Key to the Genera of Southern African ants

There are 68 genera of ants from 13 sub-families in Southern Africa. Of these, 6 families and 28 genera are obscure and unlikely to be encountered by the average enthusiast, whether professional or amateur. These appear on the list below in orange-brown.
As this Key develops we shall be concentrating on the more common genera, those with names in caps in the list below. Those where we still have to develop a page appear on the list below in green. 
The full list is provided for reference; where further information is available on site the genus name in bold blue CAPS is a link to other pages already on this site.

ACROPYGA  Forest sugar ants: one species, obscure and fairly localised

Aenictogiton    One species. Extremely obscure, known from a single collection

AENICTUS       Double-waisted blind ants: ten species, obscure, very small, in most species no workers ever found

AGRAULOMYRMEX Field ants: two species, several 'new' species awaiting classification. Obscure, a few recent collections

Amblyopone    One species. Extremely obscure, one collection only
Anochetus      Twelve species. Very uncommon ponerines with gin-trap jaws


Apomyrma     One species. Tiny, obscure, blind yellow ants that make deep nests in the litter on the floor of rain-forests

ATOPOMYRMEX   Tree Ants. Common in Africa; one species. Local records from KZN and Mpumalanga. Good pics at:

AXINIDRIS   Wood ants. Three species. Obscure and localised

BOTHROPONERA  Ringbum ants. Ten species; large ponerines that sting, but not common

Brachyponera    One species, most in North Africa: there is a single record from the Kruger National Park
Calyptomyrmex   Six species; obscure tiny forest ants found mostly in central and west Africa


CARDIOCONDYLA   Spined timid ants, two species. Tiny ants, widespread with one tramp species that is often found in greenhouses

CAREBARA   Thief ants, fifteen species. A parasitic genus that feeds off other ants

CATAULACUS    Sculpted tree ants, six species. Heavily sculpted ants that live in thorns and twigs, in savanna and forest. There are some pics of two species at: [C wissmannii] [C intrudens]

Centromyrmex    Four species; obscure, blind yellow/red tropical ponerines with hectic stings
Cerapachys    Twelve species; fairly obscure small ponerines, most subtropical

CREMATOGASTER    Cocktail ants; 43 species, some are very hard to tell apart

Cryptopone    One species; Obscure tiny yellow blind ponerines
Decamorium   One species. Slow, timid myrmicine; red brown; mostly Zimbabwe northwards
Diplomorium    One species. Obscure, tiny, Monomorium-type ant associated with Messor
Discothyrea     Four species. Obscure tiny yellow/red ants that lurk in termite mounds

DORYLUS   Driver or Army ants; 12 species. Most can only be told apart by microscopic features.

Euponera    Four species. Small [4 - 6 mm] and rare ponerines with tiny eyes

HAGENSIA    Three species; handsome large ponerines without the ‘ringbum’ constriction on the first gastral segment

HYPOPONERA  Eighteen species; mostly obscure, small ponerines with two invasive tramp species

LEPISIOTA    Small black ants; twenty species [one not universally recognised]. One species has become invasive, although indigenous. Minimum 30x magnification needed to tell species apart.

Leptanilla  One species; known from a single male specimen [how obscure is that?!]

LEPTOGENYS     Rajor-jaw ants; fourteen species. Widespread ponerines.

LINEPITHEMA    Argentine ants; one species in Southern Africa. Massively invasive species throughout the temperate regions of Earth.

MEGAPONERA    Matabele ants: one species. Large, polymorphic ants famous for their destructive columns and hectic stings

Melissotarsus    Two species; rare and small, known only from KZN: there may only be one species, in fact

MERANOPLUS    Cautious or Furry ants: seven species. Very hairy, sculpted ants

MESOPONERA    Small ringbum ants; three species. Medium to small dull black ponerines

MESSOR    Harvester ants; seven species. Medium to large slow-moving polymorphic ants that gather vegetable matter for fungus gardens

Microdaceton    Two species; rare, small, KZN and northwards only. Weird little ants with gin-trap jaws

MONOMORIUM     Timid ants: 82 species. Widespread, smallish ants; some species are obscure


Nesomyrmex   Twenty species; obscure hollow-stem or rotting-wood dwellers, most species with limited distribution and many only recently identified and named


ODONTOMACHUS    Troglodyte ants; two species. Large gin-trap-jawed ponerines from KZN northwards; seldom seen

OECOPHYLLA    Tailor ants: one species in southern Africa, east coast only

OPHTHALMOPONE    Bug-eyed ants; two species. Large, very fast bug-eyed ponerines. Uncommon

PALTOTHYREUS    Foul ringbum ants; one species. Huge [>20mm] ants with large jaws that emit foul smells. Widespread but uncommon; some pics are at:

Paretrechina    Five species; only known as tramp ants in our region, with records from Durban harbour and South Peninsula High School. Obscure

PHEIDOLE     House ants: 25 species. A massive genus world-wide but most local species are small and poorly known, and in something of a taxonomic mess. Pheidole megacephala is an important worldwide invasive species.

Pheidolegeton    Three species. Obscure ants, mostly from Namibia; differ from Pheidole in that both majors and minors have huge heads

PLAGIOLEPIS    Restless ants; sixteen species. Mostly small and uncommon, they look like small Anoplolepis but are monomorphic.

PLATYTHYREA  Beetle-muncher ants; seven species. Medium-sized, slim and fast ponerines that do not really occur in Southern Africa and might eventually be excluded from this site

PLECTROCTENA    Millipede muncher ants; three species. Very large ponerines, up to nearly 25mm in length


Prionopelta    One species. Tiny and obscure, in forest litter: only one worker ever found in SA, in KZN
Pristomyrmex    Two species. Very rare, coarsely-sculpted forest litter ants from KZN
Probolomyrmex    One species. A rare, small ponerine; only one specimen ever found [Port Elizabeth]
Proceratium    One species; only two specimens ever found. May be parasitical.
Pyramica    Twenty species, mostly tiny and obscure forest ants with strangely-elongated heads
Rhoptromyrmex    Two species. Seldom seen, obscure ants with a very broad post-petiole
Simopone    Two species. Obscure, slender, stem-dwelling ants that prey on other ants’ brood

SOLENOPSIS    Fire ants; four species [one alien invasive]. Polymorphic smallish ants with powerful stings, known to cause anaphylactic shock in some victims

STREBLOGNATHUS    Primitive ringbum ants; two species. These are the largest ants in Southern Africa and can be larger than 25mm; small colonies of 10 to 50 individuals
Good pics at:
Strumigenys    Twelve species; tiny and obscure, mainly in forest litter, with extended gin-trap mandibles

TAPINOLEPIS    Eight species. Small, Anoplolepis-like, honey-coloured ants, mainly from Zimbabwe northwards

Tapinoma    Nine species. Very tiny dolichoderine ants uncommon in Southern African

TECHNOMYRMEX    Pale-footed ants; seven species. There are several world-wide invasive pests in the genus, but some species are indigenous

TETRAMORIUM    Fierce [or Garden] ants; 97 species. Largest genus in Southern Africa in confusing variety; most have spines on propodeum and creases or wrinkles on their heads; the secong petiole node is often considerably thickened

TETRAPONERA    Slender ants; 11 species, of which two are relatively common. Very elongated ants that live in hollow stems

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