(Iridomyrmex purpureus)

Order Hymenoptera

Family Formicidae

Alternative Names : Gravel Ant

Meat AntsReasons to Love the Meat Ant :

Meat Ants are the most abundant ants in Australia and belongs to the genus Irdomyrmex. The Meat Ant is also known as the Gravel Ant and measures up to 1cm long. They build large nests underground and use sand, gravel or dead vegetation to line the surface around the nest entrance. The worker ants have powerful jaws and communicate using chemical signals. The workers are very aggressive and often attack in large numbers when they feel the vibrations of an intruder. Meat Ants do not sting but do have a nasty bite and can discharge a defensive chemical that really smells awful. Meat ants are omnivores eating plants and animals. The look for food during daylight hours. The ants are sometimes involved in border disputes with other rival colonies which is resolved by ritual fighting.
Australian farmers sometimes use the ants as a quick and easy way to remove an animal carcass by placing the dead animal over a nest. Within a few weeks, the ants would have stripped the carcass to bones. Aboriginals have used this technique for centuries and have referred to this act in several of their stories such as the legend of Mulka Cave.

Social Life of the Meat Ant 

The meat ants work in mutually beneficial relationships with other insects such as caterpillars and butterflies. The caterpillars supply the meat ants with sugary fluids in exchange for protection against predators. Some birds place ants in their feathers to protect the bird against parasites or bacterias. It is believed that the formic acid or a secretion produced by the ants acts as a deterrent. The meat ants just love making tracks. Thousands of these marching workers stomp back and forth from their abode every day, making an easily visible trail. For those less bright of the colony, a chemical is sprayed along the track so as not to get lost. The queen ant can run her colony for up to 15 years and it is not uncommon to have breakaway colonies.

Meat Ants in Dreamtime 

An Aboriginal Dreamtime story called “The Meat Ants and Fire” tells the tale of how Meat Ants showed a tribe how to make fire. The tribe known as the Meat Ants kept the secret to themselves until a young Aboriginal man from another tribe found out the secret and sought to share the knowledge with all tribes. The young man having ignited a stick ran from the Meat Ant tribe, who gave chase. The young man climbed down a vine and cut it at its base. When the tribe followed they all fell to their death. The children of the tribe all turned into Meat Ants and into the same colour as fire.