- The Fantastic Team
- 5min read
- Published: April 4, 2019
- Views: 13,183
The Ant Species of Australia
Ants. The social insects that can be found on almost every continent in the world are in abundance down here in Australia. From the bullet ant (delivering the most painful sting in the world) to the common black ant that infests your kitchen, Australia has it all.
So, let’s take a look at the Australian species of ants that pose a threat to your home or garden, how they look, their lifecycle and habits.
Being a fairly big genus of Australian ants, Carpenter ants are known for their knack of causing damage to the wooden structure of your home (hence they’re commonly referred to as “wood eating ants).
While they can’t cause the type of damage termites can if left undisturbed Camponotus sp infestation can lead to pretty expensive damage repairs.
The interesting thing about the appearance of the carpenter ant is that they can vary from black to dark orange. They measure around 3mm to 12mm in size and have a smooth body.
Wood eating ants also vary in size depending on what function they play in the colony.
Carpenter ants mate during late spring. It’s called a “mating flight” which after it finishes the males die and the females find a place to start their new colony.
It can take up to six years before you notice any signs of infestation as that’s how long it can take for them to establish their colony. It takes six to twelve weeks for a carpenter ant to complete its lifecycle from an egg to an adult insect.
Plot twist: Carpenter ants don’t really feed on wood, they just bore into it and then, dispose of the wood outside their nest. Camponotus sp prefer nesting in wooden structures, which makes your backyard gazebo or your wooden shed the perfect place for them to build their colony (let’s not forget any wooden structures of your home).
As you’ll come to be aware, size isn’t everything in the ant kingdom. Fire ants (RIFA) are small, exotic insects that can inflict a painful sting to humans. Exactly this is what makes them so dangerous to have them around your property.
If you come to encounter fire ants on your property, it’s best to call professionals to handle them and to inform your local government, as they’re very dangerous.
Solenopsis Invicta are around two to six millimetres in size. These little devils have copper-coloured heads and bodies, and slightly darker bottoms.
The worker ants can be close to black in appearance!
Like other species, fire ants begin their life as eggs, then, they turn into larva, followed by the pupal and adult ant stages.
Fire ants prefer to nest in your backyard and would rarely enter inside your house. Pots on the ground or landscape decor (like logs and stone) are likely places where you can find them.
Nests can be either dome-shaped mounds (30cm in height) or can be flat, resembling a patch of soil, which makes them hard to recognise.
Red imported fire ants are extremely aggressive, especially if they’re close to their nest and are capable of inflicting painful stings.
The green-headed ant (Rhytidoponera Metallica) is a species of Australian ants. The metallic pony ant has a painful sting and is also known to sting people. Though potent, the sting is fairly short-lived, so they aren’t as dangerous as other ants.
(Keep in mind that the sting can still cause anaphylaxis in more sensitive individuals!)
Like its name suggests, green-head ants have a greenish hue in their exoskeleton. Workers, females and males all measure around five to seven millimetres in size and have a well-armoured external skeleton.
Fun fact! Male green-head ants can successfully mate with worker ants. This makes this species of Australian ants a gamergate species. The nuptial flights begin around September, or as soon as the temperatures drop below 25°C.
Finding flying ants in your home can be particularly scary. Not because they have a deadly sting, but more because they resemble termites, or equally worse, they may be carpenter ants.
See, all Australian ant species fly when they breed, so winged individuals could mean you have an ongoing infestation. For more information see Carpenter Ants.
Winged ants have two pairs of wings, with the bottom pair being significantly smaller than the top ones. They are also pretty short, shorter than their body. Flying ants have segmented bodies with easily identifiable parts, with a thin waist.
Winged ants have the same lifecycle as other Australian ant species.Keep in mind that seeing swarms of flying ants in your backyard during the summer months is normal. That’s the mating season for ants, and swarms are just mating ants and not an ongoing infestation.
Bullet ants, bulldog ants, jumper ants – call them what you want, these little buggers are dangerous as hell! The Myrmecia Gulosa is a big species of Australian ants that are notorious for their painful stings and aggressive behaviour towards humans.
If you see a bull ant nest on your property, contact a professional pest controller to handle it.
Bull ants are known to grow up to 40mm in size. On top of their gigantic size, they also have strong and elongated mandibles. The ants are black in colour, however, some have red shading on their abdomen.
Giant bull ants have three types of ants in their nest – female workers, fertile females and fertile males. All have their place in the nest as only females hunt. These bullies of the ant world are mainly found in mainland Australia.
Black House Ant
The everyday black house ant is one of Australia’s most commonly found pests. After all, just leaving dirty plates around your house is enough to attract them.
