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Friday, October 30, 2009


This common black ant is an effective predator of small insects. It is a very common ant found almost everywhere where there are any small strips of vegetation even beside pavement and buildings.

Mainly solitary hunters of small prey (arthropods of about its size or smaller) they also participate in group attack on exposed nest of other ants. They are the main competitor to the Diacamma genus.

Odontoponera transversa (jnr. synonym O. denticulara)  rarely use their stings which seemed to be reserved for their battle with other ants of similar size. They have a very effective bite as is evident in the shape and teeth of their mandibles.

Similar with many species of Ponerinae ants, some Odontoponera workers are able to lay eggs even if they never mated.

Odontoponera transversa queen are what I call 'hunter mamas'. The dealate gyne hunts for food for her first brood and does not seal herself into the security of her nest (is semi-claustral) while waiting for her first batch of workers to mature. Typical of most ants, Odontoponera, swarms after dark usually followed on a rainy spell. The gyne are almost the same size as the workers and the easily observable feature is her slightly thicker thorax. In the workers the thorax tapers towards the 'waist' joining the gaster. Ant keepers see bottom of page for details to acquire and raise a Odonponera denticulata queen.

Odnontoponera denticulata are among some species of ants that have, what I call 'slippery feet'. Their legs are unable to grip onto smooth surfaces like smooth glass, stones, etc.

Nest opening of Odontoponera denticulata
Nest opening of Odontoponera transversa.

Nest opening of Odontoponera transversa
Nest opening of Odontoponera denticulata.

An Odontoponera ant dragging a Macrotermes malaccensis major soldier
An Odontoponera ant dragging a Macrotermes malaccensis major soldier.

The workers.

Odontoponera dennticulata worker
An Odontoponera denticulata worker.

Odontoponera transversa worker
An Odontoponera transversa worker.

An Odontoponera denticulata worker.

An Odontoponera transversa worker.

The Queen.
Female alate of Odontoponera
Female alate of Odontoponera

Female alate of Odontoponera
Female alate of Odontoponera

Female alate of Odontoponera
Female alate of Odontoponera

Queen or gyne of Odontoponera denticulata
A new gyne of Odontoponera denticulata with her first egg (left)

The Odontoponera transversa queen.

The Odontoponera dentriculata queen.

The Brood.

Odontoponera transversa queen with her first brood.

Odontoponera denticulata gyne are hunter queens in that a dealate gyne hunts and forages for food while awaiting the maturing of her first brood of workers. 

The larvae feeding on a juicy drumstick of cricket.

Close-up of a young larva.

A young nest of Odontoponera denticulata.

Nest of Odontoponera transversa.

Nest of Odontoponera denticulata with workers tending the larvae.

Nest of Odontoponera transversa.

Workers of Odontoponera transversa has a unique way of bringing water back to the nest. They roll the water in a water bubble as shown in this series of photos.

Odontoponera transversa worker collecting water for the larvae by rolling water into a small bubble ball.

The water is meant for the larvae when the weather is very dry and the earth nest dries out. Apparently this species does not regugitate food or water to feed the brood.

Ant Keepers Guide To Odontoponera Transversa.

The nuptial swarming of Odontoponera transversa takes place at dusk and into the night. Like all late evening to night swarmers the alates are attracted to light sources so if you are living in the city it would be pretty difficult to track down a mated queen due to the high dispersion factor. But if you live close to the ground in semi urban areas and these ants are quite common, leaving your windows open and lights on during their nuptial swarmings will most likely see some dealated gyne running on the floor. This ants has slippery feet and cannot climb smooth surface.

Being a hunter queen there is also a chance to retrieve a mated queen especially in the morning, evening and night time if you hunt for them with a torch. The newly mated queen will forage for food mostly at night for up to period of over a month after her mating. This she does to provide food for her growing brood.

