Bulldog Ants of Australia

I'm quite fond of Ants - I think most critter people are. But these guys are my absolute favourite. Bulldog Ants (or Bull Ants) have the most extraordinary awareness of their environment - and not just the baseball sized radius that most small insects seem attuned to - but the kind of awareness more often associated with mammals or birds.

So much so that it's difficult to say who is observing whom when I come across them. I have spent countless hours watching these insects - forget 'survivor', or 'big brother' ... if you want to catch some action packed real life drama, spend some time with these little guys; Machiavellian intrigue at its best!.

The bull ant famously appears in the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer's major work, The World as Will and Representation, as a paradigmatic example of strife and constant destruction endemic to the "will to live".

"But the bulldog-ant of Australia affords us the most extraordinary example of this kind; for if it is cut in two, a battle begins between the head and the tail. The head seizes the tail in its teeth, and the tail defends itself bravely by stinging the head: the battle may last for half an hour, until they die or are dragged away by other ants. This contest takes place every time the experiment is tried".

And yes, I agree that's a fairly disturbing 'experiment' to preform on a living creature - but it does highlight the ants ferocity.

The extraordinary, but very aggressive, Bull Ant

The mighty Bulldog ant

Close up image of Myrmecia - The Bull or Bulldog ant


As I photographed these ants, I had failed to notice another entrance to their nest directly behind me. Luckily, but quite by chance, I turned and looked down just as a couple of very agitated sentries were approaching me. Had I not seen them, the outcome could've been extremely painful - or worse!.

Fatalities associated with Myrmecia stings are well known, and have been attested to by multiple sources. In 1931 two adults and an infant girl from New South Wales died from ant stings

The largest Bull ant I have ever found - and photographed, was in the Rainforest of the Tablelands FNQ - it was huge!, 35-40mm in length. I can't even begin to imagine just how excruciating a sting from one that size would be.

So be warned - small they may be, but they pack quite a punch. Remember, ants are basically wasps without wings. Keep in mind also that some species of Bull Ants are accomplished jumpers, and will readily leap into action with little provocation, hence yet another common name of 'Jumping' Ant.