Green Tree Ant: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

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Green Tree Ants, also known as weaver ants, are fascinating creatures found in various parts of the world. These intriguing insects are known for their distinctive nests, cooperative behavior, and remarkable agility.

Native to Southeast Asia, Australia, and India, Green Tree Ants can often be found in tropical and subtropical forests. These ants exhibit a unique nest-building technique by skillfully weaving leaves together using their larvae’s silk. This captivating process involves teamwork, where several worker ants hold the leaves in place and others use the larvae like living glue guns, creating a secure shelter for the colony.

While Green Tree Ants may look small and delicate, they are known for their aggressive territorial defense. Intruders often face the wrath of a united force of ants that can deliver a painful, venomous bite. So, it’s a good idea to admire their fascinating behavior from a safe distance.

Green Tree Ant Overview

Oecophylla Smaragdina

Green Tree Ants, scientifically known as Oecophylla smaragdina, are small insects with bright green bodies. These ants are known for their vibrant color and unique nesting habits. They create nests in trees by weaving leaves together with silk produced by their larvae.

Habitat and Distribution

These ants are mainly found in the tropical regions of Australia and Southeast Asia. Their preferred habitat includes forests and mangroves where they can easily build their tree nests. Some key features of Green Tree Ants include:

  • Vibrant green color
  • Unique tree nests made from leaves
  • Preference for tropical habitats
  • Distribution in Australia and Southeast Asia

Below is a comparison table of Green Tree Ants and Carpenter Ants, another common ant species:

FeatureGreen Tree AntsCarpenter Ants
ColorBright greenBlack or reddish-brown
Nest locationTreesWood structures
Preferred habitatTropical forestsVarious
DistributionAustralia, Southeast AsiaNorth America

As displayed in the table, Green Tree Ants differ from Carpenter Ants in their color, nest location, preferred habitat, and distribution. This helps provide a better understanding of what makes Green Tree Ants unique among other ant species.

Physical Characteristics

Worker Ants

Green Tree Ants, also known as Green-head ants, are small insects with some fascinating features. These worker ants typically have a size of 5mm and exhibit a vibrant green color on their head and thorax, giving them their name.

  • Green on the head and thorax
  • Size around 5mm

Their antennae are significant, as they contain 12 segments and are vital for the ants’ communication and navigation. Additionally, these ants possess a unique feature – a petiole connecting their thorax and abdomen.

  • 12-segmented antennae
  • Petiole connecting thorax and abdomen

Queens

In comparison to worker ants, queen ants show some differences in appearance. Following are the main characteristics:

  • Larger size (around 9-10mm)
  • Presence of wings during the initial stage of their life

A comparison table of the worker ants and queens is as follows:

FeatureWorker AntsQueen Ants
SizeAround 5mmAround 9-10mm
ColorGreen head/thoraxGreen head/thorax
Antennae Segments1212
WingsAbsentPresent (initial)
PetiolePresentPresent

These details cover the key physical features of the green tree ant species, helping to differentiate worker ants from queens in their colony.

Behavior and Nest Building

Forming Colonies

Green tree ants, also known as weaver ants, belong to the Hymenoptera order and are known for their unique nest-building behavior. They form colonies that can consist of multiple nests spread throughout the tree canopy. Colonies are typically established by a single queen that searches for a suitable location and starts laying eggs.

Major features of colonies:

  • Multiple nests in the tree canopy
  • Single queen per colony

Living Leaves and Nest Structure

Green tree ants build their nests using living leaves, meticulously aligning and folding them together. Worker ants manage these tasks with precision and cooperation, creating intricate nest structures. The nests are often located close to tree branches, providing easy access to food sources and the colony’s roots.

Characteristics of nest structures:

  • Made from living leaves
  • Close to tree branches
  • Provide easy access to food sources

Silk Production and Cooperation

Silk production is an essential aspect of green tree ant nest construction. Young ant larvae produce silk threads which adult worker ants use to weave leaves together, forming a stable and secure nest.

Green tree ants demonstrate exceptional cooperation during the construction process. They use their bodies as a bridge to pull leaves closer for effective silk application.

Key aspects of silk production and cooperation:

  • Larvae produce silk threads
  • Adult ants weave leaves with silk
  • Ants cooperate by bridging gaps

Comparison: Green Tree Ants vs. Carpenter Ants

AttributeGreen Tree AntsCarpenter Ants
Nest LocationTree canopyWood structures
Colony FormationSingle queenMultiple queens
Nest MaterialLiving leavesDecaying wood
CooperationHigh levelModerate level
Impact on StructuresMinimalDamage to wood

Diet and Foraging

Feeding on Honeydew

Green tree ants get their primary food source from honeydew, a sugary substance that:

  • Is excreted by sap-sucking insects like aphids and scale insects
  • Provides a continuous supply of energy for the ants

For example, green tree ants often tend to sap-sucking insects as they feed on plant juices and produce honeydew for the ants to consume.

