Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Friday, December 03, 2010

"Blue Ant" is not an "Ant"

When I was a kid, in Melbourne (a long time ago) these insects were known as "Blue Bottles". When I moved to Canberra and subsequently visited beaches in NSW, I discovered that "Blue Bottles" were a kind of Jellyfish, or "stingers". Now I learn that "Bluebottles" (as they are known on the NSW coast), also known as "Portuguese Man o' War" are not "Jellyfish" at all, but are "not a single animal but a colony of four kinds of highly modified individuals (polyps)." Apparently they are related to Corals and Sea Anemones, (unlikely as that may seem - to a non-marine-biologist like me).

This "Blue Bottle" is also called a "Blue Ant", but once again, it is not an Ant. In fact is a female Flower Wasp, Diamma bicolor.

My female Wasp was climbing around amongst the flowers of a mauve-flowered Hebe shrub (formerly known as a "Veronica") .

I was first attracted to this shrub because of masses of insects
swarming around its flowers.
Most were either "Hover Flies" or tiny native Bees.
But then I realised I was looking at
this scary and dangerous-looking insect
amongst the mauve Hebe flowers.
Look closely.
Here it is - cropped.
Note the long curved antenna on the right of the head.
Ants have bent antennae, not curved segmented antennae.
This is another close-up shot.
This time the left antenna is visible.
You can clearly see the segments in the antenna.
(Click to see full size)
Eventually the Insect came right out in the open for me.
The stiff sparse hairs on the body are clearly visible.
Normally these Insects are found wandering around on the ground. They use their sting to paralyse "Mole Crickets", prior to burying them alive and laying eggs on them, in much the same way as the "Orange Spider Wasp" treats Huntsmen Spiders, as seen a few days ago.

Apparently this wasp is capable of delivering a nasty sting. I need no persuading to be careful of them.

Incidentally, the males of this species have wings with which to fly, and they even carry their female mates around from place to place, when feeling in a "romantic mood".


catmint said...

Hi Denis, thanks for the fascinating info, as usual. That these insects are wasps not ants makes sense to me, for many years ago as I was gardening without gloves, I was stung by one. Extremely painful, even worse than the stings of the European wasps which have also stung me twice when they nested inside the compost heap. Vinegar was recommended but it never helped much. Now I tend to wear gloves. The last point you made, about the romantic habit of the males, is worthy of being incorporated into a fairy story. cheers, catmint

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Catmint
Glad you thought of the "fairy story" idea.
Feel free to use it some time, if you wish.
Your idea.

Anonymous said...

I have blue bottle ants in my area. They look nothing like "blue bottle ant wasps".

They are big, a dull blue, their legs the same colour as their body and with a far more "spindly" ant like shape.

I have seen both these and the "blue bottle ant wasp" in my area and they are definately not the same. The Ant in bigger than your red legged wasp.