quarta-feira, 16 de maio de 2018


BULL ANTS by Haidi D. Fiedler and Faruk Nome, INCT-Catalysis, Department of Chemistry, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil
Revised by Natanael F. França Rocha, Florianópolis, Brazil 

Bull ants (also known as bulldog ants or jack jumper ants), of the Myrmecia genus, are very large and alert ants that can grow up to 4.0 cm. They are extremely aggressive, ferocious and can inflict a painful sting. They have large eyes and long, slender mandibles and a potent venom-loaded sting. Most species of bull ants are characteristically bright red or orange in color on the head or abdomen and are able to track and follow intruders from as far as 1 meter of distance between the ant and the intruder.

Photo of an Australian bull ant

There are about 90 species of bull ants in Australia, some of the smallest species known as jumper ants, which are able to jump and attack intruders. Just like other ants, they communicate with each other by touch, smell and visual signals, dancing excitedly to other ants so as to receive latecomers or greet their queen.

Chemistry is involved in many of their communication procedures, for instance in the action of warning other ants about danger by emitting a special scent. Ants produce pheromones and a variety of chemicals in glands all over their bodies, which serve for many purposes. The figure below shows some volatile compounds found in ants.

Volatile substances found in the exocrine glands of an ant.1

There is a large number of pheromone scents that represent “chemical words” used to communicate what is happening, e.g. if the colony being attacked, the location of a good food source, or even the need to relocate the colony. The pheromones in their left and right antennae enable ants to communicate about which way to turn, whereas a squashed ant releases another pheromone that warns against potential danger. In fact, without the vital role of pheromones, ants would not be able to survive.

1) F. E. Regnier and J. H. Law. Journal of Lipid Research, vol. 9, p. 541-551.

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