Sugar ants cannot sting, but the larger species can deliver a painful bite with their powerful jaws. The Household Sugar Ant, Camponotus humilior, commonly nests inside wall cavities and ceiling spaces in south-eastern Queensland. The Golden-tailed Sugar Ant is active during the day. It resembles a number of species of spiny ants but lacks spines on the mesosoma. The Banded Sugar Ant is orange with a black head. The gaster is also black but usually has an orange band at the front.
Most species of sugar ants are generalist scavengers and predators but also collect sugary nectar, plant secretions and honeydew from sap-sucking insects, hence their common name, sugar ants. Sugar ants cannot sting but spray formic acid from a small circular hole (the acidopore) at the tip of the gaster. Large workers of some species can deliver a painful bite with their powerful jaws.
Some species of sugar ants forage only at night, others during the day and some are active at all times.
There are more than one hundred Australian species of sugar ants and they can be among some of the commonest ants.
Most species of sugar ants nest in the soil but some nest in rotten logs on the ground. A few are specialised nesters in hollow twigs and branches on trees. Many of these tree-nesting species are dimorphic and have major workers with large cylindrical heads that are used to plug the small, circular entrances to the nest.
Different species of sugar ant vary dramatically in size and shape. Workers range from 2.5 to 18 mm long. Most species are polymorphic with the workers in a nest varying in size.
The biggest workers have much larger heads compared to the smallest workers. Some species are dimorphic with just two sizes of workers; small minors and large majors.The waist has a single segment and he upper surfaces of the mesosoma and petiole never have spines or teeth. Almost all species of Camponotus lack a metapleural gland and are missing an opening just above the base of the hind leg. This first segment of the gaster is short and covers less than half its length.
The Household Sugar Ant, Camponotus humilior (length 5-8 mm) commonly nests inside houses in wall cavities or ceiling spaces in south-east Queensland. The workers are nocturnal and are often found wandering inside houses at night. Outdoors this species nests in rotten wood on the ground or in cavities or dead branches in trees.
The Golden-tailed Sugar Ant, Camponotus aeneopilosus (length 5-9 mm), is common in open forests and woodlands in eastern mainland Australia. It nests in the soil, usually under rocks and logs.
The workers are active during the day and are black with a thick covering of golden hairs on the top of the gaster.
The Banded Sugar Ant, Camponotus consobrinus (length 7-12 mm), is widely distributed in open forest, woodlands and grasslands in south-eastern Australia. It is common in urban areas in south-east Queensland. It nests in the soil, often under rocks and logs but sometimes with nest entrances in the open ground.
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