Science | Hong Kong: Thirteen new ant species discovered

An addition of 13 new ant species, with three totally new to science, have been recorded in Hong Kong, researchers from the University of Hong Kong said in an announcement this week.

In two separate articles recently published in Zookeys and Asian Myrmecology, Benoit Guenard, an assistant professor from the university’s School of Biological Sciences, and his team expanded the knowledge on Hong Kong ants by adding 13 species to the 174 species officially recorded.

The three brand new species, new to science and thus far known only from Hong Kong, are of the genus Strumigenys. They are tiny, measuring only 2-4 mm long but are astounding predators of the small arthropods living in the forest leaf-litter. They can open their mandibles widely and snap their prey with the fast- closing movement of their mandibles.

Another five species of Strumigenys are newly recorded from Hong Kong, but had already been described from other Asian regions; the rest of the five species are non-native to Hong Kong, four belonging to the Strumigenys genus, and one, Brachymyrmex patagonicus, are recorded for the first time in Asia.

According to the university, Brachymyrmex patagonicus is an urban pest well-known for its ability to enter and establish nests within a wide range of buildings, like hospitals, hotels, schools, and houses, and colonise various rooms such as kitchens, offices, and laundry rooms, but also more sensitive areas such as infirmary and neonatal units.

If the population of Brachymyrmex patagonicus in Hong Kong was to proliferate, it would most likely induce an increase in pest management costs; and more harmful for the environment and populations, a more frequent use of pesticides.

Last year, Macau researcher Leong Chi Man discovered a rare ant genus in Ilha Verde, together with two other academics. The unique characteristic of the species is a large hook in the mouth.

The name Leptanilla macauensis was approved by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. DB/Xinhua

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