The Ants of Africa
Genus Anoplolepis
Anoplolepis (Zelalleyella) custodiens (F. Smith)

Subgenus Zealleyella

Anoplolepis (Zelalleyella) custodiens (F. Smith)

return to key {link to the Hymenoptera Name Server} Type locality South Africa (Formica custodiens, F. Smith, 1858b: 33, worker; Mayr, 1895: 148, male) moved to Anoploplepis by Emery (1925b: 17) Port Natal.
Junior synonyms
hendecarthrus (Camponotus hendecarthrus nov. sp., Roger, 1863a: 132, worker & queen) from South Africa, Cape of Good Hope (Paris Museum) - no images on Antweb (June 2014).
berthoudi (Formica berthoudi, Forel, 1876: 33, worker) from Lesotho - no images on Antweb (June 2014).
detrita (Plagiolepis custodiens F Smith var. detrtita n. var., Emery 1892a: 118, workers) from Somalia - see
hirsuta (Plagiolepis custodiens F Smith var. hirsuta n. var., Emery 1892a: 118, workers) from Somalia - see
pilipes (Plagiolepis custodiens F Smith var. pilipes n. var., Emery 1892a: 118, workers) from Somalia - see
all forms described; in subgenus Zealleyella (see Bolton, 1995). .

Smith's (1858b) cursory description is at {original description}. Roger's (1863a) description of Camponotus hendrecarthus is at {original description}. Emery's (1892a) descriptions of detrita, hirsuta and pilipes are at {original description}. Forel's (1895) description of the male is at {original description}. Arnold (1922) gave a full description; the worker is at {original description} and sexuals at {original description}.

{Anoplolepis custodiens}Forel (1876) described berthoudi from Lesotho as follows (comparison with others of the genus Formica, my translation) (drawing below right from Arnold, 1922: 582) -
WORKER - TL 9.0-9.5 mm; head large, and wide (HW 2.2 mm), rounded and impressed posteriorly; genae much bigger. Mandibles long (1.5 mm), crossing, more slender and of agressive form ("proportion gardeé"), apical border longer; internal border short, indistinctly separable from the apical border by an obtuse angle; apical border with 7-8 strong black teeth, smooth and irregular between 6 and 7 posteriorly, about twice as long as those in F. rufa. Clypeus ("chaperon") without distinct carinae; anterior border extended forward medianly and feebly on each side. Frontal carinae long, slightly divergent, near straight (sometimes a little convex laterally). Three very small rudimentary ocelli. Eyes and ocelli situated more posteriorly than F. rufa, eyes a little smaller. Maxillary palps with six segments very short, especially the last two segments. Labial palps with four segments, apical two together as long as the first. Antenna more slender, longer, specially the scape, 11-segmented; segments 2-10 diminish evenly in length from 2 to 10. The thorax is similar in size and almost the same shape as F. rufa (large workers); the head relatively is smaller and narrower in F. rufa ( HW rufa 2 mm, berthoudi 2.2 mm); thorax width is 1.4 mm in both species. Only the propodeum (metanotum) is a little different, with the dorsum and the declivity distinctly separated on each side by the spiracles; the propodeal dorsum is less convex and wider than others; the declivity is near flat, even slightly concave between the spiracles. Legs a little longer and more slender. Petiole scale as high as F. rufa but slightly inclined anteriorly, with the dorsal border even narrower and wider, with a median impression. Gaster is not laterally compressed, exactly the same shape and size as F. rufa. Colour blood red, with a slight brown tint (analogous to F. sanguinea).

