Spider ant, Leptomyrmex erythrocephalus Click to enlarge image
Spider ant, Leptomyrmex erythrocephalus Image: April Nobile
© April Nobile

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    erythrocephalus
    Genus
    Leptomyrmex
    Subfamily
    Dolichoderinae
    Family
    Formicidae
    Super Family
    Vespoidea
    Suborder
    Apocrita
    Order
    Hymenoptera
    Class
    Insecta
    Subphylum
    Uniramia
    Phylum
    Arthropoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    6 mm

Spider Ants are conspicuous ants when you see them, but they are rarely encountered in Sydney.

Identification

At first glance, as their name suggests, Spider Ants look like spiders. This is because of their thin body, elongated head and long thin legs, and their habit of raising their lower abdomen and moving quickly when disturbed.

Habitat

Spider Ants live in urban areas, forests and woodlands, and heath. They are more often encountered in forest and mountainous areas with high rainfall.

Distribution

Spider Ants are found throughout Australia.

Other behaviours and adaptations

Spider Ants usually nest at ground level in soil or dead wood and have relatively few members in their colonies compared with other ants. Spider Ants forage during the day and sometimes at night, collecting a wide range of both plant and animal material. The long thin legs enable Spider Ants to walk on the water surface. They are often the first ants to forage after rainfall.

As well as the usual workers that tend young, forage and guard the nest, Spider Ants also have workers with special adaptations for food storage. When food is scarce, these workers distribute a liquid that they store in their swollen abdomen to members of the colony.