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Leptogenys kitteli

Leptogenys kitteli

     This species is a fast-moving predatory hunter. They have been likened to a small version of the famous army ant as they do not create permanent nests, but constantly move around the forests hunting for food.

     They are very aggressive and will attack any potential food. Scout ants hunt individually and once potential prey is located, they decide within seconds whether to attack directly and attempt to take the prey back to the nest on their own, or to return to their nest and recruit a large raiding group for a collective attack. They particularly seem to like the brood of other ants and frequently raid colonies of other species nesting nearby. When they undertake a raid, they will simply charge into the chosen nest and create mayhem, savagely attacking the resident species which usually abandon their nest as quick as possible carrying what brood they can save. The Leptogenys then utilize the remaining brood as food, and will also frequently settle down in the nest using it as a ready-made home.

     The individual ants are a bright shiny black colour and about 8 - 9 mm in size. They have what are called ergatoid queens. These are wingless reproductive adults anatomically intermediate in form between workers and winged queens. Ergatoid queens retain the specialized attributes of a reproductive caste, including larger ovaries and they are always the functional egg-layers in a colony, but in most Leptogenys species they are very difficult to tell apart from the normal workers. It is only during the colony’s resting stage when the queen starts to lay a new batch of eggs, that she will be notable by her slightly larger swollen abdomen. (See the photograph above.)

     This is a species that regularly moves its nesting location and they will create temporary nests in any available suitable cavity. In their natural habitat during the rainy season when it is very humid, they frequently nest under the cover of large fallen leaves.

     Colonies only have a single ergatoid egg layer and about 300 - 500 workers, and like the army ants, they seem to be constantly on the move. The only time the colony stays partially stationary is when the queen as such is laying eggs, then the colony stays in the nest location it has chosen and all food goes to the queen. When the eggs start to hatch and young larvae emerge, they return to their hunting mode and will move nesting locations every few days, carrying the brood with them. When they decide to move, they all stream out in a long trail, carrying their brood beneath them.

     I have found that in captivity they are not specific in their food requirements, and will happily take sweet substances and a range of live/dead insects.


     Summary: These are recommended for people who have had previous experience in keeping exotics. They are best kept in a large natural landscaped setup that imitates their natural forest habitat, and that will give them multiple choices of nesting location.


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