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Technomyrmex is a formicid ant genus containing more than 97 extant species, almost all of which are native to the Old World tropics: 29 species in the afro-tropical region, 45 species in the Oriental and Malesian regions, 25 in the Malgasy and Austral regions. Two species are currently known natives to the New World: T. fulvus, from Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama; and T. gorgona, from Colombia. Two other species, T. difficilis and T. vitiensis, occur as exotics in the New World. Ants in this genus are mostly tree-nesting, and the very few that build ground nests forage extensively in the tree canopy. They feed mainly on homopteran honeydew, and supplement this by hunting arthropods and arthropod eggs (Bolton 2007).
This genus, in particular the Albipes group (about 40+ species), contains some of the world’s most accomplished tramp, invasive and pest species. Some can form enormous colonies spanning multiple nests and containing millions of adult ants. Albipes ants all show a technique of colony reproduction that is unique in the Formicidae, which involves production of “reproductive worker-queen intercast” individuals, which allow nests to multiply by fission. Colonies cover large areas, populating diverse ecosystems and negatively impact pollinators, pollination and seed dispersal, and other ant species (Bolton 2007).
Technomyrmex difficilis, for example, is a “tramp ant” that has spread, possibly originally from Madagascar, through many parts of the old world tropics along with humans. In 1986 this ant was first reported in the New World in 1986 in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Since then it has spread not only across many other Florida counties, but also across the Southern US and all the way to Seattle, Washington (where it was found in the Seattle Zoo), as well as in five west Indies countries: Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Nevis, and Antigua (Wetterer 2008). It is considered an important pest in Florida (Warner et al. 2010), and Wetterer (2008) predicts: “It is probable that over the next few years T. difficilis will become increasingly important as a pest in Florida and the West Indies.”
The other exotic in the New World, T. vitiensis, is a tramp ant widespread across Southeast Asia, on the continent and islands from the Indian Ocean to Polynesia, and in some European greenhouses (Bolton 2007; Fernández & Guerrero 2008; Wetterer 2008). The first New World report was in the Golden Gate Park Conservatory, San Francisco, California (Bolton 2007). It has since been collected in two remote inland forest sites in French Guyana, though it is not clear how it got there. This species (as has T. difficilis) has been frequently misidentified as T. albipes in museum collections and in the literature (Wetterer 2008).