These ground dwelling insects have a unique diet and distinctive appearance, and can be found in gardens across much of Australia. They can also deliver a very painful sting like their more notorious relatives. Could you identify a blue ‘ant’?
Common name: Blue ant, blue bottle
Scientific name(s): Diamma bicolor (Family Tiphiidae, subfamily Diamminae).
Description: Blue ‘ants’ are not ants at all but are solitary wasps. The females are wingless, ground dwelling wasps up to 25mm in length. Their head and bod have a distinct metallic blue-green colouration and their legs are bright red.
Males are smaller, black with white markings, have red legs, and are fully capable of flight.
Geographic distribution: Southern and Southeastern Australia, and upwards to SE Queensland.
Habitat: Female blue ants may be encountered in gardens or climbing garden beds and walls, while they wait for a mate, or running around on the ground while in search of mole crickets to parasitise. The mole cricket is paralysed with a sting, and an egg laid on it – the larva feed on the paralysed mole cricket after hatching.
Males may be seen searching for an unmated female (they mate on the wing holding the wingless female), or drinking nectar from flowers.
Pest status: As with most wasps, bees and ants, female blue ants will defend themselves if threatened by injecting venom through their stinger. Unlike the honeybee, the blue ant sting is unbarbed, and the animal may sting repeatedly. Blue ant stings are very painful and can cause swelling. Multiple stings are especially serious, and if the victim is allergic to wasp, bee or ant stings, or shows any signs of going into anaphylactic shock, medical aid should be sought immediately. For less serious stings, ice packs may be used to reduce pain and swelling.
Treatment: Whilst a direct spray will kill the wasp, residual chemical treatments are not considered effective, as the females wander widely, have no reason to enter homes, and will only be seen on the surface when hunting for mole cricket hosts or a mate. Clients should be taught to recognize the wasps distinctive appearance, and to avoid handling or stepping on them.
Daniel Heald, technician and entomologist