Pheidole pilifera (Roger)

Wilson, E. O., 2003, Pheidole in the New World. A dominant, hyperdiverse ant genus., Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. -1--1: 589-590

publication ID


persistent identifier

treatment provided by


scientific name

Pheidole pilifera (Roger)


Pheidole pilifera (Roger)  HNS 

Leptothorax  HNS  pilifer Roger 1863a: 180. New combination with Pheidole  HNS  by Emery 1895d: 290. Syn.: Pheidole pennsylvanica Roger  HNS  1863a: 199, synonymy by Emery 1895d: 290; Pheidole pilifera var. coloradensis Emery  HNS  1895d: 290, raised to subspecies by Wheeler 1908h: 435, n. syn. (provisional); Pheidole pilifera subsp. coloradensis var. neomexicana Wheeler  HNS  1908h: 436, unavailable name (quadrinomial), referred to pilifera  HNS  by Creighton 1950a: 187; Pheidole pilifera subsp. coloradensis var. simulans Wheeler  HNS  1908h: 436, unavailable name (quadrinomial), referred to Pheidole  HNS  by Creighton 1950a: 186; Pheidole pilifera subsp. septentrionalis Wheeler  HNS  1908h: 437, synonymy by Creighton 1950a: 186; Pheidole xerophila subsp. pacifica Wheeler  HNS  1915b: 04, referred to Pheidole  HNS  by Creighton 1950a: 187, n. syn. (provisional); Pheidole pilifera subsp. artemisia Cole  HNS  1933b: 616, n. syn. (provisional).

Types Mus. Naturkunde Humboldt-Univ. Berlin.

Etymology Gr pilifera  HNS  , hairy.

Diagnosis A member of the " pilifera  HNS  complex" of the larger pilifera  HNS  group, comprising calens  HNS  , californica  HNS  , carrolli  HNS  , cavigenis  HNS  , clementensis  HNS  , creightoni  HNS  , hoplitica  HNS  , littoralis  HNS  , micula  HNS  , pilifera  HNS  , polymorpha  HNS  , rugulosa  HNS  , senex  HNS  , soritis  HNS  , tepicana  HNS  , and torosa  HNS  , which complex is characterized by the following traits. Major: dorsal head surface extensively sculptured; occipital lobe horizontally rugulose (or, in carrolli  HNS  smooth, in littoralis  HNS  foveate, and in micula  HNS  and soritis  HNS  carinulate); postpetiole from above diamond-shaped, trapezoidal, or spinose. Minor: eye medium-sized to large.

P. pilifera  HNS  is distinguished within its complex by the following combination of traits.

Major: relatively large, HW about 1.6 mm; posterior dorsal profile of head straight or slightly concave; mesonotal convexity prominent and symmetrical in side view; propodeal spines robust, long, and nearly vertical to basal propodeal face; petiolar node in side view tapering apically to a blunt point; postpetiolar node from above very broad relative to petiolar node, and bluntly spinose. Minor: eyes medium-sized; humerus in dorsal-oblique view subangulate; all of head posterior to the clypeus and mesosoma foveolate and opaque.

Closely related to carrolli  HNS  , but very different in sculpturing of the major.

My synonymy of artemisia  HNS  , coloradensis  HNS  , and pacifica  follows Creighton (1950a) in placing them as geographic variants, or subspecies, and thence here into synonymy at the species level. However, this assignment is not well documented and thus is regarded as provisional. The pattern of geographic variation within pilifera  HNS  is as follows. Western populations (" coloradensis  HNS  ") ranging from North Dakota and Colorado to Nevada display a narrowing of the transverse rugulose band to the rearmost part of the major occiput and loss of the longitudinal carinulae on the vertex (anterior to the occiput), an area that is spotted with coarse foveae and shiny interspaces. The trend is climaxed in Nevada and California (" pacifica  ") by replacement of the foveae on the vertex of the major by fine punctures. Southwestward, in Utah and Arizona (" artemisia  HNS  "), the broad band of occipital rugulae of the major in eastern populations ("typical" pilifera  HNS  ) is retained, but the carinulae of the vertex are lost and replaced by a shiny surface. Measurements (mm) Major (Haddam, Connecticut): HW 1.60, HL 1.72, SL 0.74, EL 0.24, PW 0.68. Minor (Haddam): HW 0.54, HL 0.60, SL 0.52, EL 0.12, PW 0.36. Color Major: light reddish brown. Minor: medium reddish brown.

range Pheidole pilifera  HNS  is the most widespread and northward-reaching of all the Nearctic Pheidole  HNS  . The species, as presently broadly construed, ranges from Massachusetts south to Georgia and west to California, extending through the midwest as far north as Minnesota, North Dakota and southwest to Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Biology Colonies of pilifera  HNS  excavate crater nests in exposed soil and harvest seeds, which are stored in nest chambers. In Colorado, Gregg (1963) found the species (as " subsp. coloradensis  HNS  ") abundant at 1500 to 2600 m, in a wide range of habitats, from short-grass prairie, roadsides, and herbaceous semi-desert to mixed canyon forest and mountain mahogany shrub. Sexuals were present in the nest from the first week in June to the last week in July. P. pilifera  HNS  is also notable in Colorado as the host of the social parasite Pheidole inquilina  HNS  . In Nevada, pilifera  HNS  ranges between 900 and 2300 m, nesting in desert and juniper-pinyon woodland, both under stones and in the open soil, where it forms craters 25-60 mm wide (G. C. and J. Wheeler 1986g). According to Stefan Cover (personal communication), "In the eastern U. S. pilifera occurs in open, grassy habitats, especially those with sandy soils containing a little clay. It is less common in pure sand, thus in pine barrens. Mating flights occur in early to mid July. Colonies are monogynous, and the newly mated queens start colonies singly. Minors are 'shy' foragers but recruit to good food sources. Majors seldom leave the nest except when recruited. Their primary function is to block nest passages, which they do effectively."

Figure Upper: major. Lower: minor. CONNECTICUT: East Haddam. Scale bars = 1 mm.