Australian Green Tree Ants

Updated: Jul 20


Australian Green Tree Ant

Green Tree Ants are found throughout northern Australia, from the Kimberly region of Western Australia to roughly Gladstone in Queensland. All types of forests include them, although the highlands do not. The aggressive workers of Green Tree Ants swarm on the intruder to protect their nests. Although they lack stingers, they may bite with their jaws and shoot a scorching substance into the wound from the tip of their abdomen. Green tree ants feed on sap-sucking insects and also gather honeydew from them.


Green Tree Ants take care of the caterpillars of many different types of butterflies. Only found inside Green Tree Ant nests, the flattened, armoured caterpillars of the Moth Butterfly eat the eggs, larvae, and pupae of the ant species. The ants assault adult moth butterflies as they emerge from the nest. They have loose scales that come off when the ants grip them. The butterflies can safely leave the nest in this method.


Identification

Workers are a yellowish-green colour and 5 to 10 mm long. The size of the workers from the same nest varies, although they all have comparable body proportions. There is only one relatively long portion at the waist.


They are rather violent and will swarm when they feel their nests are in danger, biting viciously as they do so. They inject acid from their stomachs into the bite place to increase the pain and let the invader know who is in charge. Many unwary tourists have been covered with these ants simply by brushing a bush as they pass by, and they have then started to perform the impressive-looking "Green Tree Ant Dance," which involves hopping and slapping.



A spectacular example of insect engineering is the way that Green Tree Ants build their homes in the trees. Through the assistance of numerous worker ants, they construct nesting chambers from leaves. Once the leaves are in place, another wave of workers appears, holding young larvae that resemble grubs in their mouths. The worker ants utilise the silk-producing ant larvae as tools to stitch the leaves together. While the other workers steadily keep the leaves in place, the workers carrying the larvae travel back and forth, binding the leaf nest's seams. It could take many hours to finish the entire project.


Even though the colonies only have one queen, they may eventually grow to have numerous nesting locations scattered across a single tree or adjacent trees that the ants move between. Tens of thousands of ants may reside in these giant colonies, and each nest site will serve a unique purpose. One will undoubtedly house the queen and is tightly guarded, while others will contain workers and various ages of larvae and pupae. The ants typically choose living leaves to create the walls of their nests. The ants will search for a new site and resume work as the silken leaf clusters wither.


Queen

These high-rise ants have other special abilities besides only building nests. They can even construct ladders and bridges out of their bodies. They can create a dangling chain of ants if they need to reach a specific branch below them without taking the long route. They span the chasm with outstanding coordination as hundreds of people grab onto one another. Other ants will utilise the living bridge to cross once they get to the branch below. Although just temporary, this building makes it possible to reach a location that would otherwise be difficult to access.


These extraordinary ants have also adapted an insect-based farming method. Numerous species of caterpillars, different leaf hoppers, and other sap-sucking insects are actively protected and cared for by them. In return, the ants receive honeydew, the sweet fluids domesticated insects make. The honeydew is a vital resource and rich food supply for the ants.



Habitat

Green Tree Ants frequently travel great distances in search of food for their colonies. An insect is a fair game if it is not on its "protected list." Most of the small animals they can overpower and drag back to their nests are insects and spiders. Additionally, they will remove the remains of larger vertebrate species. On a few occasions, they have been seen taking tiny dead animals into the trees, where they dismember them and feed the parts to their larvae.


We think it is safe to say if you are walking in the tropics of Northern Australia, stay away from these ants.