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Multicasting in wireless ad hoc sensor networks, i.e. one terminal sends the same data to multiple receivers, is an active field of research. In this paper, the optimal energy-aware multicast routing was studied in ad hoc sensor networks. The optimal multicast routing problem was formulated as an integer linear programming. A revised particle swarm optimization (PSO) algorithm, multi-phase discrete PSO was applied to solve this NP-hard problem in a distributed computing manner. To deal with the constraints e.g. connectivity constraint and broadcast constraint, a problem-independent constraint handling technique was proposed by introducing symbiosis mechanism to PSO algorithm. The performance of the algorithm was studied with different kinds of networks. Experiment results show that the presented algorithms can effectively solve the multicast routing problem in a reasonable time, even for large scale networks with numerous receivers.