Bull Ants

Hi, this is Jordan.

In this video we’re going to be lookingat one of the largest and most aggressive ants out there, they’re known as Bull Ants.

Bull Ants fall under the genus, Myrmecia,and have around 90 different species, almost all of which are endemic to Australia.

They’re one of the most primitive groupof ants on earth, and they function quite differently from most other ant species.

Typically, when an ant wants to communicatewith its fellow colony members, it lays down pheromones, which the others can smell usingtheir antennae, and be guided towards, some food for example.

Forming a sight, you’ll probably be familiarwith, a long trail of ants leading to a source of food.

But, Bull Ants are different.

Instead of laying down pheromone trails andrelying largely on their sense of smell to direct themselves, they navigate through adifferent sense.

Through their sense of sight.

While most ants have relatively poor eyesight,Bull Ants have exceptional vision.

Just look at those massive eyes.

They often travel long distances from theirnest in search of food.

And as they go, they use their enhanced visionto scan, and even memorise their environment.

Relying on landmarks, like the surroundingtrees and logs, in order to navigate their way back to their nest.

Bull Ants’ acute sense of vision, also makesthem incredibly effective at tracking down and stalking prey.

The workers prefer to feed on sweet substances,like nectar and tree sap, and fruit, like this apple core, if they get the chance.

But the colonies’ larvae demand proteinrich foods, like other arthropods.

Once they get within striking distance, theyuse their powerful mandibles to grip onto, and then, quickly subdue their prey by deliveringa deadly sting, which they, like their wasp ancestors, can inject multiple times.

Bull Ants occasionally prey upon other antstoo.

Usually seen targeting Carpenter Ants, whichoften live alongside them.

A successful kill comes with great reward.

Not only do the ants provide great nourishmentfor their colony, but it also reduces the numbers, and subsequently the strength oftheir neighboring colonies.

Increasing the Bull Ants’ odds in findingfood within the area.

This can be a little dangerous, however, asthese Carpenter Ants will raise alarm pheromones when felt threatened, causing their fellowcolony members to rush in against their attacker, sometimes even resulting in the predator becomingthe prey.

So instead of constantly hunting these foreigners,in order to compete for territory and resources, Bull Ants have developed a safer alternative.

They do so through sabotage.

The Bull Ants pay a visit to their neighbors,and start dropping debris, like rocks and twigs, into their nest entrances.

By shutting in the rival colony, it forcesthem spend time and energy in order to clear these blockages, effectively, limiting theirforaging capabilities.

Bull Ants are even known to multitask too.

Here they’re cleaning out their nest, carryingout scraps, like the exoskeletons of past prey, which they no longer have any use for.

So they move it out of their nest and straightinto their, not so fortunate neighbors’.

One of the most abundant and commonly foundBull Ants across Australia, are Myrmecia pilosula, commonly known as Jumping Jack Ants.

As their name suggests, they actually havethe ability to jump, and they utilize this unique trait for a number of different circumstances.

When they’re agitated, particularly aroundtheir nest, they perform a hoping like action, perhaps to warn intruders to stay clear byshowcasing their agility and ferocity.

And when they really feel threatened, theycan use it as a defensive mechanism.

Leaping into the air, several times theirown body length, in hope of escape.

And paired with their great vision, they occasionallyuse it whilst foraging, jumping from place to place relatively accurately, much likea jumping spider would.

Here’s a look inside the nest of a captivecolony of Jumping Jacks.

This colony is only just in its early stages,with a single queen and a few worker ants present.

These workers eclosed from the queen’s veryfirst batch of eggs, and so, are known as nanitics.

The first generation or two, tend to be smallerin size than the preceding generations, as the colony simply has less workers around,foraging for food and making sure that the brood and queen is well nurtured.

Apart from the obvious size difference, Bullant queens look quite similar to regular workers.

Most queens you’ll see, like this CarpenterAnt queen here, tend to have a disproportionally large thorax and gaster section.

After these queens dig themselves out an egglaying chamber, known as a claustral cell, here they’ll remain, living off their fatreserves and waiting patiently for their workers to arrive.

These types of queens are known as fully-claustralqueens.

Unlike fully-claustral queens however, BullAnt queens just don’t have the sufficient fat reserves to fast through this long period.

