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Pheidole dentata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Genus: Pheidole
Westwood, 1839

many, see text

c. 1,000 species

Pheidole is a genus of ant that belongs to the ant subfamily Myrmicinae. The genus is widespread and ecologically dominant. It probably includes more than a thousand species .[1] The genus first evolved in the Americas, eventually spreading across the globe.

Pheidole mendicula

Colony structure[edit]

Most species of Pheidole are dimorphic, which means that colonies contain two castes of workers: the "minor" workers, and the "major" workers, or "soldiers". The latter generally have enormous heads and mandibles in comparison to their usually fairly modest body size.[citation needed]

In addition, as in other ant species, a colony may contains one or several queens and also, in mature colonies, alates, virgin winged females and males.[citation needed]

Major workers[edit]

The distinctive major workers have earned the genus Pheidole the nickname of "big headed ants." The major workers of a Pheidole colony, while they may look fierce, are often quite shy and are often the first to flee on any hint of danger. Interestingly, many Pheidole species are the prey of parasitoid phorid flies that lay their eggs on the major workers; the fly larvae grow mainly in the head capsules of the victims, eventually decapitating them, and probably would starve in the bodies of minor workers.[citation needed]

In most cases, the major workers are employed within the nest to break up large food items, or outside to carry large items, like seeds; many Pheidole species are ecologically important seed consumers ("harvesters").[citation needed]

Minor and major workers of P. purpurea
The top view of a "major" worker of P. purpurea, with a scale to distinguish size
Minor worker 
Minor worker, top 
Major worker 
Major worker, top 

Species list[edit]

The genus contains over 1,000 species.[2] They include:


  1. ^ a b E. O. Wilson (2003). Pheidole in the New World: A Dominant, Hyperdiverse Ant Genus. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00293-8. 
  2. ^ Bolton, B. (2014). "Pheidole". AntCat. Retrieved 17 January 2015. 

External links[edit]