Worldwide spread of the African big-headed ant, Pheidole megacephala (Hymeno-ptera: Formicidae)
biogeography, Biological invasion, exotic species, Formicidae, Invasive species
Originally from Africa, Pheidole megacephala (FABRICIUS, 1793) has become a widespread household and agricultural pest in many tropical and subtropical areas. To evaluate the worldwide spread of P. megacephala, I compiled published and unpublished specimen records from > 1600 sites. I documented the earliest known P. megacephala records for 141 geographic areas (countries, island groups, major islands, and US states), including many locales for which I found no previously published records: Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, California, Central African Republic, Curaçao, Dominica, Galapagos Islands, Gambia, Guyana, Mali, Maryland, Montserrat, Nevis, Nica-ragua, Pakistan, Peru, Rwanda, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Trinidad, and the Turks & Caicos Islands. Many old published records of P. megacephala from the Mediterranean region are misidentifications of a local native species, Pheidole pallidula (NYLANDER, 1849). All higher latitude records from Europe are probably either indoor records or misidentifications of P. pallidula. Invasive ant species with powerful stings, such as Solenopsis invicta BUREN, 1974, have received much media attention. Because Pheidole megacephala does not injure humans, this species is often not recognized as a substantial threat. In fact, in areas where it occurs at high density, few native invertebrates persist and P. megacephala may be responsible for driving many terrestrial invertebrate species extinct.