Some years ago I noted that I had seen yellow paper wasps, Ropalidia romandi, in my garden but hadn’t seen the nest, presumably also in my garden, which they were coming from. Its location could have been vital information, saving me from a nasty confrontation, so I kept on looking – with no success at all.
I finally spotted it very recently, above the roof-line of our high-set house in a paperbark tree (please visit this page if you want to call it a bottlebrush – it’s both) and overhanging the neighbours’ fence. A clear view of it was only possible from one or two locations even when I knew it was there, so I don’t feel too chagrined at missing it for so long.
A chicken-wire fence forms the boundary between our garden and our neighbours. To the green-ants whose garden we share (that’s the way it feels at times), the fence is a convenient highway. The trio on the right were returning to the nest after a successful hunt when I saw them.
The prey is, I think, a fly. The ants are 8-10mm long, so the fly is only about 2.5mm – certainly not big enough to attract human attention in normal circumstances. I just happened to be there with my camera, on one of my periodic rambles around the garden, and took the photo without being aware of exactly what was going on. There’s always more to see!
Exactly three years ago I posted an article about the queen green-ants I saw on Magnetic Island the day before. They were the first I had seen, and I hadn’t seen any since then until I fished three or four of them out of my swimming pool this morning. They weren’t at their best after their swim so you will have to visit this page for photos.
I looked around my garden for living queens but failed to find any, so all I know of this emergence is that it happened some time in the last 24 hours. I would be interested to hear from readers who have seen more.
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:
Now here’s the mimic …
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 …
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.