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Bull ants Fact File

Genus Myrmecia






Bull ant, <I>Myrmecia gulosa</I>, on top of its nest

Bull ant, Myrmecia gulosa, on top of its nest
Photo: J.Green, CSIRO

Bull ant, Genus <I>Myrmecia</I>

Bull ant, Genus Myrmecia
Photo: Pavel German

<I>Myrmecia sp.</I> from the Royal National Park

Myrmecia sp. from the Royal National Park
Photo: Andrew Donnelly

<I>Myrmecia sp.</I>

Myrmecia sp.
Photo: Michael Elliot





Bull ants have a fearsome reputation, and deservedly so. They are large with long, straight, powerful jaws and a potent venom-loaded sting. They attack intruders of any size that come too close to their nest. Bull ants also have well-developed vision and will follow or even chase an intruder a good distance from the nest. Usually the sight of large aggressive ants streaming out of the nest is enough to prompt a hasty retreat. If not, the ants deliver painful stings by gripping the intruder with their mandibles (jaws), curling their abdomen to reveal the sting and injecting the victim with venom. Often multiple stings are delivered.

Many species of bull ants have bright red or orange colours on the head or abdomen. They collect nectar and other plant juices, as well as animal prey, which are carried back to the nest. Nests are usually underground and often have hidden or small entrances. The nests can extend several metres below the ground.

There are about 90 species of bull ants in Australia with diverse behaviours and life cycles. Some of the smaller species are known as jumper ants after their habit of aggressively jumping toward intruders. Several species have no colony workers. Instead, a raiding queen invades the nest of another species, kills the resident queen and takes over the colony. Nine bull ant species have been recorded in Sydney, but there may be more as yet undiscovered.

Distribution:
Throughout Australia.

Habitat:
Urban areas, forests and woodland, heath.

Status:
Uncommon in Sydney

Size:
Workers 8-10 mm long.

Sting:

These ants can deliver painful stings and are aggressive. An ice pack or commercially available spray may be used to relieve the pain of the sting. If there is evidence of an allergic reaction, medical attention should be sought.