Of the 24 species of ants known to be present in New Zealand, probably only 10 are endemic (native), the others having been introduced accidentally from a variety of areas. The ants belong to the order Hymenoptera, as do the bees and wasps. Typical ants are of the superfamily Formicoidea in which there is one family, the Formicidae. The interesting aspect of New Zealand ants is the few species which occur here. Compared with the 630 or more species in Australia, our 24 total (10 endemic) is a very poor representation of the group.
The most primitive subfamily (Ponerinae) is represented in New Zealand by several species, some blind. Most New Zealand endemic ants are forest or scrub-land inhabitants, many developing only very small colonies when compared with the enormous colonies of gravel-bed ants, etc., in Australia and elsewhere. In many, particularly in the primitive species, the “caste” system is rather poorly developed, true “soldiers” being absent.
The common “house ants” are not endemic species, being cosmopolitan in distribution.
by Bruce Boucher Given, M.SC., Entomology Division, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Nelson.