They are the most common ants found in the Australian rainforests and tend to congregate near fruit trees.
Green tree ants are obviously distinguished by their green bodies (sometimes yellow); a noticeable difference from their red ant cousins. Like many ants, their body is divided into four parts – the head, mesosoma , petiole and petiole, and the gaster. They have compound eyes and three sets of legs. At the end of the gaster, rests the ant’s stinger, which is sometimes not even visible.
The Green tree ants are an aggressive species, as many a fruit picker has discovered. Anything that invades their territory will be attacked, a fact that has lead many farmers to use them as a form of pest control. They were first used in this manner by the Chinese, who introduced them some 1700 years ago, to control pests near citrus crops.
A Green tree ant colony can have several nests, which are spread throughout numerous trees. Although the amount of ants in a colony can be quite large, they are often controlled by one queen. But individuals nests within the larger colony can be ruled by multiple queens, who need many workers to build nests.
Nests are made by sewing together leaves with the silky substance that can be squeezed from larvae. Nest building is a complex activity and an example of social interaction in insect communities. If a one leaf cannot reach another, ants will form a chain to pull the leaves together. The overall result is an impressive formation, about the size of a football and capable of housing countless ants. Ants defend their nests and colonies vigorously by biting any intruder.
With the absence of bees in Northern Australia, Green tree ants are often used to pollinate fruit. They also serve as pest controllers since they breed very quickly and have an appetite for certain disruptive insects.
But they have also caused some serious agricultural problems, and are seen by many as a pest in themselves. They defend their nests ferociously, and often bite people’s hands when they try plucking fruit.
Many people in Australia also consider them a nice snack. They are squeezed into water as sweetener, eaten like snacks, and sometimes even used for medicinal purposes.
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