Name: Green Tree Ant
Scientific name: Oecophylla smaragdina
Alternative name: Green Ant, Weaver Ant
Location: Commonly found in trees around northern Australia.
These aggressive little insects belong to one of the three kinds of ants (biters, stingers and squirters). They are squirters, because after they bite a hole in your skin with their big jaws, they squirt formic acid from their butt into the wound before chewing at the wound to mix the acid into your flesh!
- Green ants build nests by pulling leaves together and stitching them with larvae silk. Inside the nest are a number of rooms – one for the queen and her babies, a nursery, storage and accommodation for the other worker ants.
- Green tree ants have a symbiotic relationship with the tree they inhabit – they get a home and the tree is defended from other leaf-eating critters.
- Blue butterflies also benefit from making friends with green tree ants – butterflies who lay their eggs on inhabited trees have the larvae and caterpillars cared for and protected by the ants. The caterpillars reward the ants with honeydew that they excrete from their skin.
- Their butts taste a little like lemon or lime. Juz can confirm this… Aboriginal people would eat the larvae or pound the nest to make a juice that was mixed with water to relieve colds, headaches and sore throats.
We started seeing green tree ants in the Kimberley and thought they were pretty ballsy to start attacking us as soon as we approached. They are found all through the Top End, both in the bush and in suburban areas.
These little guys are super cute, especially when they’re being super feisty. If you get a bit too close to them, they all rear up on their back legs and start flailing their front legs at you. Super cute!