Friday, 16 September 2016

Insect Mini-Series: GIANT RED BULL ANT

Sometimes nest guarding was positively boring. He patrolled the area around the mound: turning this way and that, scuffing through the loose dirt and dry vegetation which disguised the nest entrance. Nothing. Nada. Not so much as a whiff of an intruder for him to ward off.

Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia
He wished he was a hunting ant instead of a guard ant. Whilst 20mm long was substantial for an ant – indeed Giant Red Bull Ants were one of the largest ant species in the world - he simply wasn’t large enough to hunt. At an impressive 25mm long, his fellow hunting ants surpassed him.

He itched for a bit of action to liven up his day.


With his excellent vision, he spotted something approaching the nest. It didn’t occur to him that the intruder might be too big for him to take on.

Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia

A foraging Purple Swamphen searched the ground for snails and frogs, flicking its tail up and down as it walked. Fast and aggressive, the guard ant raced towards it. He raised his mandibles in readiness to attack with his highly developed sting. As the bird moved towards the nest he closed in.

Unfortunately the attacked swiftly became the attacker in a lighting strike that cost him a leg and mangled one of his antennae. He managed to retreat to the safety of the nest before the bird finished what he had started.

Moments later he emerged again. Injured or not, he was hard wired to guard his Queen. But the Purple Swamphen had moved on. He resumed his patrol and found that five legs worked almost as well as six.

This fiesty fella ran out onto the track I was walking on in the beautiful Jervis Bay National Park and tried to see me off. I took his photo instead.

I look forward to your comments - see you in a couple of weeks.

Friday, 2 September 2016


It was all a bit much. Bad enough that he had to endure all the other Small Tortoiseshells muscling in on his chosen Buddleia, but the Peacock interloper was one lepidoptera too far.

West Cork, Ireland

He watched the activity from his solitary perch with a jaundiced compound eye. The other Tortoiseshells were feeding close together, probing the flowers for nectar with their long proboscises. When the Peacock arrived they had merely budged up a bit. 

He, on the other hand, had flown off to an upper level.

It didn’t take him long to realise the advantages of his elevated position: he could observe the females and spot likely candidates to lure into his territory close to the nettle patch.

The nettles played an important role in the mating business because female Small Tortoiseshells preferred to lay their eggs on the underside of nettle leaves. The territory he had already scouted out beside the nettles was surely irresistible.

Etiquette dictated that he should wait in his territory until a female entered it before he started wooing her. However, if he spotted a potential mate, perhaps he could make an early start at the courtship procedure on the Buddleia itself. He hadn’t tried this strategy before. It was risky. Courtship entailed approaching a female from behind and drumming his antennae on her hindwings. She wouldn’t be expecting it while she was feeding and might react as if she’d been goosed. Still… he who dares…

A fetching looking female alighted to feed on a flower below him. He landed beside her. Now he just had to summon his courage.

Do let me know if you're enjoying my insect series. See you in a couple of weeks.