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Awesome and a little scary

March 10, 2015

DSCN6926Imagine…the air is warm. There is not a breath of wind. And rising through the air on gossamer wings are thousands of flying ants on their nuptial flight. Zooming through these clouds of insects are Fantails and Thornbills making the most of an easy mid-morning snack. It is a scene most of us have experienced on a warm summer night. Now imagine that those ants are huge Bull ants (Myrmecia spp.).

How many ants? Count the antennae and divide by 2.

How many ants? Count the antennae and divide by 2.

Over the long weekend on a walk along Cottrells Ridge Track at the back of Flowerdale, we found ourselves among several thousand mating bull ants. The larger winged females (pictured above) were at ground level or hanging from grass stalks while the smaller winged males swarmed in frenzied flight looking for partners with which to mate. Female ants were crash-tackled by up to six DSCN6940males at a time (pictured above). The trick if you were a male was obviously to keep out of the way of the female’s pincers. Very often a female could be seen twisting around and unceremoniously removing an attached suitor and flinging him aside (pictured left). Many of the males in their frenzied state seemed to be trying to mate with sticks and rocks (pictured below).

Mating with a rock - it's not gneiss

Mating with a rock – it’s not gneiss

Standing in the swarming cloud taking photos was an awesome feeling, yet a little scary given the workers of these ants can give a nasty bite. But the circling males were not worried about a human intruder, having other things on their mind. In fact with all that ant-mating going on, it could be said the air had a sense of ant-i-climax.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Geoff Leslie permalink
    March 11, 2015 9:46 am

    Wonderful work. A serendipitous discovery. Now there’ll be a swag of young nippers after such ant-ics.

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