If you acquire a mated gyne you will need to feed her protein food regularly while she raise her first brood of workers. Without food she will not lay eggs and will die after several days. Unlike carpenter ants which can tolerate a fairly high humidity level, Odontoponera transversa cannot and will most probably drown if the humidity in an enclosed or semi sealed environment is too high.

A founding queen and her first brood of workers

Food during the founding stage of the colony preferably are insects and other arthropods. Food should be of sizes that a lone queen can easily handle. If feeding large insects or arthropods be sure to cut into manageable sizes or mesh them up for the founding queen.

Though in a mature colony, workers will take food from most protein source including raw or cooked meat of chicken, beef, prawns, etc., however during the founding stage the queen prefer insects and other arthropods (including their eggs, larvae and pupae).

Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Arthropoda
Subphylum - Hexapoda
Class - Insecta
Subclass - Pterygota
Infraclass - Neoptera
Order - Hymenoptera
Suborder - Apocrita
Infraorder - Aculeata
Superfamily - Vespoidea
Family - Formicidae -- ants, fourmis
Subfamily - Ponerinae
Genus: Odontoponera
Species: transversa/denticulata

Last Updated: 2018 01 01
First Posted: 2009 10 30
© 2009 – 2014 Quah. All rights reserved.


  1. Hi there you have a very interesting blog.

    I have just caught a o.transversa queen which i believe is on a hunt. But she refused to lay eggs for a while now. Do you know of any way which i can get her to lay eggs? and also May i ask what is the nuptial flight pattern for odontoponera transversa? hoping to acquire a colony for myself without(really hate to dig form them)

    Sorry for my multiple questions and Thanks a million. Hard to find a fellow ant lover in SEA. :)

    1. With the right environment (nest with proper humidity level) the queen should survive a long time even if it is not laying eggs. Typically egg laying starts on the first or second day if the queen is able to take in food. She will take most kind of food including process food. But the safest bet would be small insects left at or close to the entrance of the nest. A small quantity or a tiny insect to start with, and once the larvae hatch then you would need to increase the food quantity.

  2. Hi There,

    I have some questions though and was hoping that you could kindly help me out since you appear to be really informed about myrmecology. I recently caught an odontoponera transversa queen during her hunt (I believe) but she refused to lay eggs when I placed her into a test tube. she died a couple of days later. I would really like to raise an O.transversa colony and was hoping that you could shed some light on the nuptial flight patterns and behaviours and what would be the best way to acquire a colony.

    Looking forward to you reply and thanks a lot of for your time.

  3. Sorry for the late respond I was offline for over one and a half months.

    I will update this page soon with the relevant information to answer your query. But your queen is a hunter queen that means she hunts for food and cannot be seal into a test tube nest she will die of starvation.

  4. Hi Quah ,
    I am from malaysia I am a ant lover where can I buy Odontoponera transversa queen I can see a few Odontoponera transversa walking around in my garden but I cant get the queen please help?

  5. Hi Quah ,
    Just send you an email

  6. Are you still updating this blog? I also have Odontoponera transversa workers in my garden, but never a queen, do you know around what month the alates fly? I also have the Pheidole species that you posted, the first one, but my queens are 4mm-5mm I keep them together in a test tube, they're so small!

  7. Odontoponera transversa swarm during the rainy season both late March to May and late Sept to Nov.

  8. Hello,
    I'm from Italy and I keep some exotic species like Odontoponera transversa. I read here that a high humidity in not good for them. What about temperature's range? Thank you!

    1. Tropical ground dwelling ants typically need a more humid environment than those dwelling in trees. Some like O. transversa and even more so Odontomachus simillimus prefer a slightly less humid nest than their other ground dwelling cousins. Room temperature here is typically between 28 to 32 deg. Celsius.

  9. Hi hi,

    i've found a winged queen the other day, over the night she shed her wings but now she seems to be hiding in the simple nest i've made for her, she doesnt seem to roam outside of it i'm afraid she might die. how long will new queens lay eggs or prepare to start her colony ?