And so, found their colonies in a semi-claustralmanner.

Meaning, they leave their claustral cell tosearch for food, so as to nourish both themselves and their hungry larvae.

Bull Ants can be some of the largest antsyou’ll see.

With some species, reaching up to 2.

5cm inlength, and the queens measuring even larger.

Here you can see the difference against anaveraged sized ant.

As you can see, Bull Ants are like giantsby comparison.

Generally, however, the larger the species,the longer it takes for the brood to develop and for workers to emerge.

Because these ants are so large, the lifecycle of the ant, from egg to adult, can take several months.

It’s worth the wait though, as Bull Antworkers exhibit greater longevity in comparison to other ants, having a life expectancy ofover a year in age.

Whereas, the more common, smaller species,tend to live for only just a few months.

These Bull Ant workers also possess a uniqueability, in that they can actually reproduce with male ants and lay fertile eggs.

Becoming what’s known as, gamergates.

In most other species of ants, it’s onlythe queen of the colony which is able to do this, and all the workers are completely sterile.

This trait is particularly useful if the originalqueen of the colony were to die.

As a gamergate or two, would then be ableto take over the role of egg laying and extend the lifespan of colony.

All these unique characteristics makes BullAnts a true favourite of mine.

Despite this, I’ve never actually raisedup a colony of them until now.

I was always a bit apprehensive, as they canbe quite aggressive and do have the ability to sting.

Because of their great sense of sight, they’reimmediately drawn to any movements.

So it’s really hard to do basic things aroundtheir nest, like adding in and removing foods, without causing any alarm.

I’ve never been stung by a Bull Ant before,or ant for that matter.

But apparently they deliver quite a potentand painful sting.

With some species of Bull Ants being consideredthe most toxic within the entire insect world.

So if you do come across these guys, I’drecommend keeping a good distance and definitely wouldn’t recommend trying to raise themif you’re a beginning ant keeper or prone to allergies.

Currently, I've got this colony housed withina test tube setup which is placed within a plastic container, acting as their foragingarea.

Which is the kind of setup I'd recommend foryoung colonies like this one.

They really don’t require too much foodat this point.

I’ve just been feeding them little slicesof fruit, like apple and mango, and occasionally some sugar water, every few days.

They’re not so interested in insects rightnow.

This is due to colony not having any larvaepresent.

Unlike the omnivorous adults, Bull ant larvaeare known to be carnivorous, so once the eggs do hatch into larvae, I’ll be sure to offerthem insects more regularly.

So far the colony looks to be doing well andhas quite a large pile eggs going, which I’ve noticed the queen likes to constantly standguard over.

I didn't actually catch this queen myself,I obtained it through Brendon, who has only recently got into ant keeping.

Within that time, however, he’s been engrossedinto the hobby, and has caught and raised dozens of different species, and has evenfounded a website all about ant keeping, at gamergate.

Com.

Au.

Here, they showcase intuitive formicariumdesigns from ant keepers all over the world, and post some really amazing,original photographs of all sorts of different ant species.

They also offer queen ants and colonies forsale.

Which is great if you're interested in gettinginto the hobby, but struggling to find a queen, or just acquiring one of those rare, difficultto find species, which in my case, would be these Jumping Jacks here.

After observing Bull Ants in the wild andfilming all the footage for this video, and as well as raising a colony of these ants,I've developed a real fondness for them.

Discovering they aren't as ruthless and aggressiveas they look, and as people make them out to be, but are actually rather timid and quirkyin behavior.

If you keep still and don't make any suddenmovements, they don't really seem to take much notice of you and continue on going abouttheir business.

When they do spot you, they become fixatedon your movements and usually will just cautiously back up.

As long as they don't see you as a threatto them and their colony, they're really quite harmless.

And personally, I think they look adorable.

Just look how curious this little worker is.

So that’s it for this video.

I really hope you’ve enjoyed.

I put a lot of time and effort into makingthese, so if you did like it, share it with your friends, it really helps me out.

In my next video, I'll be showcasing the infamousArgentine Ants, and looking at a young colony of which I’ve recently started raising.

So look forward to that and thanks for watching.

Source: Youtube