Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bull ants working as a team: Phillip Island

At the base of a stark eucalypt trunk I noticed a group of bull ants attempting to carry a grub back to the colony; to feed their larvae. Clearly it was a difficult task requiring cooperation.

Growing up to 20 mm long, Australian bull ants are one of the most primitive living ants on Earth. Their powerful jaws lock like the jaws of a bulldog -- hence its nickname bulldog ant. Their strength is amazing. Experiments have demonstrated that a large bull ant is able to support 1100 times its own weight.

As they worked out a strategy, I watched, making sure I was nowhere near the stinging apparatus. Poison injected by a bull ant causes a nasty reaction in most people, and I've had one too many bites in my lifetime.

After watching for a while I left the ants to get on with the task of moving the juicy grub from the sandy track to the colony, a small mound with two entrances beneath a protective covering of New Zealand spinach.

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