  10. Hi Quah,
    The queen i've caught had laid and over the last month she had 3 pupae but out of a sudden 2 went missing, left only 1 and now that 1 has opened and she has 1 worker right now.

    how long will the colony take to grow and have more workers? because she doesnt seem to come out of the nesting area to forage, neither does the worker both stays within the nesting area only, i kept them in a regular sauce container lined with cotton pad( something like the petri dish setup) she doesnt seem to wonder out of the chamber area to forage, i have to stick the food (spiders/cricket parts/insects) into the enterence for her.

    How long did your colony took to have more workers?

    1. The pupae that disappeared probably died and was scavenged by the queen. Pupae usually die when the nest is too damp.
      A well fed queen can produce two or more eggs a day. Adequate food is important for the nest to grow quickly. Typically from egg to adult worker is one and a half months but this depends on food as the larvae grow slower when food supply is not sufficient.
      Usually when there is not enough food the eggs will be cannibalized to feed the larvae.

  11. Hi quah,
    thanks for the reply, i've swapped out the current living condition to a less damp area but walls that are layed with cotton pad that is moist.

    Have you encountered that the worker suddenly died for no reason? because i found a new worker about 2 weeks ago, but today , i saw her outside of the chamber area and not moving, i tried to touch her and found out that she laid there not moving = dead.. will they just suddenly die out for no reason? because the queen only had that 1 worker and now its dead, she is back to having only larvae. i'm worried she might die..

    can i introduce her to some wild caught workers? to boost her colony ?

    1. Hard to say why the worker died.

      Introducing workers from other nest may or may not work but you can try. Alternative to introducing workers might be to introduce pupae.

      Odontoponera transversa are hardy ants and usually thrive in a kept environment as long as they are plenty of food and right nesting condition.

  12. Thanks for the reply,

    true indeed i had no idea why the worker died.. i'm feeding them on time almost everyday.. gave them any bugs i can find. to prevent mites, i froze them first before giving to the ants.. i'm beginning to notice certain cut up parts of those food inside, and the cotton pad are turning brown pretty much. should i replace the pads?

    The wild worker didnt go well with the queen, she used her madibles to bite on to the worker, they were locked with mouth to mouth and didnt move at all for almost 10 mintues... i was worried so i removed the foreign worker ant. Its really tough to get the queen for this species here , was lucky to have found her at my work place haha

    Its almost sept soon, i'll prob try to walk around that time of the year to look for queens :P

    How long have you kept Odontoponera?youre still keeping them?

    1. I have kept several nests over the years, giving some away to ants hobbyists and others I released back into the wild after the nests have enough workers to survive.
      The longest I kept a colony is 4 years.

    2. wow thats nice. i suppose this is gona take a while as since the last message i've left here, the queen currently has only 5 larvae left and only 1 seems to be ready to pupate, as it has pushed out all his poo(its looking pure milky white)
      i was looking for another chance to come by a queen but its really tough. i've seen alot of nests around my neighborhood but no neptuial flights so far, not even during the seasons you mentioned. i was so lucky to have this queen even flown to my work desk area lol couldnt believe it either tho when i first saw it . i tried locating at night after rains, i always go to areas with large spotlights.
      i'll let you know again when theres success with the worker emerging :D

    3. Odontoponera larvae need to have themselves covered completely with soil by the queen or adult workers in order for them to successfully pupate. From your account it seems like the larva was not covered so it probably will not turn into an adult worker and will probably die and be cannibalized by the queen. Did you include some soil or earth in your nest?
      In ants that have pupa in cocoons the larva normally encased themselves in cocoon before they push out their stomach's contents.

    4. ah i see, last time i kept them in a soil based nest container but just recently moved them to a non media based due to mold in the previous soil nest.

      i suppose i better start shifting them back into the soil based nest then.. it also means even if i have a bought formicarium i sitll need to dump soil or sand into the formicarium in order for the ant to have smoot process in pupating?


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