Friday, 17 April 2009

Swarm weather

'Tis the season for the next generation of queen ants to leave the nest and found new colonies. Small species may pass unnoticed but bulldog ants (Myrmecia) are big enough to make their presence felt. Duncan at Ben Cruachan Blog and Boobook at Bushranger have encountered them. I haven't seen any here but friends near the Brisbane Ranges were inundated by a mass emergence a few days ago.

A message from the front line. (Names changed to protect the ant-afflicted)

... yipes!! Hundreds of these inch-long bruisers are climbing a native eucalypt in our garden. Heard (yes, heard) them dropping on to the washing and then under Quentin's tee shirt. Response spineless to say the least. I had my slippers on when I noticed that they seem to be coming out of large holes in the ground. Do they climb so that they can get a bit of breeze under their wings? They seem too large to get far off the ground hence under Quentin's tee shirt, on my slippers and PJs and our washing.

Must be the warm weather has induced a hatching. I expect some biffo between them and my buzzers as they are only a couple of feet from the hive.

Bulldog ants bite and sting, which explains Henrietta and Quentin's reluctance to tangle with them. The toxics contained in the sting may cause severe reactions in anyone allergic to them. Even if you're not sensitive, those stings are bloody painful. It's best not to muck around with bulldog ants.

On emergence, the young queens climb or fly to vantage points to attract males, which is what they were probably up to on tee shirt, slippers and laundry. After mating, they set off to locate suitable sites for their new colonies. At some point, they shed or snip off the wings and become wholly terrestrial. I'm not sure how far they can travel but everyone's hoping they're enthusiastic fliers.


Dave Coulter said...

Yep, a guy can always tell when a gal is ready to settle down when she snips off her wings.

Gouldiae said...

G'day Snail,
Like many others who have experienced the 'Bulldog' bite, all I can say is - OUCH!