How many different species of ants do you think live in your backyard?

By Dr Chris Burwell, Senior Curator of Insects at Queensland Museum

A close up of a small worker of a species of Pheidole.

Small yellow ones that raid your kitchen, bigger black ones that crawl over your plants, even bigger metallic green ones that sting when you go barefoot in the garden. Three species, five species, ten species?

The answer will probably be more than you think, depending on where you call home.

If you live in a high rise apartment then it won’t be many, but if you have a backyard or a nature strip it could be lots. My house in the western suburbs of Brisbane has both, and lots of trees, bushes and leaf litter, which is great habitat for a wide variety of ants.

With many of us now working from home this is a great chance to explore your own surroundings and see how many ants are also working inside and outside your homes.

After two weeks I’ve already found 45 species. Many are very small and inconspicuous but there’s a way to coax them out that you could try too. Prepare them a picnic lunch!

Ant lunch treats.DSCN2002
A plate of tasty treats that the ants will love, sugary jam and honey, and oily peanut butter.

All you need are some small squares of card or thick paper smeared with a something tasty; sweet jam or honey, oily peanut butter or tinned tuna. Scatter them around on the ground, and somewhere your pets can’t get to them. All you need to do next is wait, it won’t take long, the ants will soon arrive. Be careful though, some of your lunch guests might sting, so it’s better to look and not touch.

To find out more visit our website here or if you have a specific question about ants or any other wildlife around your home submit it via ‘Ask an Expert.’