Scientific names: A) Monomorium antarcticum (Fr. Smith 1858), B) Huberia striata (Smith 1876), C) Pachycondyla castaneicolor (Dalla Torre, 1893)
Common names: A) Southern ant, B) Striated ant, C) No common name.
Māori name: pōpokoriki, pokorua, pokopokorua, pōpokorua, nonoko, rōroro, torotoro and upokorua)
Order: Hymenoptera Family: Formicidae
Size: A) 3-5 mm, B) 4.5 – 5mm, C) 5.5–6.4 mm
There are only 11 species of native ant found in New Zealand although there are 29 other introduced species found around the country. This is in comparison to Australia which, despite being such close neighbours, has over 1200 described species of ants!
Monomorium antarcticum is widespread across all of New Zealand including its offshore islands, and can be found across a diverse range of habitats including native forests, grasslands and urban environments, but are not usually considered a pest. M. antarcticum is by far New Zealand’s most commonly found ant species. They can form large colonies, building nests under stones or rotting logs which are be maintained by thousands of workers. They’re generalist foragers; they will predate on other small insects, eat seeds or dead material, and will “milk” the honeydew secreted by mealybugs.
Huberia striata also occurs throughout New Zealand but is probably most common in the beech forests of the South Island. They can have a variety of other insects living in their colonies including mealy bugs, scale insects and aphids which the ants will tend to in exchange for a sweet syrup which these insects excrete. Another endemic ant (Discothyrea antarctica) will sometimes be found in their nests, feeding on the mites which parasitise H. striata workers.
Pachycondyla castaneicolor is commonly found in gardens in the North Island and upper South Island, building nests in the soil under logs and rocks. Their nests are smaller than some other ants, with tens of workers rather than hundreds. Be careful not to disturb their nests as they are known to sting when defending themselves!
Harris, R & Ward, D. (2012). Huberia striata (Fr. Smith 1876). Retrieved http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/factsheets/Factsheets/huberia-striata
Harris, R & Ward, D. (2012). Monomorium antarcticum (Fr. Smith 1858). Retrieved http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/factsheets/Factsheets/monomorium-antarcticum
Harris, R & Ward, D. (2012). Pachycondyla castaneicolor (Dalla Torre, 1893). Retrieved http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/factsheets/Factsheets/pachycondyla-castaneicolor
Wang, X. H., Lester, P. J. (2004) A preliminary study of the usefulness of morphometric tools for splitting the Monomorium antarcticum (Smith) complex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), New Zealand’s most common native ants. New Zealand Entomologist, 27: 103-108.