The Ants of Africa
Genus Pheidole
Pheidole minima Mayr

megacephala-group - Major - head width and length equal or subequal; mandibles relatively slender, with at most reduced teeth or denticles; postpetiole trapezoidal but without elongated lateral prominences. Minors without or variable development of a nuchal collar.

minima subgroup - TL < 3.3 mm

Pheidole minima Mayr

return to key {link to the Hymenoptera Name Server} Type location Cameroun (Pheidole minima nov. spec., Mayr, 1901a: 275, major & minor) collected at Mungo-Fluss, collector R. Buchholz - see below
catella (Pheidole minima Mayr var. catella n. var., Santschi, 1914d: 339, major & minor) from Nigeria (Olokemeji, collector F. Silvestri - see linked pages
faurei (Pheidole minima Mayr stirps Faurei n. st.., Santschi, 1920b: 15, minor & queen) from Gabon, Samkita , F Faure - see linked pages
malelana (Pheidole minima Mayr subspecies malelana new subspecies, Wheeler, 1922: 133, major & minor, see below) from Zare (see Bolton, 1995) - no images available on Antweb (September 2014)
major, minor and queen described .

Mayr's (1901a) description is at {original description}. Santschi's (1914d) description of catella is at {original description}. Santschi's (1920b) description of faurei is at {original description}.

TL major < 4.0 mm, minor ca. 2.0 mm (after Bernard, 1952)

Wheeler (1922) had catella also from Ghana (Aburi, F. Silvestri). He gave notes on malelana, a very small species, major TL 2.3 mm and worker TL 1.5 mm; major head as megacephala in shape but mandibles no longer than broad, distinctly depressed on the occipitum, see below. Both the major and workers generally seem to be close to the form listed by me as Pheidole nigeriensis (species B) except in generally lighter colour. It was described from a single major and three workers nesting in a stem of Hyphaene at Malela. The type form colouration was noted as different, but he did not say in what way; Santschi had noted that catella was of a colour similar to that now found in malelana but the description was too brief for Wheeler to be sure of any comparison.

From Guinea, Bernard (1952) the finding of a major and a worker at Nion crest, Station B6.26, 1300 m; which were similar to the type form from Nigeria.

The Wheeler (1922) description of Pheidole minima Mayr subspecies malelana was -

MAJOR - Length 2.3 mm. Head shaped much as in P. megacephala, without the mandibles a little longer than broad, distinctly but not broadly depressed in the occipital region. Eyes small, flat, at the anterior third of the head. Clypeus flat, ecarinate. Frontal area small, impressed; frontal carinae diverging, reaching to the posterior third of the head, bounding distinct scrobes for the antennal scapes, which are half as long as the head. Funicular joints 2 to 8 distinctly broader than long, club longer than the remainder of the funiculus. Mandibles large and convex, coarsely bidentate at the tip. Thorax robust, pronotum very convex, with small but distinct humeral tubercles. Mesonotum falling almost vertically to the pronounced metanotal constriction, with a slight transverse convexity in the middle. Propodeum broader than long, concave and sloping in the middle, its spines rather erect, shorter than the interval between their bases, with pointed tips. Petiole with rather high, anteroposteriorly compressed, distinctly emarginate node. Postpetiole only one and one-half times as broad as the petiole, broader than long, with the sides angularly produced. Gaster much smaller than the head, elliptical, convex, with subtruncate anterior border. Legs stout, femora thickened in the middle.
Shining; mandibles sparsely punctate; clypeus rather smooth in the middle, indistinctly rugulose on the sides; anterior two-thirds of head with sharp, but not coarse, longitudinal rugae; occipital lobes with small, sparse, piligerous punctures. Pronotum and gaster very smooth and shining; pedicel smooth but less polished; mesonotum and propodeum opaque, densely punctate. Hairs yellow, sparse, suberect on the body, short and appressed on the legs and antennal scapes. Colour castaneous; pronotum, first gastric segment, borders of clypeus, and mandibles blackish; remainder of mandibles and clypeus, cheeks and anterior portion of front, petiole and postpetiole yellowish red; legs brownish yellow; terminal gastric segments pale brown; posterior borders of all the gastric segments broadly yellowish.

WORKER - Length 1.5 mm. Head subrectangular, as broad as long and as broad in front as behind, with very feebly convex sides and nearly straight posterior border. Eyes just in front of the middle. Mandibles with the entire apical border finely denticulate. Clypeus convex, with rounded, entire anterior border. Antennal scapes reaching beyond the posterior corners of the head to a distance equal to twice their diameter. Thorax shaped much as in the soldier, but the pronotum narrower and longer. Propodeal spines reduced to minute slender teeth scarcely longer than broad at their bases. Superior border of petiolar node straight and entire; postpetiole small, a little broader than the petiole, subglobular. Pilosity, sculpture, and colour as in the soldier, but the head smooth and shining, with only the cheeks delicately longitudinally rugulose.

Described from a single soldier and three workers taken by Lang from a colony nesting in a stem of Hyphaene at Malela, Zare. This form agrees with the typical minima, in size and in most of its characters but the colour is very different, the postpetiole is much narrower in proportion to the petiole in both soldier and worker; and the antennal scapes of the latter are decidedly longer.

Pheidole minimaThe photomontage of the type major worker is collated from

Pheidole minima type minorThe photomontage of the type minor worker is collated from

{Pheidole minima}

Nigeria specimens (Pheidole species B, in Taylor, 1980a: 17) [Note - previously on this website as Pheidole nigeriensis]
Major TL 2.43 mm, HL 0.89, HW 0.81, SL 0.42, PW 0.37
Minor TL 1.56 mm, HL 0.44, HW 0.39, SL 0.40, PW 0.22

Colour dark red-brown. Sculpturation slight, faint spiculation on the lateral mesonotum and propodeum. Erect hairs are moderately abundant, and are relatively long and fine. In profile, the petiole node of the major is relatively high and emarginate; the post petiole node is relatively short with a rounded profile and is produced laterally to give rounded triangular prominences. The propodeal teeth are small acute and triangular.

The minor has a petiole which is short with a raised node but is not produced laterally. From the description of Pheidole minima ssp malelana given by Wheeler (1922) this must also be very close to that form.

In Nigeria it nests in crevices or rot holes on living trees. Forages on the ground and on native trees. Fairly common on cocoa, on 1.0% of trees, throughout the cocoa growing area; nesting in soil and debris in crevices and building debris tents over Homoptera of all main types. Also found on cashew, oil palm and plantain (Taylor, 1977; Taylor & Adedoyin, 1978).

Also reported from the Mamfe-Mampong cocoa farm in Ghana by Room (1971), but he collected it only in or cocoa leaf litter, and it played no part in his report of the ant mosaic. Found on cocoa at Kade by Majer (1975).

See specimens below and on the linked majors and minors pages.

There is some variation in colour from light to dark brown with location. The majors have a distinctive conbination of long frontal carinae and quite short scapes.

Oxford University Museum specimens

Pheidole minima
B Taylor det.

G Debout & A Dalecky
Cameroon 58a
233.97' N
950.62' E
on soil and surface at sardine oil bait
Major & minors
Pheidole minima
B Taylor det.

A Fotso Kuate
Sample 14

0354'30" N
1125'58" E
Major & minor
Pheidole minima
B Taylor det.

Y Braet

415'33" S
1517'5" E
Hand collection
Major & minor
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018 - Brian Taylor CBiol FRSB FRES
11, Grazingfield, Wilford, Nottingham, NG11 7FN, U.K.