Green-ant mimic

Nearly a year ago I wrote about a bug which was doing a great job of pretending to be a black ant. This time I have one which similarly pretends to be one of our ubiquitous Green-ants. First, the real thing:

green ant
Green-ant – note the jaws

Now here’s the mimic …

green-tailed bug
Not as dangerous as I pretend to be

I noticed it mostly because the antennae looked vaguely wrong for an ant. Looking more and more closely, I could see (1) that the antennae curve smoothly backwards instead of having obvious elbows and pointing forwards, (2) the body is broader and (3) it has no jaws. In fact, it is the juvenile form (nymph) of a sap-sucking bug (Hemiptera), and like all its relatives it has a piercing tube, seen here tucked up against its chest, instead of jaws.

I thought it was a new species to me – I still get them occasionally in my own garden – but through Steve in Airlie Beach I found that I did know the adult but had been baffled by its difference from the nymph. Between us we have a complete sequence showing how it changes as it matures. The one above is the youngest and is the best ant-mimic; as it matures we get …

Green-ant mimic 6626

brown and green bug

ant mimic

Riptortus sp. 2762

The last of these four photos shows the adult, with its wings completely covering its abdomen. The middle two are courtesy of Steven Pearson, and I thank him for permission to use his photos and for identifying my ant mimic. It’s a Pod-sucking Bug, Riptortus sp., Alydidae, Hemiptera.

Riptortus serripes seems the most likely species since it’s the only one I’m sure has been identified in this region, but Brisbane Insects shows its nymphs mimicking black ants. Either we need to look out for another species or Brisbane Insects has confused R. serripes with its smaller cousin Melanacanthus scutellaris.

4 thoughts on “Green-ant mimic”

  1. Hi,
    Just wanted to thank you – I found one of these (juvenile) today and you helped me ID it. Found in Smithfield, FNQ (on JCU campus in grassland near edge of riparian zone). I was so excited to find it, what an amazing mimic – it took me a minute or two before I realised it wasn’t a green ant! And I watch green ants constantly (local kid). Thanks again

  2. Great photos helped me identify this nymph on my pigeon peas. Had no idea this was a junior pod-sucking bug. Will now look for the other developmental stages. Thanks from Innisfail.

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