I found this very active Bi-coloured Arboreal ant, Tetraponera rufonigra in my garden. Since it was moving around quite fast, I had to literally chase it to capture it. I used Canon EOS 5DS R with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens. This was illuminated by Canon MT-24EX macro twin light flash.
Tetraponera rufonigra, is a species of ant belonging to the subfamily Pseudomyrmecinae. It is distributed across Asia and Africa. Commonly called the Bi-coloured Arboreal ant, they are arboreal and build small nests which are excavated holes usually in dried parts of trees. They are active hunters and hunt small insects. They have a well-developed sting and when stung can cause allergic reactions in human beings.
This is a lovely, slim, elongated type of ant. They are very active and well adapted to the arboreal way of life. Tetraponera rufonigra also has very good eye sight. The workers of this species are about 10-12 mm and have a very slender body with short legs. The head, abdomen and top portion of their legs are black and their thorax and petiole are orange-red.
The queens are slightly larger than the workers at about 13-15 mm. The females and males are a similar size suggesting mating takes place on the ground or on nearby shrubs. The new queens form colonies independently and can frequently be found in the nests of a species of termite – suggesting that maybe at the colony foundation stage they are temporary parasitic on termites.
Each colony usually has one queen and colonies seem to vary in size from about 300 – 500 workers. Occasionally vigorous colonies in ideal conditions will accept a second or even a third queen but colonies with more than one queen are rarely found.
For the first few years after a colony is established the queens are not given much attention and almost act as workers – but once a colony is well established with a good force of workers the queens become more swollen and the workers become much more attentive.
Established colonies can usually be found nesting in old dead hardwood which is extremely difficult to get into and the entrance to their nest is often very small with just enough room for a worker to squeeze in – hence the colony is well protected from predators. They will utilise passages left by other insects such as wood borers and will slowly over time carve out larger chambers.
Their natural habitat is seasonal tropical forests where they create nests in old dead tree stumps but they can also be found near human habitation where they will nest in old posts and beams. Where no suitable wood is present they will nest in the hollow stems of woody plants.
In captivity, they seem to take to most types of artificial nest and if given a spoonful of earth they will produce a mud/saliva mix to reduce to size of the entrance so just a single worker can fit through.
This species is particularly adapted to an arboreal existence and is a very good climber. They prefer to forage over trees and large shrubs but can also be found foraging over the ground. They have large compound eyes and very good eyesight – and will dart to the far side of twigs or branches when approached. It is mostly a day active species which starts to become active as the temperature rises in the morning.
They are very territorial towards their own kind and workers will instantly attack any workers from other colonies. They are aggressive predators and in the wild feed on other ant’s alates, small insects, sugary excretions and termites.
They have a very painful sting which they will use at the slightest hint of threat. The stings effect is likened to a wasp sting and will often be followed by a painful swelling for several hours. There have even been deaths following allergic anaphylaxis due to this ant bite.