Name: Jack Jumper Ant (Myrmecia pilosula)
Other names: bulldog ants, jumping jack ants, bull ants, hopper ants
Scientific Classification and Taxonomy:
Distribution: Jack jumper ants are abundant in most of Australia, being among the most common bull ant to be encountered. The ants can be found in the south-western tip of Western Australia, where it has been seen in the sand hills around Albany, Mundaring, Denmark and Esperance. The ant is rarely sighted in the northern regions of Western Australia. In South Australia, it is commonly found in the south-east regions of the state, frequently encountered in Mount Lofty (particularly the Adelaide Hills), Normanville, Hallett Cove and Aldgate, but it is not found in north-western regions. There are dense populations on the western seaboard of Kangaroo Island. Jack jumpers are widespread throughout the whole of Victoria, but the species is uncommon in Melbourne. However, populations have been collected from the suburb of Elsternwick, and they are commonly found in the Great Otway Ranges, with many nests observed around Gellibrand. In New South Wales, nests are found throughout the entire state (with the exception of north-western New South Wales), but dense populations are mostly found in the Snowy Mountains, Blue Mountains and coastal regions. The ants are widespread in the Australian Capital Territory. In Queensland, the ants are only found along the south-eastern coastlines of the state, where populations are frequently encountered in the Bunya Mountains, Fletcher, Stanthorpe, Sunshine Coast, Tamborine Mountain and Millmerran, and have been found as far north as Rockhampton. The ant also resides in all of Tasmania, and their presence in the Northern Territory has not been verified.
Habitat: Jack jumper ants live in open habitats, such as damp areas, forests, pastures, gardens, and lawns, preferring fine gravel and sandy soil. Colonies can also be spotted around light bushland. Their preferred natural habitats include woodlands, dry open forests, grasslands, and rural areas, and less common in urban areas. Their nests are mounds built from finely granular gravel, soil, and pebbles, measuring 20 to 60 cm (8 to 24 in) in diameter and can be as tall as 0.5 m (20 in) in height. Two types of nests for this species have been described, one being a simple nest with a noticeable shaft inside, the other being a complex structure surrounded by a mound. These ants use the sun's warmth by decorating their nests with dry materials that heat in a quick duration, providing the nest with solar energy traps. They decorate their nests with seeds, soil, charcoal, stones, sticks, and even small invertebrate corpses. They also camouflage their nests by covering them with leaf litter, debris, and long grass. Nests can be found hidden under rocks, where queens most likely form their colonies, or around small piles of gravel, instead. Their range in southern Australia, like other regional ant species, appears like that of a relict ant. Jack jumpers have been found in dry sclerophyll forests, at elevations ranging from 121 to 1,432 m (397 to 4,698 ft), averaging 1,001 m (3,284 ft). Rove beetles in the genus Heterothops generally thrive in jack jumper nests and raise their brood within their chambers, and skinks have been found in some nests.
Diet: Unlike many other ants that use scent to forage for food, jack jumpers use their sight to target their prey, using rapid movements of the head and body to focus on their prey with their enlarged eyes. Like other bull ants, they are solitary when they forage, but only workers perform this role. These ants are omnivores and scavengers, typically foraging in warmer temperatures. They deliver painful stings, which are effective in both killing prey and deterring predators. Jack jumpers have smooth stingers, thus can sting indefinitely. Jack jumper ants are skilled hunters, partially due to their excellent vision; they can even kill and devour wasps and bees. They also kill and eat other ants, such as carpenter ants (Camponotus) and feed on sweet floral secretions and other sugar solutions. They often hunt for spiders, and sometimes follow their prey for a short distance, usually with small insects and small arthropods. Jack jumper ants, alongside M. simillima, have been given frozen houseflies (Musca domestica) and blowflies (Calliphoridae) as food under testing conditions. The ants have been observed to run and leap energetically at flies when they land, particularly on Acacia shrubs, plants, or trees. Jack jumpers and other Myrmecia ants prey on insects such as cockroaches and crickets.
Reproduction: Queens are polyandrous, meaning that queens can mate more than once; queens mate with one to nine males during a nuptial flight, and the effective number of mates per queen ranges from 1.0 to 11.4. Most queen ants only mate with one or two males. If the number of available male mates increases, the number of effective matings per queen decreases. Colonies are polygynous, meaning that a colony may house multiple queens; one to four queens typically inhabit a colony, and in multiple-queen colonies, the egg-laying queens are unrelated to one another. Based on a study, 11 of the 14 colonies tested were polygynous (78.57%), showing that this is common in jack jumper colonies. When the queen establishes a nest after mating, she will hunt for food to feed her young, making her semiclaustral. Nests can hold as few as 500 ants or as many as 800 to 1,000. Excavated nests typically have populations ranging from 34 to 344 individuals. Jack jumper ant workers are gamergates, having the ability to reproduce in colonies with or without queens.
Dymadex's blogs on bugs, including insects and arachnids. Insects are hexapod invertebrates like ants, beetles, bees, and flies. Arachnids are joint-legged invertebrates like spiders, scorpions, ticks, and harvestmen. Other organisms in this blog include centipede, millipede, and worms.
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