Inside a Rattle Ant Nest

Rattle Ants (Polyrhachis sp.) are big black and shiny tree ants. They look like your best pair of highly polished patent leather shoes. Only ant shaped and a lot smaller and not really shoe-like at all and a bit more shiny. They build messy nests made up of mushed up bark and leaves and silk. The nests hang in trees looking untidy and although I’ve never heard it, the ants may shake the nest and make it rattle to ward off intruders. The really clever bit is how they make the nest using their own larvae as silk dispensers, drawing leaves together in a clump and holding the larvae in their mandibles extruding silk so they can stitch it all up.

Rattle Ant Nest
A Rattle Ant sitting just inside one of the openings of its nest. The nest is made up of chewed up bark and leaves stuck together and hanging in a tree.
Rattle Ant Nest
Rattle ant surveys the damage after her nest was opened by the photographer. These ants use a variety of organic debris and larval silk to join leaves together for their arboreal nests. Wilston, Qld.
Hover Fly and Rattle Ant
Hover fly larva hides inside a rattle ant nest suspended in a gum tree. Oxley Creek, QLD.
The Hopper and The Hoverfly
Another tiny insect takes wanders through the nest – a tiny plant hopper nymph. The hoverfly larva is 10mm long which makes the hopper 1mm long. Oxley Creek, QLD.
Roach
Little baby roach seeks cover in the ruins of a rattle ant nest. Oxley Creek, QLD.
Rattle Ants
Rattle ants retreat to the corner of their nest after it’s been disturbed. Their tough shiny armour will protect them from most threats. Oxley Creek, QLD.
Rattle Ant
Rattle ant grabs the nearest brood member when the nest is disturbed and waits for trouble to pass. Unlike other ants who can disperse easily into other parts of a nest, these guys are living in a one or two room house and really have nowhere to hide. If push comes to shove, they’ll probably run up the tree with their babies. Oxley Creek, QLD.

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