Friday, October 1, 2010

Destination Melbourne Museum

The Green Ant display in Bugs Alive! at Melbourne Museum has been desperately in need of a new colony for the last couple of months. We collected the last colony in December 2009 while on a field trip in north Queensland. That colony survived well for several months but then produced vast numbers of reproductives (new queens and males). This is usually a sign that a captive colony is reaching the end of its life - and that turned out to be the case. Despite our attempts to encourage the new queens to mate with the winged males, none were forthcoming and only infertile eggs were laid.

We have just harvested a new colony for Melbourne Museum's display from our backyard. Four individual silk-bound nests were collected from a passion vine and sent via Express Post. The ants are now happily constructing new nests within their very public home in Bugs Alive!

One of the Green ant nests that made the journey

The ants on full alert  - what is that strange man doing with a pair of secateurs and a bucket.

Green ants are fascinating in many ways. One unusual aspect of  their behaviour is the use of their larvae as tools - the larvae produce silk. The worker ants hold the larvae in their mandibles and use their silk producing siblings to bond leaves together to form nests. This occurs whilst other patient ants hold the leaves in place. This laborious process can take several hours.

1 comment:

  1. I knew Museum Victoria wouldn't be able to survive without you for long! What's it been - a week?