North Queenslanders know green-ants very well. Their nests of woven leaves are common in our trees, and we learn to be cautious about pushing through shrubbery because the workers drop on intruders and bite quite painfully. But there is one stage of the life cycle we rarely see: the winged queen.
Unmated queens-to-be fly from existing colonies in the wet season and, if they are lucky, mate with winged males released at the same time and then establish their own new colonies.
We visited Magnetic Island yesterday and saw dozens of the winged queens. They looked like wasps but were clumsy fliers, often crash-landing into plants or people, and in spite of their powerful jaws they were not at all aggressive.
The queen, like all flying ants, soon loses her wings. She will find a likely spot for a nest, and start laying eggs, and her children/workers will build the nest around her.
All you ever wanted to know about Green-ants: A masterpiece of evolution – Oecophylla weaver ants by Ross H. CROZIER†, Philip S. NEWEY, Ellen A. SCHLÜNS & Simon K.A. ROBSON, Myrmecological News, 13, 57-71, Vienna, April 2010. (You will need to download the pdf from the page my link takes you to.)