligate Mutualist Mealybug, Rhizoecus colombiensis

Journal of Insect Science
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1673/031.007.1101
  • Article


On 26-July, 2005 a mating aggregation of Acropyga epedana Snelling (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) was observed in the Chiricahua Mountains in south-eastern Arizona. This is the first record of a mating flight of A. epedana, the only nearctic member of this pantropical genus. Mating behavior was observed, newly mated queens were collected, and a complete colony was excavated. New information is reported on the natural history and mating behavior of the species. The identity of a mealybug mutualist, Rhizoecus colombiensis (Homoptera: Rhizoecinae) is confirmed. Reproductive females participating in flights all carried mealybugs between their mandibles, indicating a vertical transfer of mealybugs with their ant hosts. No captured foundresses survived long in captivity, most likely due to the death of their mealybugs. The colony excavated had a single queen, though polygyny is common in the genus. Nearly all workers within the nest were heavily parasitized by mites, although males or gynes were not parasitized. These natural history observations are discussed with regard to this poorly understood mutualistic relationship between Acropyga ants and their mealybug partners.

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