The Coconut Ant is essential to the survival of the nationally rare Small Ant-blue Butterfly, with the butterfly spending its larvae and pupae stages within the ant's nest. The Small Ant-blue is only known from a few locations both in the ACT and nationally, while the Coconut Ant seems quite widespread in the Canberra area. The nests of the Coconut Ant are very distinctive and it is hopped that by mapping the distribution of the ant we may find more breeding colonies of the butterfly.
The Coconut Ant build nests in the ground and in dead wood on or near the surface. The nests are readily identified because the ant build a cover of vegetatable and soil matter, with a carboard like consistency, over nests, forage ways, at the base of eucalypt salpings and along tree stems. The material is most obvious on top of cut stumps and in the cracks of fallen timber (see photos).
The clinching test as to whether it is a Coconut Ant nest is to squash one of the few mm long ants and a very strong coconut oil smell should be immediately obvious.
The Coconut Ant feeds on the excretions of leafhoppers and scale incsects, that are feeding on eucalypts and wattles so nests tend to be in areas with much sapling growth. Work in Victoria also suggests that nests are most likely to be found on flatter well drained areas where projected foliage cover is less than 25% and fallen timber and dead wood is present.
Happy ant hunting. Please report any nest to Canberra Nature MAp