Plectroctena mandibularis: the Ringbum millipede muncher


Plectroctena mandibularis (F. Smith, 1858): the Ringbum millipede muncher

Very large ants, the workers vary in size from 16mm to a whopping 24mm. The species has ergatoid queens and these can reach a fearsome 28mm [Wikipedia says: An ergatoid (from Greek ergat-, "worker" + -oid, "like") is a wingless reproductive adult ant, anatomically intermediate in form between workers and winged queens or males.]
As the common name implies their favourite food is millipedes, but they also prey upon beetles and termites. The powerful jaws are easily able to crush the exoskeleton of their prey. They hunt singly or in pairs from small colonies of up to 50 individuals. They nest deep underground, at about 60cm, with a heap of soil at the nest entrance. The depth of their nests makes any useful involvement in myrmecochory improbable.
This is a widespread species, from the Cape to Angola, Congo and Ethiopia. We collected ours at Grootvadersbosch.
The jaws and stings suggest that they be handled with care!
You can see excellent photos of this ant at

Bolton’s 1974 description is at

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