Living Prehistory: bull ant in a jar

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Yesterday I looked at the kitchen window and noticed a bull ant clinging to the flyscreen, on the inside. “Hey look!” I exclaimed, fascinated. “Yeek!” yelped my companion, who has had too many ants wander up his pants leg, and therefore now tends towards mistrust and getting-as-far-away-as-possible as preventatives. So I grabbed a jar from the pantry, and tapped the intruder into it, sealing it neatly into a safer (for us) environment. We won’t discuss the introduction of a European wasp to the jar that may or may not have actually happened later.

Despite being quite aggressive, and having the ferocious mandibles to back it up, bull ants (of the genus Myrmecia) eat mostly nectar and plant matter. But be sure that if you stand on their nest, they WILL use whatever force necessary to see you off; if the sight of seemingly-prehistoric ants swarming round your feet isn’t enough to send you packing, then they will grab whatever part of you they can and sting you – probably repeatedly – with the sting in their abdomen, like a wasp. This does hurt just as much as you think it might.

Where I live, they even sprout wings and fly around at a certain time of year; happily, when this happens, they don’t seem bent on some horror-show stingfest, but are quite docile. If that’s the right word for a giant stinging ant species that is notoriously difficult to kill dead.

Please click to view hideous mandibles full size.

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