About eighty people of all ages joined ANU myrmecologist Ajay Narendra for a walk with ants on Mt Majura. On Sunday 23 March we discovered various species of ants at the lower slopes of Mt Majura and learned many interesting facts about the natural history of these insects, such as their leading ecological role as predators and scavengers and their highly social organisation in caste systems (for more details see Peter Millers’ report below).
Due to the overwhelming interest we organised a second walk on the following Sunday, April 1st. We met late in the afternoon and went straight up to the ridge. Here we discovered a number of ant species that we had not seen on the first walk. Workers of two species of Polyrhachis were busily walking up and down the trunk of an enormous Scribbly gum. Members of one of the species have their gaster (abdomen) covered with golden hairs and are black everywhere else, whereas the other species has golden hairs everywhere but the gaster. Ajay explained that the genus name Polyrhachis means “Many Spines” and indeed these ants are armed with impressive spines as we could observe through our magnifying glasses.
We found a lonely metallic-blue Giant Bulldog Ant Myrmecia tarsata heading towards her nest before night fell. We enjoyed a magnificent sunset and waited for Myrmecia pyroformis, another species belonging to the giant bulldog ants to emerge from their nest. As we were about to give up several foragers of this night-active species appeared in the nest entrance and made a dash towards a nearby tree. Kids on shoulders, our descent was magically illuminated by an almost full moon.
From what I’ve heard, participants very much enjoyed a wonderful, interesting and adventurous walk with ants. I would like to thank Ajay for generously sharing his time and knowledge with us.
1 April 2007
List of ant species seen on the walks
For more information on these species along with photographs visit Ajay Narendras’ Website www.antlinks.blogspot.com
Green Headed Metallic Ant
|Walking with Ants Event (S. Bittinger, W. Pix)
|Ant photos: A. Narendra