If you start noticing black spots in and around your kitchen, you may have a black house ant infestation on your hands to deal with.
With a size of just 2.5mm, Ochetellus Glaber has intensely black coloured bodies.
The black house ant has a stocky body with two antennae on their heads.
The black house ant has a normal ant lifecycle, undergoing full metamorphosis in 44 days. The pupa is creamy white and soft with a similar shape to the adult ant.
Unlike other Australian ants, Argentine ants are known to displace native species. On top of that, they have multiple queens, which helps them breed rapidly and build huge colonies.
The most noticeable sign of an Argentine ant infestation is the trail of worker ants that it can be seen when they’re looking for food.
The Argentine ant ranges in colour, with some of the insects having lighter shades of brown and others being closer to black. They measure at around 2.5mm in length, which makes them a fairly average species of ants when it comes to size.
The eggs of the Argentine ants are white and the insects take about 70 days to reach their adult stage.
Coastal Brown Ant
Known for their incredibly invasive nature, the coastal brown ant is known for its quickly-built supercolonies.
Considered mainly to be a nuisance pest, this species can cause a mass infestation. They are known to have a sting that’s not painful to humans.
Also called big-headed ants, the coastal brown ant is fairly small, growing up to no more than 2.5mm in size. They’re gold-brownish in colour, hence, their name.
Coastal brown ants hatch in about three to four weeks. However, the queen can lay close to 300 eggs per month and each queen can live up to several years. You do the math.
A nocturnal insect, you’ll most likely encounter the sugar ant in your home in the evening or at night.
Worry not, as this species of ants is considered mainly a nuisance pest and despite their big size, sugar ants can’t harm humans.
Banded sugar ants grow from 5mm to 15mm in size, so they’re pretty large. The females have black heads, while workers are smaller and slender. Depending on the humidity and the temperature, the sugar ant can vary in colour but they all have an orange-brown band.
The interesting thing about sugar ants is that they use different social techniques – workers sometimes carry other workers, as well as pheromone trails and tandem running are also observed in the behaviour of this species.
Banded sugar ants are mainly active during the warm seasons. These ants aren’t aggressive to people, so you’re pretty much safe.
Believed to have plagued ancient Egypt, nowadays, Pharaoh ants are the most ubiquitous house ant in the world.
This small species of ants can be found almost on any continent, which makes them a common pest Down Under, too.
The tramp ants are minuscule in size, measuring at 2mm at the most. They’re reddish-brown in colour with a darker abdomen. Even though they’re small in size, Pharaoh ants have non-functional stingers which are used for the production of pheromones.
Pharaoh ant queens are known to lay hundreds of eggs throughout their lifetime. Even worse, these ants are known to breed continuously throughout the year.
The species prefers heated buildings and is also known to have multiple queens in a single colony.
Small, translucent and emitting a specific rotten-coconut odour, ghost ants are commonly found in open packets of sugar and generally, in your kitchen pantry.
This makes them a common nuisance pest in Australian households.
Ghost ants stay true to their name – they are translucent and no bigger than 1.5mm. Still, these ants are recognisable by their black heads and small size.
Because they’re so small and see-through, the ghost ant is quite hard to spot.
Ghost ants are very adaptable. The queens would make sub-colonies where they lay their eggs. This makes the extermination of ghost ants kind of tricky, but not impossible.
This species is known for laying a large number of eggs and female workers look after the eggs until they hatch.
The garden ant is a native Australian species. Their colonies are known to grow up to 40,000 workers and some specimens apparently live up to 30 years.
This species farms aphids for their honeydew. Strawberries are known to attract them and they will feed on any fruit that doesn’t have a thick protective skin.
The garden ant is around 4mm in size and black in colour. Sometimes garden ants are confused for Argentine ants.
Queens start searching for a suitable place to build their new nest immediately after mating. It takes around eight to ten weeks for the eggs to hatch.
Queen ants are known to average around four-year long lives, however, some live for up to 30 years.
Known to infest houses, the odorous house ant is a close relative to the ghost ant and the sugar ant. In addition, these ants are most likely to enter your home after a heavy rain.
The stink ant can be found anywhere from North America to Australia, so let’s go into a bit more detail about this six-legged creature.
The odorous house ant can vary from brown to black in colour and grow to about 3.2mm in size.
Very little is known about the lifecycle of the odorous house ant. Queens are presumed to live up to eight months and workers – for a few months on average.
Unlike queens, males tend to live for about a week.
Image source: Shutterstock/frank60
- Last update: April 17, 2020
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