The Meat Ant or Gravel Ant is a very large species of ant at around 14mm long. It is typically red and black and has very large mandibles.
Like most ants, it undergoes a complete metamorphisis during it's development taking around 38-44 days. The Queen produces eggs which hatch into larvae that looks like a whitish coloured grub. The larvae are completely looked after by the colony and undergo a series of moults then the larvae pupates. Unlike other insects the ant pupa is soft and creamy white, a very similar shape to the adult ant. Once the adult emerages from the pupa the soft body requires cuticle hardening and this can take a few hours to a few days.
The Meat Ant is anundergournd nester constructing large nests in the soil, recongisnable by a mound of 'gravel' with holes in the top of the nest. Many males (and some females) would have spent childhood poking sticks in the entrances and watching the swarming of soldiers come to the defence of the nest. The Meat Ant is known to create super colonies and will create new nests regularly in the process called budding. These new nests will remain connected the the original nest and the ants will travel between. There can be tens of thousands of ants that make up these super colonies.
As suggested in the name, the Meat Ant is a protein eater, consuming animal material but will occasionally consume sugars (honey dew) from sap suckers.
Photo by Alexander Wild
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