Acrobat ants are famous for their unique behavior and features. Every ant species has distinguishing physical features like body color and length, but their behavioral characteristics also make them different from each other.
Why Are They Called Acrobat Ants? These ants are called Acrobat ants because they can lift their abdomen above the thorax at an upward angle when they detect danger. They have brown, black, or light reddish bodies with heart-shaped gaster and are 2.5 to 3.5mm in length. They eat floral nectar, honeydew, dead insects, seeds, and carrions and live in trees, wooden logs, decaying stumps, etc.
Ants species get their names for some reasons; a few are named for their body color, odors, and nesting habits, while others are known for their stings and behaviors.
How did acrobat ants get their name?
Acrobat ants have got different names from people for their distinct behavior and unique body shapes, making them easily distinguishable from other species.
They are commonly known as acrobats and are named for their acrobatic behavior, which is not observed in other insects of this family.
They can raise their abdomen in the air by bending it at a higher angle which can be a balancing act from these tiny insects, showing that they are ready to attack.
This upward lifting of abdomens and holding them in the air for a few seconds or minutes is considered an acrobatic behavior commonly seen in these insects when they detect threats.
Accordingly, you can understand these insects feel threatened after seeing them with raised abdomens. They can bend abdomens to the extent that it covers the thorax and even the head.
It is also known as a cocktail ant for this behavior of raising the abdomen in the air by bending flexible gaster after disturbance in their nests or territories.
The scientific community knows this arboreal insect as Crematogaster ashmeadi, while it is also called valentine ant for its heart-shaped abdomen.
What does an acrobat ant look like?
Acrobat ants are smaller insects ranging in size between 2.5 to 3.5mm on average, while the queens are a few millimeters longer and reach around 8 to 9 mm in body length.
Moreover, they appear black, light reddish, or brown in color at different stages of their lives. The gaster of adult members is darker and shinier than the young ones.
You can identify this species by its body length, body color, and heart-shaped gaster or abdomen. One of their prominent features is pedicel attachment to their abdomen’s top.
In addition, a pair of spines are present on the thorax, while there are 2 nodes between the abdomen and thorax, favoring their distinct behavior of bending the abdomens over the thorax or head.
Their antennae have 11 segments, and 3 enlarged segments form a club at the end of the antennae. Furthermore, the reproductive members possess wings and are bigger than the sterile workers.
What are the eating habits of acrobat ants?
Acrobat ants are arboreal insects having omnivorous dietary habits as they can eat a variety of food types but prefer to consume proteins instead of sugary foods.
They can switch diets from animal to plant-based food when they do not find insects to eat and meet their nutritional requirements.
Moreover, they can consume honeydew secreted by aphids, scale insects, and other plant-sucking aphids by building a mutual relationship with them.
In addition, you can find them scavenging on dead bodies of insects and animals as they get protein from their meat by breaking the bodies into smaller chunks for easier swallowing.
Floral nectar is a part of their daily diet, as these sugar-rich secretions can provide instant energy to these tiny creatures. Seeds are a good source of fats as they consume oil-rich elaiosomes.
Furthermore, they can also reach indoors after detecting the sweet odor of food and meat. They have a broad diet which is ultimately beneficial for the survival of these insects.
Where are acrobat ants found?
Acrobat ants prefer to spend their lives in trees and look for food and shelter within the tree branches and wooden logs. Their colonies are commonly found in dead tree limbs and stumps.
You can find these insects living and multiplying in decaying wood or the wooden log infected with fungi and infested by wood-boring insects like termites.
Larger rocks and decaying logs in the garden usually have acrobat ant infestation because these insects prefer to hide under a solid platform and reach the soft wood that is easy to chew.
Moreover, the environment of forests attracts these insects as they can survive within firewood and leaf piles on the forest floor. They can come inside the home from cracks along pipes or wires.
They can also reach indoors by climbing tree branches touching the building roof. In addition, these insects are found in the southeastern US and North America and are native to Florida.
They are also widely distributed in Texas, Maryland, Washington, Virginia, and a few other states of Unites States, including mangrove islands in Florida.
How long does an acrobat ant live?
Acrobat ants have a longer lifespan as they can survive for many years if external conditions favor their survival. On average, these insects can live for almost 8 to 10 years.
The eggs have to pass through several stages of development to become adult ants. It transforms into larvae after hatching that become pupae after a few days.
This pupae develops and becomes an adult after a few weeks or approximately a month. The queens can live for more than 12 to 15 years because their lifestyle supports long life.
However, the male drones cannot survive for more than a few months because they are only produced before mating to reproduce with females. They cannot live after mating and die for a reason.
Their short lifespan and lack of care from the workers can make them die because they are useless for a colony after mating. The workers can live for many years, unlike male drones.
A good diet and favorable environmental conditions support their survival. In the same way, they can die earlier if there is an increased risk of predator attack or natural disaster.
Are acrobat ants dangerous?
Acrobat ants possess a stinger and are able to bite, but they are not dangerous insects because they only get aggressive after detecting any disturbance in their mounds.
They are considered nuisance pests outdoors and indoors but are not responsible for deadly stings and painful bites. Their bodies possess smaller stingers or jaws that cannot reach deeper.
They produce unpleasant odors after detecting danger or death that smells like a rotten coconut. This odor usually works like a signal for the colony members to show that a fellow is in danger.
In addition, they can cause structural damage by chewing the insulation coating on the wires. This chewing behavior can lead to short circuits in buildings, resulting in fire hazards sometimes.
Furthermore, they do not harm pets and people because they are responsible for mild bites with short-term consequences.
How big is an acrobat ant colony?
Acrobat ant colonies are usually monogynous, containing only one queen responsible for maintaining these insects’ population.
However, their colonies are moderately large, containing thousands of members belonging to different genders and castes and living a coordinated and cooperative life.
Almost 85 to 90% of their nest population comprises workers that perform crucial and tough tasks, including foraging, nest cleaning or protection, and feeding the inactive members.
In addition, male drones, young larvae, and queens constitute the remaining 10 to 15% of the nest population, and their number keeps altering according to the time of year.
A large number of larvae are present in the summer or spring before the mating season, which will turn into drones and new queens for mating.