Funnel ants (Aphaenogaster spp.) in Australia

funnel ant nest

There are eight funnel ant species in Australia, often with unique species in the different geographies. Other that the fact these species build their nests underground and create obvious funnels above ground with their excavations, remarkably little is known about funnel ants.

Funnel ants are widely distributed across eastern and southern Australia (except Tasmania), into southern areas of Western Australia, with other species in the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia. Aphaenogaster longiceps and Aphaenogaster pythia are the most common and widespread species.

The various funnel ant species build nests in a variety of wooded habitats, from rain forests to dry open forests along the coastal fringe. The common species, A. longiceps and A. pythia, build nests in lawn and grassed areas whether their represent a significant pest problem.

Not only do funnel ant nests affect the appearance of lawn / grassed areas, but their extensive excavation can undermine the soil structure. This in turn can create uneven ground which can cause injury and damage mowing equipment. In the domestic situation this can affect the property value and on sporting fields it can affect playability.

It is clear that funnel ants can create multiple nests in a given area. However, it is not known whether these are multiple-nests that part of the same colony or individual nests – the number of queens present is known. However, under favourable conditions the number of funnels created by their nest excavations can exceed 20 or more per square metre.

Colour: Shiny brown ant with obvious hair covering head and body

Size: 5.0 – 8.0 mm (workers are of variable size)

Nodes on petiole: 2

Little is known about their foraging behaviour and feeding habits. They are known to tend aphids that feed on the root of plants, presumable to access honeydew. Arthropod fragments are often found in their nests, indicating their source of protein, but it is unclear as to whether they actively forage for live or dead arthropods or whether they are opportunist foragers, feeding on arthropods that fall into their funnels.

  • Their obvious funnels are the key identification feature, typically becoming more abundant and obvious after rain as their repair/excavate their nest chambers
  • Funnel ants are rarely seen far from the funnels and then, typically they are seen at dusk/night or when repairable their nests/funnels after rain

Funnel ants will sting but are not particularly aggressive, although they will emerge from their nest in small numbers to defend against intruders

There is very little that can be done to prevent a funnel ant problem other than to carry out a funnel ant treatment. The type of grass / soil type may make certain lawns more susceptible to infestation – sometimes one house has a bad infestation, whilst the neighbour does not. However, to date there has been no mapping of likelihood of infestation with the various grass and soil types.

When treating large areas of turf, particular attention needs to be made to safety and environmental considerations and application methods to ensure safe and accurate application

Go to the main ant page for other ant species.

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