{Anoplolepis custodiens}Internal border of mandibles, apex of antenna, frontal carinae, apex of petiole and gaster brown to near black. Whole of body, with the exception of the mandible teeth, covered in decumbent pubescence, greyish yellow, giving a remarkably silky appearance; this pubescence is strongest on the gaster, least on the clypeus and genae; this partially hides the true colour of the cuticle. On the dorsum of the gaster the pubescence has a remarkable disposition, forming five evenly separated longitudinal lines, running almost the entirety of the gaster, one forming a median line; the pubescence changes direction in the alternate lines as follows - the decumbent hairs on each side of the median line are oblique from rear to front, then the second longitudinal lines have the hairs oblique from front to back, the outer lines have the hairs again oblique from rear to front, the overall effect is of alternating black and grey lines. This is an optical illusion as immersing the specimen in alcohol momentarily destroys the reflections. Something of the same optical banding can be seen on the pronotum when viewed from certain angles. There are strong sparse erect hairs on all parts of the body, more abundant on the posterior of the gaster, the anterior of the clypeus and the mandibles. Eyes without hairs. The entire body is sculptured with fine rugosity, densely packed giving a shagreened appearance. only the mandibles are strongly longitudinally striate, the teeth being smooth.
Two specimens seen from Lesotho.
The colour image is from the AMNH collection at

{Anoploplepis custodiensThe photomontage of the type worker is collated

{Anoplolepis custodiens}Prins (1982) provided a comprehensive description of all forms, including examples of worker polymorphism, with the TL ranging from 3-10 mm - these are shown (right) in the much reduced compilation of his excellent illustrations.

{Anoplolepis custodiens queen}Queen (Prins, 1982). See also the fresh queen (bottom).

{Anoplolepis custodiens male}Male (Prins, 1982).

Recorded by Forel (1909b), as Plagiolepis custodiens, from Zaļre, at Banana by Busschodts.

{Nest site of Anoplolepis custodiens} Wheeler (1922) wrote of Zaļre findings at Banana, San Antonio (Lang and Chapin). At Banana this species was found nesting in flat craters in the pure sand of the sea-beach (PL. XIX, figs. 1 and 2; see left and "click"). According to a note by Mr. Lang, "the ants were found very near the water, where the sand was moved by the wind or even inundated by the breakers. Only a slight excavation, marking the entrance of the nest, was visible, and it was difficult to trace out the galleries. These ants carry particles of sand considerable distances, sometimes two or three feet from the nest entrances. They work during the day-time and retreat into their nests when disturbed."
A. custodiens has been previously taken in Banana by Busschodts and in Angola by Silvestri, and is well known from other parts of the Ethiopian Region as far north as Abyssinia and as far south as the Cape. It is the host of (the parasitic species) A. nuptialis Santschi, which was discovered by Dr. Brauns at Willowmore, Cape Province.

Oxford University Museum specimens

Anoplolepis (Zealleyella) custodiens
B Taylor det.

South Africa
S Danflous
Sudwala Caves
25°22'09" S
30°41'58" E
Gaufeng Province; 166 m
Anoplolepis (Zealleyella) custodiens
B Taylor det.
G C McGavin
Kigamboni Dist
07°03.17' S
'Cheng Chem Camp'
on cashew tree
major & media workers

South African specimens

{Anoplolepis custodiens major}The photomontage is of a major worker collected from South Africa, Sudwala Caves, Gaufeng Province; collector Sam Danflous, 6.xii.2007.

{Anoplolepis custodiens polymorphism}The photomontage is showing polymorphism of workers is compiled from specimens collected as above at Sudwala, South Africa.

{Anoplolepis custodiens ex Alex Wild}The photograph right is of a specimen from Addo Elephant Park, South Africa, and is reduced from the superb original taken by Alex Wild (click to see original).

{Anoplolepis custodiens}The specimens in these field photographs were taken in Pretoria, South Africa, by Joan Young; nos 101-6402, 101-6405, 101-6406 & 101-6408

{Nest site of Anoplolepis custodiens} J Young

{Nest site of Anoplolepis custodiens} A second nest entrance, by J Young; nos IMG 7779 t0 77786

Tanzania specimens

{Anoplolepis custodiens major}The photomontage is of a major worker collected from Tanzania, Kigamboni; collector G C McGavin.

{Anoplolepis custodiens polymorphism}The photomontage is of a media worker collected from Tanzania, Kigamboni; collector G C McGavin.

{Anoploplepis custodiens queenThe photomontage of a fresh queen is collated

© 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 - Brian Taylor CBiol FRSB FRES
11, Grazingfield, Wilford, Nottingham, NG11 7FN, U.K.