Myrmica saevissima

Smith, Frederick, 1855, Descriptions of some species of Brazilian ants belonging to the genera Pseudomyrma, Eciton and Myrmica (with observations on their economy by Mr. H. W. Bates), Transactions of the Entomological Society of London (2) 3, pp. 156-169: 166-167

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Myrmica saevissima


Myrmica saevissima  .

Worker.-Length 2.5 lines. Rufo-testaceous; smooth, shining and impunctate ; the head oblong, rounded behind, having a central impressed line on the forehead, which passes forward, dividing into a fork ; the forked lines running to the base of the antennae ; the mandibles short, stout and longitudinally striated ; their inner margins armed with four black teeth ; the scape slender, slightly thickened towards the apex, about the length of the head; the flagellum nine-jointed, the club dilated, formed of the two apical joints. Thorax strangulated between the meso- and metathorax ; the latter unarmed : the legs elongate, thinly sprinkled with erect short pale hairs : abdomen sub-ovate, truncated at the base, the apical half black, or dark rufo-fuscous ; the nodes without spines beneath, the first compressed, its superior margin rounded and elevated a little above the second node, which is globose ; the entire insect very thinly sprinkled with erect pale hairs.

Worker (minor). - 1.5 lines. Very closely resembling the larger worker, but not having an impressed line on the forehead ; in other respects they correspond.

This appears to be one of the most fearful and dreaded of all the visiting ants. We have heard of houses, in this country, being deserted in consequence of their being infested by M. domestica  , certainly an unpleasant inhabitant, but not calculated to strike terror, and to drive every one out of their houses; such is however the effect of the appearance of M. saevissima  . Mr. Bates says, " on the borders of the river Tapajos, this is the much dreaded ant, the terrible scourge of the river Tapajos. In 1852

I found, along the shores of the long sandy bays of the Tapajos, a continuous line of sediment, eight or ten miles in length, formed entirely of the bodies of the winged individuals of this species. It was the end of the rainy season, and the swarms had been carried away by the squalls of wind into the river, and had subsequently been cast ashore by the swell. This species is exclusively found in sandy soils, in open semi-cutivated or neglected places: in the shade of the woods not an individual is to be found ; careful cultivation and weeding expels them from limited spaces ; they increase only in the neighbourhood of deserted houses, or unweeded plantations ; consequently, they are a scourge only to the lazy and worthless people who inhabit the shores of this magnificent river. Sometimes they increase to such an extent, that not an inch of ground is free from them ; they dispute every fragment of food with the inhabitants ; clothing they destroy for the sake of the starch, and attack persons with such cruel fury, that the lords of the creation are obliged to beat a retreat and the village becomes deserted. Their sting is very severe, the Brazilians liken it to the pain of a prick from a redhot needle, or point,-hence the name c Formiga defogo.' Their Formicarium is subterranean, and in the village of Aveyros the unweeded streets are covered with their mounds : there are one or two on the floor of the church,-it is impossible in fact to avoid an attack . The 'Formiga de fogo’ lets no one have any repose ; one’s legs are instantly covered with them, and they appear to attack in sheer malice. I was frequently obliged to retreat to the house of the Commandant, where it was my daily custom to enjoy an evening chat with the priest and a few neighbours, seated on chairs, with stools to support the feet, the ground being in full possession of the spiteful" Mymica saevissima  ."