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Bull ants are fierce little creatures. The sting of a bull ant is not barbed and does not remain in the victim, unlike the sting of a bee. The bull ant can sting again and again repeating its dose of nasties. The bull ant's stinger is located at the end of the abdomen. The jaws of the bull ant workers are quite gentle unlike many other ants. They feed on other insects and things such as honeydew from scale insects. The queen bull ant leaves the nest at night to forage and supplement the food supply of her progeny. (the baby bull ants) These ants have a red head and thorax but the abdomen are black. They make their nests underground and have quite extensive tunnel systems. You can usually identify a bull ant's nest by the mound of dirt with rather large opening, sometimes several openings at the top. The dirt is loosely scattered around the mound and two or three bull ant guards (soldiers) can often be seen in the immediate area keeping a sharp eye out for any possible intruders.
Bull ants are also called soldier ants or bulldog ants. They grow to an average of one inch long. Scientific name: Myrmecia gulosa
There are a few natural remedies should you get stung by one of these ants. If you have a pigface groundcover growing nearby simply take a couple of leaves and squeeze the juice from the leaves placing the juice on the stung area. Rub in gently and you will notice an almost immediate pain relief. Juvenile bracken fern when broken off at ground level will produce some sap which you can also rub on to the effected area. These natural remedies are only good if you apply them almost immediately, (within the minute or two) otherwise you may be able to obtain a cream from the chemist to relief the pain and swelling.
The behaviour of ants has fascinated scientists for a long time and no wonder when you consider they can carry food up to seven times their own body weight. Their social behaviour is among the most complex in the insect world. They communicate by touch and smell and constantly touch each other to pass on their nest odour. All ants have two sets of jaws, the outer pair is used for carrying objects and for digging while the inner pair is used for chewing. All ants play an important role in the environment. They will dispose of rotting plants and dead animals ranging from a little mouse to a big elephant.
There are about 8000 species of ants in the insect family Formicidae (order Hymenoptera). Ants live just about all over the world but they generally prefer warmer climates. They range from as little as 2mm to 25mm in size. Ants live eight to ten weeks passing through a four-stage life cycle, - egg - larva - pupa and adult. The workers are the females and do the labour of the nest while the larger ones are the soldiers, defending the colony. At certain times of the year many ant species produce winged males and queens. These fly into the air where they mate (with the male dying soon afterwards). The fertilized queen ant then establishes a new nest and spends the rest of her life laying eggs for her colony.
Some ants develop a terrific relationship with other insects or even fungi. The Cornfield Ant works well with the Strawberry Aphids. The aphids produce a sticky substance known as honeydew which attracts the ants because it is one of their favourite food source. The ants protect the aphids from predators like the ladybird, and in return the aphids feed the ants. In fruit orchards where aphids have become a pest and cause damage to fruit trees it is essential to eradicate certain ants nests. By getting rid of the ants, the aphid problem will soon be resolved and ladybirds will once again be able to cope with just a few aphids rather than millions of them which are protected by their enemy, the ant.