Bull and Jumper Ants

Myrmecia species

The head of Myrmecia gulosa showing the large forward-pointing jaws that are characteristic of bull and jumper ants. The head of Myrmecia gulosa showing the large forward-pointing jaws that are characteristic of bull and jumper ants.

Jumper and bull ants are renowned for their aggressive nature. Their powerful stings have been known to cause serious allergic reactions in some people and have caused fatalities.

This is a characteristically Australian group of ants, the equivalent of kangaroos in the ant world. There are almost 90 named species of Myrmecia which all occur in Australia, except for one species from New Caledonia. Myrmecia species are found throughout the mainland and Tasmania, but are more common in southern Australia. They are large ants, even the smallest species are more than 6 mm in length, and workers of the largest may reach lengths of more than 25 mm.

The jumper ant Myrmecia nigrocinctata. The jumper ant, Myrmecia nigrocincta.Most species of bull and jumper ants nest in the soil and some have a large nest mound. Workers generally forage individually on the ground or low foliage. They are active predators, catching a range of invertebrates that they subdue with their powerful stings, but they also gather nectar and honeydew.

Identification

Species of Myrmecia are easily recognised by their large size, elongate and forward-pointing mandibles and large eyes. Their waist is composed of two segments, with the second one broadly attached to the gaster. These ants are known by a number of common names. Some of the smaller species can move very quickly by jumping and are called jumper ants. Generally the larger less mobile species are called bull ants.

The biggest workers of the Giant Bull Ant, Myrmecia brevinoda, are some of the longest ants in world. The biggest workers of the Giant Bull Ant, Myrmecia brevinoda, are some of the longest ants in world.The jumper ant, Myrmecia nigrocincta (length 12-17 mm) is a distinctive black and reddish-brown species with yellowish jaws. It is most common in moist open forest and rainforest edges in eastern coastal Australia, from the Wet Tropics of northern Queensland to Victoria.

The Giant Bulldog Ant, Myrmecia brevinoda (length 12-26 mm) is among the world's longest ants. The workers are mostly reddish-brown with a contrasting, blackish gaster. It occurs in eastern Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria in rainforest, open forest and woodland.

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