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Green Tree Ants

Oecophylla smaragdina


Green Tree Ants, sometimes called Weaver Ants, build balloon-shaped nests among the foliage of trees and shrubs. Groups of workers pull leaves close to each other and 'weave' them together with silk produced by the larvae. A Green Tree Ant colony may consist of many nests spread over several trees but there is only a single queen. Green Tree Ants occur across northern Australia from the Kimberly region in Western Australia to about Gladstone in Queensland. They are found in all forest types but do not occur in the highlands. Green Tree Ant workers are aggressive and defend their nests by swarming onto the attacker. They cannot sting but bite with their jaws and squirt a burning fluid from the tip of the abdomen onto the wound. Green Tree Ants are predators and also collect honeydew from sap-sucking insects. The caterpillars of many species of butterflies are tended by Green Tree Ants. The flattened, armoured caterpillars of the Moth Butterfly live only inside Green Tree Ant nests where they feed on ant eggs, larvae and pupae. Adult Moth Butterflies emerge inside the nest and are attacked by the ants. They are covered with loose scales that fall out when they are grabbed by the ants. In this way the butterflies can escape the nest without being damaged.

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Spotted by

Mackay, Queensland, Australia

Spotted on Jul 2, 2013
Submitted on Jul 5, 2013

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