Ants in the trees

A little rain several nights ago with some follow-up drizzle this afternoon has freshened up the garden and given some relief to the new tree plantings which have had to be hand-watered.   Our dear neighbour whose property is also part of the Wild Wings & Swampy Things Nature Refuge suggested that we extend a water line from her bore to enable us to keep planting as we have had so little rain in the last two months – a generous suggestion which has worked well.  While our conditions cannot compare to the extreme dryness in parts of the southern states our rainfall is well below average.

Happily there is still lots to see and do…….

Green Ant construction Green Tree Ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) are a common sight in Northern Australia, and very common in many of our exotic fruit trees.  They will aggressively attack predators which is unfortunate if you accidently come into contact with a nest, however their presence in a tree usually means an absence of paper wasps – and a close enounter with paper wasps is a much more painful experience often producing an allergic reaction.

Green Tree Ants bite with their jaws and then squirt a stinging fluid containing ascorbic acid  into the wound from the tip of their green abdomen.

The nests, which can appear in shape and size like a football, are made  by the ants pulling leaves together. Often quite a long chain of ants is required to hold the leaves in close proximity while the workers use silk produced by the larvae to seal them.  They are aggressive in defence of the nest and will rear up waving their legs frantically.

Green ant with larvae

Green ants play an important role in ‘cleaning’ up animal carcasses but they can be opportunistic and will attack a weakened creature or young bird before it is dead.  Not a pleasant scene to witness.

There is a  Green Ant in the second photo holding a larvae as they try to repair a damaged nest, ( it is the ant in the lower centre of the photo with the darker head).

long distance ant nest

And finally, to put a nest in some perspective in the landscape –  a more distant view of a fairly large nest quite high in a Paperbark tree on the edge of the swamp.

3 responses to “Ants in the trees

  1. WOW! Very cool pictures and information. Glad we don’t have those in our part of the world!

  2. G’day Barbara,
    Interesting post. Seems like they are aggressive little blighters, (biters?). However, as you point out, they have their own role to play in their little niche of the ecosystem – we have to be careful just not to stray into their path.
    Oh, by the way, nice to have such accommodating neighbours.

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