Predators and Ecosystem Role

Green tree ants play a very important role in the ecosystem. They:

  • Help control many pest insect populations
  • Serve as a food source for various predators, such as birds and spiders

These ants are considered effective biocontrol agents because they prey upon pests like:

  • Caterpillars
  • Beetle larvae
  • Aphids

Pros and Cons of Green Tree Ants as Biocontrol Agents

ProsCons
Control pest insect populationsCan cause skin irritation when bitten
Less reliant on chemical pesticidesMay also prey upon beneficial insects

Green Tree Ant Foraging Behavior

Green tree ants are known for their unique foraging behavior, such as:

  • Climbing up trees and other tall plants
  • Collecting prey and nectar from nearby plants
  • Using their strong jaws to hold their prey

By splitting up their foraging duties, green tree ants maintain the health of their colony as well as the surrounding ecosystem.

Call for pest control services now.

Bites and Human Interaction

Biting Mechanism and Pain

Green Tree Ants, also known as weaver ants, have a unique biting mechanism. They use their:

  • Mouth: Ants have a pair of mandibles to hold onto their prey
  • Formic acid: Ants release this acid from their abdomen, which can cause pain to humans

Comparatively, Green Tree Ant bites are less painful than other ants. For example:

Ant SpeciesPain Level
Green Tree AntMild to Moderate
Bullet AntExtreme

When bitten, the pain may feel like a mild pinch or sting.

Allergic Reactions and Treatment

Although Green Tree Ant bites are generally not dangerous, some people may experience:

  • Redness: A common reaction seen at the bite site
  • Swelling: Some individuals might have mild swelling around the affected area

If you experience an allergic reaction, consider the following treatment options:

  1. Cold pack: Apply a cold pack to the bite site to reduce swelling and soothe the area
  2. Over-the-counter medication: Use pain relievers or antihistamines to alleviate pain and itching

If symptoms worsen, seek medical attention.

In conclusion, Green Tree Ant bites are not typically a cause for major concern, but it is important to monitor any reactions and treat them accordingly to ensure proper healing and to prevent complications.

Pest Control and Landscaping

Identifying Infestations

Green Tree Ants typically build their nests in trees, plants or shrubs. Signs of an infestation include:

  • Small, oval-shaped nests made of leaves
  • Trails of ants on plants or trees
  • Yellow or green ants with a distinct bicornis shape

Chemical and Natural Insecticides

There are chemical and natural insecticide options to control Green Tree Ants. Some effective types include:

Call for pest control services now.

  • Chemical insecticides: Synthetic sprays and granules, such as carpenter ant insecticides.
    • Pros: Quick results, wide coverage
    • Cons: Toxic, possible harm to non-target organisms
  • Natural insecticides:Peppermint oil and other plant-based repellants.
    • Pros: Eco-friendly, safe for humans and pets
    • Cons: Less potent, may require repeated applications

Comparison Table:

 Chemical InsecticidesNatural Insecticides
ProsQuick resultsEco-friendly
 Wide coverageSafe for humans/pets
ConsToxicLess potent
 Harm to non-targetLonger application

Ant Baits

Ant baits can effectively control Green Tree Ant populations. Types of baits include:

  • Granular baits: Spread over infested areas.
  • Liquid baits: Placed in bait stations near ant trails.

Successful baiting requires proper placement and monitoring to ensure the ants are consuming the bait.

Best Practices

Here are some best practices to help prevent and control Green Tree Ant infestations:

  • Inspect plants and trees regularly for signs of ants
  • Prune branches touching structures to prevent access
  • Use insecticides or ant baits responsibly, following label directions

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Queen Green Tree Ant from Singapore

Subject: What’s this bug?
Location: Singapore
February 20, 2016 6:22 pm
We think this is a type of ant. Do you know it’s species?
Found indoors in our home in Singapore. Humid and hot all year around.
Signature: Pippa

Queen Green Tree Ant
Queen Green Tree Ant

Dear Pippa,
This looks to us like a queen Green Tree Ant,
Oecophylla smaragdina.  You can see the stubs where her wings were attached.  Flying Ants are reproduction kings and queens and the queen loses her wings once she has mated.  She will now begin a new colony.  According to Termites and Ants:  “Oecophylla smaragdina nests can be quite extensive covering several trees over a few acres. These nests are made of leaves woven together with ants’ silk secreted by the larvae. Some workers pulled leaves together while other workers each with a larva in its mandibles ‘glue’ the leaves together, with the ant silk secreted by these larvae, to formed a shelter where the brood are housed.”

