by William Ells
Coniferae, Walnut Tree Lane, Loose, Maidstone, Kent, ME15 9RG, UK.

One of my grandsons went walkabout in Australia and sent me two very dried up ants. They were very brittle and one broke up, originally the bodies were brown except for the abdomen which was a blue/green colour obviously coloured by the contents. The Aborigines bite off the abdomen and eat them as a source of vitamins. My grandson tried them and declared the taste quite pleasant.

When they arrived I soaked them in alcohol for 24 hours, then softened, cleared the body contents and mounted them on slides. (Instructions on how to do this is in Insects, NBS Microscopy Booklet No. 9 available from Northern Biological Supplies). Clearing caused the abdomen to lose its contents and the blue-green colour leaving only the brown chitin. After softening I was able to spread them on slides the broken one as best I could, the other making quite a nice mount missing only a couple of segments from one antenna (Fig. 1). The ant is 5mm from tip of the mandibles to the rear of the abdomen. Fig. 2 shows a tarsus (foot).

Fig. 3 shows the quite fearsome looking mandibles. The mandibles and the stomach contents leads me to suppose they are a species of leaf-cutting ant. The only books I have on insects describe European species. Maybe one of our friends in Australia will let us have more information.



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