Green tree ants also a tasty treat
GREEN tree ants, sometimes called weaver ants, occur across northern Australia from the Kimberly region in Western Australia to about Gladstone in Queensland. A similar species is found in India and south-east Asia.
They are found in all forest types except highlands.
They build balloon-shaped nests among the foliage of trees and shrubs, a colony may consist of many nests spread over several trees but there is only a single queen.
To build a nest groups of workers pull leaves close to each other and "weave” them together with silk produced by their larvae.
The ants are fiercely aggressive and defend their nests by swarming onto the attacker, they cannot sting but bite with their jaws and squirt a burning fluid from the tip of the abdomen onto the wound.
As many of you know, bumping into a nest can be very unpleasant.
The ants have a knack of moving rapidly through ones' clothing, and this causes considerable discomfort.
Green tree ants are predators on a wide range insects, they also collect honeydew from sap-sucking insects and tend the caterpillars of some species of butterflies for the edible secretions they produce.
Because weaver ant workers hunt and kill insects that are potentially harmful plant pests they have traditionally been used as a biological control in Chinese and south-east Asian citrus orchards.
The use of weaver ants as biocontrol agents has also been effective for fruit agriculture in Australia.
The ants, especially the ant larvae, are edible for humans and high in protein and fatty acids.
In some countries the weaver ant is a highly prized delicacy harvested in large numbers.