Monday, October 13, 2008

Green ants come crawling

Came upon this two-metre Carpet Python (Morelia spilota macdowelli) curled up in a warm spot beside a sugar cane track today. Looks in need of a feed. But pythons can become almost skinfold thin behind the head. This snake would not merit a post except for the almost overlooked Green Tree Ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) seemingly pinching a pleat in its neck.

An illusion of course. The ant just happened by. But later I had closer ant encounters. Going into a grove to check on a robin's nest, I flushed a Large-tailed Nightjar. It landed nearby on a low branch and settled down. A way looked open to crawl under some guavas and through a bit of long grass to get pictures.

On hands and knees with camera flopping on my spine, I set off. Then noticed the leaf litter was teeming with green ants. A short crawl later and ants and I arrived within about six metres of the bird. But the angle, shadows and backlight made the task hopeless. After sitting back and watching all this, the bird effortlessly uplifted elsewhere.

Leaving me with the ants. And here's the strange part. Anyone who's wandered through rainforest and brushed against a few trees will have met the stinging defence of green ants. Can get nippy inside a shirt!

Today's ants jawed themselves in to hands and arms, but didn't follow up with stinging fluid from their abdomens. Picking them off gently was almost painless for both parties.

I assume that because there was no nest disturbed the chemical signal for all-out aggression wasn't fired off.


Mosura said...

Pythant - Good name!

I remember ants in Scotland that wouldn't wait to bite but would spray formic acid if you got too close. If you waved your hand over the nest you could see them spraying it.

Duncan said...

Never mind about in your shirt, wot about ants in your pants? Could be much more serious. ;-)

Tyto Tony said...

Mosura: better they spray us than we them!

Duncan: can't ever recall ants in what's pretty much a dead zone anyway. Hairy legs a deterrent? A tick or two dug out of inner thigh though!

mick said...

The things we do to see and photograph a bird! No wonder friends think we're mad!!

Gouldiae said...

G'day Tony,
I second Mick's comment.
There's a few colonies of Red-headed Spider Ants on the golf course - I'm waiting for them to appear this season. Last year when I showed a couple of people the attitude was, "Oh we'll have to remove them". Hopefully I think they've forgotten about them.

Gaye said...

hi Tony,

I have just found your blog via other nature blogs that I visit, so I will be looking forward to hearing about some of your locals.

I have just been up your way, but unfortunately didn't get to go to the lagoon this time.


Tyto Tony said...

Mick: Guess we just gotta do what we gotta do!

Gouldiae: But I draw the line at fire ants, which seem to have jumped the cordon again in Brisbane.

Hi Gaye: Thanks for visiting. Specially delighted to find another snake defender. Two big RBBSs last time I camped in Barr. Tops (2004).

Gaye said...

Ah, yes, I am a snake defender, but that doesn't go down too well in this rural area.

I have not seen any RBBSs yet this season, but saw a big healthy Brown a few days ago, and will be posting about the local Brown Snakes next week.

Barrington Tops is such a diverse place for the nature enthusiast.


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