Thank you!
May I ask, would she have been far from the nest she would be building? Should I be searching around our home to make sure there is not a huge ant colony about to be running through our home?
I read somewhere that sometimes the nests can be built in eaves on roofs etc, not just trees.
We live opposite a Giant part with lots of massive trees.  We released her there.  We do not have any trees overhanging our house but just want to make sure we are not neglecting to search for a pending ant infestation.
She was found in my son’s bedroom just walking across the floor.  My gut is that she was ‘brought in’ with something.  But now I’m wondering, at what point would she have lost her wings.  Could she have accidentally have flown in, and only just have lost her wings since being in our home?
Sorry for so many questions.
Thank you again for your help,

Hi again Pippa,
What we are about to write is based on speculation, and not about any research we have done on the Green Tree Ants.  We suspect this is a newly mated queen that has not yet set up a new colony.  We believe after her nuptial flight, she landed near your home, not an ideal site to construct her nest.  Your believe that she lost her wings either just prior to entering your home or after landing on a window sill is entirely possible.

Letter 2 – Green Tree Ant from Malaysia

Subject: Green Queen Ant!?
Location: Malaysia
March 7, 2014 8:19 am
Dear bugman, I found this green ant on one of my plant’s leaf and it’s beautiful! I’ve never seen a green ant before. What sort of ant is this? How do I take care of it? Can I build like an ant colony out of this?
Signature: Shanon

Green Ant? or something else???
Green Tree Ant

Dear Shanon,
Are you able to provide us with any other images, including some different angles, of this interesting creature.  While it does resemble an Ant, we are not fully convinced that it is an Ant.  It appears to be guarding a clutch of eggs, and we don’t know if an Ant would begin a new colony in this manner.  Until we are able to provide you with a proper identification, we have no advice on raising this insect.  Moments after writing that, we began our research, and we quickly located a posting on a Green Tree Ant,
Oecophylla smaragdina, on the Atlas of Living Australia, where it states:  “commonly called the green tree ant or weaver ant, is a northern species that also occurs throughout South-east Asia and westward to India. They can be conspicuous in forested areas within their range, foraging on vegetation as well as the ground, often in large numbers and forming distinct trails.”  The University of Notre Dame has an online PDF entitled A Study of the Weaver Ant, Oecophylla smaragdina.   Encyclopedia of Life provides this fascinating information attributed to Shuker:  “Another insect tool user is the weaver ant (Oecophylla smaragdina), which makes nests by rolling up leaves and then gluing the sides together with silk. Although it is the adult ants that do this, only the larvae produce silk, so how is the process of leaf gluing achieved? In fact, the adults carry larvae in their jaws and squeeze them gently so that the larvae secrete a drop of silk on one end of the leaf edges. The ants then carry the larvae along the entire length of the leaf edges, squeezing as they go, using the larvae like living bottles of glue, until the edges of the leaves are stuck together from end to end.”  Perhaps this is a queen Green Tree Ant that has shed her wings and is just beginning a new colony.

Dear bugman,
I think you are right! It definitely seem like a weaver ant queen. However I’m unable to capture anymore photos because it is no longer on the leaf of the potted plant. I guess it must have gone off to a bigger tree. Te eggs are still there though. Thank you very much for the reply 🙂
Sincerely
Shanon

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

12 thoughts on “Green Tree Ant: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell”

  1. Hi guys,
    One thing I can tell you about the green tree ant is that if you are ever unfortunate enough to disturb a nest, they will attack and bite the hell out of you and it hurts more than you can imagine. Some people can have a very severe reaction to the bite. We used to encounter them nesting in epiphytes when we had a native plant collecting business years ago. You only make the mistake of not checking for them once.

    Reply
  2. Hi guys,
    One thing I can tell you about the green tree ant is that if you are ever unfortunate enough to disturb a nest, they will attack and bite the hell out of you and it hurts more than you can imagine. Some people can have a very severe reaction to the bite. We used to encounter them nesting in epiphytes when we had a native plant collecting business years ago. You only make the mistake of not checking for them once.

    Reply
  3. Thank you for helping me ID this bug. One creature is currently guarding its clutch of eggs/larvae on a bamboo leaf on my balcony in Subang. Should I Rehome it?
    I can provide a photograph.

    Reply
  4. Thank you for helping me ID this bug. One creature is currently guarding its clutch of eggs/larvae on a bamboo leaf on my balcony in Subang. Should I Rehome it?
    I can provide a photograph.

    Reply
  5. Hi. I’m from the philippines. I saw one ant looking like the green tree ant here in the philippines while Im on may vacation. I have a picture but i font know to upload it.

    Reply

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