Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 61, Issue 4, pp 307–323 | Cite as

Myrmica ants host highly diverse parasitic communities: from social parasites to microbes

  • M. WitekEmail author
  • F. Barbero
  • B. Markó
Review Article


Myrmica ants have been model species for studies in a variety of disciplines, including insect physiology, chemical communication, ant social dynamics, ant population, community ecology, and ant interactions with other organisms. Species belonging to the genus Myrmica can be found in virtually every habitat within the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere and their biology and systematics have been thoroughly studied. These ants serve as hosts to highly diverse parasitic organisms from socially parasitic butterfly caterpillars to microbes, and many Myrmica species even evolved into parasitizing species of their own genus. These parasites have various impacts both on the individuals and on the social structure of their hosts, ranging from morphological malformations to reduction in colony fitness. A comprehensive review of the parasitic organisms supported by Myrmica and the effects of these organisms on individuals and on whole ant colonies has not yet been compiled. Here, we provide a review of the interactions of these organisms with Myrmica ants by discussing host and parasite functional, behavioral or physiological adaptations. In addition, for all “symbiont groups” of Myrmica ants described in this paper, we examine the present limitations of the knowledge at present of their impact on individuals and host colony fitness. In conclusion, we argue that Myrmica ants serve as remarkable resource for the evolution of a wide variety of associated organisms.


Host–parasite interaction Maculinea Microdon Myrmecophily Nematodes Rickia wasmannii 



We would like to thank Elisa Plazio for artwork and two anonymous referees for providing valuable comments on earlier version of manuscript. M. Witek was supported by a grant from the Polish National Science Centre (post-doctoral internship-No. DEC-2012/04/S/NZ8/00218). F. Barbero was partially supported by Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR). B. Markó participation was supported by a scientific collaboration between the Romanian Academy and the Polish Academy of Sciences, and by a grant of the Ministry of National Education (Romania), CNCS-UEFISCDI, project no. PN-II-ID-PCE-2012-4-0595.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Museum and Institute of ZoologyPolish Academy of ScienceWarszawaPoland
  2. 2.Department of Life Sciences and Systems BiologyUniversity of TurinTurinItaly
  3. 3.Hungarian Department of Biology and EcologyBabeş-Bolyai UniversityCluj-NapocaRomania

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