Common name: 'The Giant Pheidole'
This is the largest known Pheidole species. It is quite rare with a limited habitat range and seems to be restricted to tropical forests growing in the highland areas of Southeast Asia.
It has only been discovered recently. The queens of this species are what makes it outstanding - as they are the largest Pheidole queens recorded and are about 12-14 mm in size and a black/dark brown color. These dwarf the smaller workers that are reddish brown and 2.5-3 mm. There is also an impressive major caste with large powerful jaws which is about 6-7 mm.
As yet not much is known about its natural life cycle but due to the queen’s very large size, it would seem that there is probably only a single queen in a colony, and the queens would be quite capable of establishing new colonies independently after flights.
In good conditions with plenty of food, the queens will lay a mass of eggs, and brood development seems to be very quick with the new workers emerging after four weeks. The final colony size is not known but again referring to the size of the queen it is likely that colonies will be much larger than the other well-known Pheidole species, and 2-3000 is a conservative guess.
In their natural habitat, they nest on the ground under stones and fallen branches, or amongst the tangled roots at the base of trees. As the colony increases in size, they will form several sub-nests at convenient safe locations. These are used as ‘recruitment stations’ for when food is found nearby. Once food is found it is imperative that the food is protected by the workers from other marauding species and having sub-nests spread out over their foraging territory, they can quickly call in a mass of workers from the nearest sub-nest to defend the food source.
Workers are continually patrolling their territory and as soon as a scout finds a food source it returns to the colony and almost instantly a mass of workers/soldiers will stream out of the nest at high speed to secure the food. They are very aggressive and will attack anything that they can find.
We have only started to stock this species this year, so are still learning about them, and observing their behavior. It is however showing good potential as an easy species to keep in captivity. It breeds quickly and takes a wide range of food. As its natural habitat is the higher altitude forests it can also be kept at slightly lower temperatures than many of the more well-known exotic species which come from the warmer lowlands.