The Australian Bull Ant: A Very Big Ant Indeed

It was more than four years ago when I had my first and only battle with an Australian bull ant and it didn’t end up as you would have expected.

I thought I had done everything right; I’d armed myself with a quite thick instruction manual, I’d taken a pretty accurate swipe, I’d knocked the critter to the floor, but…

Well, to find out what did happen to Antbo, the affectionate name I gave to this monster of an ant, have a read of my post…

In that post, I also refer to the critter as a ‘Giant Bull Ant‘; not sure if that’s technically true, but it was a big ant all the same.

Back to Melbourne

So, we were actually on Phillip Island during our holiday in Melbourne and we had decided to check out one of the beaches. To get to it, we needed to go down this path…

Phillip Island beach pathThe reward for travelling down the path would be stunning views…

Beach view (1)


Beach view (2)But our journey along this path was not without its dangers. About halfway down, there it was. I don’t know if we actually saw it first or felt the vibrations as this monster walked across our paths.

We were lucky this fellow was on his own, they normally hang around in gangs which they scarily prefer to refer to as ‘armies’.

I managed to take a photo of this big boy before he disappeared under some leaves. Once he’d disappeared from sight though, I wasn’t prepared to go rummaging amongst the foliage to try to find him again to take any more. This thing has large mandibles; think jaws, sort of, and I didn’t want my fingers anywhere near them.

Here’s the picture, can you see him? He’s in here somewhere…

Bull Ant - where are youLet’s get a bit closer…

Bull AntThis should do it…

Bull Ant Close-upAustralian bull ants

There are about 90 species of these bull ants here in Australia and they are as feared in the ant world as they are by humans. Get this; Queen bull ants have been known to walk straight into the nest of another species of ants, kill their Queen ant and take over the colony.

Charming. Think “Game of Thrones”.

It doesn’t matter how big you are either, they will attack if they need to.

Get too close to one of these ant colonies and they will be streaming out of their nest and literary chasing you. If this happens to you, don’t be embarrassed, just….

Run away!!

They are very aggressive and have extremely painful venomous stings.

Their sizes range from around 8 mm to 40 mm, the one I saw was at least 20 to 25 mm and bordering on the biggest ant I have ever seen.

Whatever you choose to call them, bull ants, bulldog ants, jumper ants, sergeant ants, inch ants or even Mymecia if you want to get all scientific, it matters not; they are big ants and not to be messed with.

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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • James November 6, 2019, 2:23 am |

    Jack jumpers scare me more than any spiders, just so aggressive.

    • BobinOz November 8, 2019, 4:08 pm |

      Especially scary when they roam around in gangs, as they sometimes do.

  • pixie October 8, 2016, 3:44 am |

    I have a nest in my yard I thought it could be a sleepy lizards, but on closer inspection, its a BIG black sucker of an ant!!! 40mm I’ve been bitten on bottom of my foot by one and OUTCH!!!!!! no idea how to get rid of them…… They don’t seem aggressive, they take a look then wander off, mostly active at night…. Any ideas anyone??? They are entirely black and like I said 40mm

    • BobinOz October 10, 2016, 4:25 pm |

      Gosh, 40 mm is one very big ant. According to my critter Bible, the largest ant we have here in Queensland is the Giant Bull Ant at between 15 mm and 36 mm. It’s not black though, more reddish-brown.

      These things to her when they bite, so who knows, you could just have a darker version of them. Other than that, I don’t know what they could be, but I’d stay away if I were you 🙂

  • yaba August 20, 2016, 1:54 pm |

    My sister just got bitten by one today….. it went strait for the shoe and actually managed to bite through, but it got stuck in it, we had to pull it off and now the swelling from the bite is the size of her ankle

    • BobinOz August 21, 2016, 7:24 pm |

      Yes, their bite can be quite nasty, I hope your sister is all right and that the swelling goes down quickly.

  • John Oh February 19, 2014, 5:33 pm |

    Ya poke a stick at them and watch em rear up and chase you…a bit like pulling the ponytails on girls… I like girls chasing me, but theyre a bit slow these days.
    Or a “Yo mama so stupid she thinks fangs for the mamary is an instruction”
    The Bull dog ant are a species, the inchman and the jack jumper are definitely different types btw.
    The inchman is the most venomous of the bulldog ants, ranging from about 15 to 25 mm (0.6 to 1.0 in) long, but less aggressive than the Jack jumper ant. These ants are purplish-brown, with a black abdomen. The symptoms of the stings of the ants are similar to stings of the fire ants.
    Watch where you squat if you have to trot in the bush. Those testicles seem fairly common targets. Even redbacks are attracted for some reason… There’s even song about it:

    • BobinOz February 20, 2014, 8:43 pm |

      Ah, a classic song from Slim there, from the good old days. Beauty!

      Getting jumped by an ant doesn’t sound very pleasant and I will think long and hard before deciding I really can’t wait to get back to civilisation before squatting in any kind of outback, I just don’t fancy the risks.

      But then John’s (the other John, first comment) mate knows all about that.

      Cheers, Bob

  • John February 12, 2014, 8:43 pm |

    Try getting bitten on the testicle by one of these bad boys! Obviously I’m not recommending this to anyone, but I do know of a case involving a friend of the family. Makes me wince to even think about. It’s funny now…but, when it happened, by God, there must’ve been some swearing! A religious experience almost.

    • BobinOz February 13, 2014, 9:42 pm |

      If it’s all the same with you, I’d rather try NOT getting bitten on a testicle by one of these bad boys.

      I’d also prefer to try not thinking about it, but now that you’ve said it….

      • John Oh February 18, 2014, 10:43 pm |

        Some “bull”from John Oh: AS Kids in Tasmania, we used to tease them and were not bitten as rule no 1 applies. “don’t let em bite you”. Some people go into apoplectic shock when bitten, and not always the first or second time…
        The bull ant’s stinger is located in the abdomen. The jaws of the bull ant workers are quite gentle unlike many other ants. They feed on other insects and things such as honeydew from scale insects.
        All ants have two sets of jaws, the outer pair is used for carrying objects and for digging while the inner pair is used for chewing. All ants play an important role in the environment. They will dispose of rotting plants and dead animals ranging from a little mouse to a big elephant. But elephants are a little hard to find in Australia.

        • BobinOz February 19, 2014, 4:57 pm |

          Is that because the ants have eaten them all? I’m jesting.

          How do you tease an ant anyway? “Oi, titch, call that an abdomen?” That sort of thing?

          Seriously though, some interesting information about ants there John and I’m sure they do play an important part in our environment, just wish there were so many of them.

          Cheers, Bob

        • IanG November 19, 2016, 12:40 pm |

          “apoplectic”: adjective
          1 [informal] overcome with anger; furious: Mark was apoplectic with rage at the decision.
          2 [dated] relating to or denoting apoplexy (stroke): an apoplectic attack.

          Try “anaphylactic” instead!

          • BobinOz November 22, 2016, 7:04 pm |

            Yes, that is all correct IanG, but John Oh, who comments here quite regularly, lives in a slightly alternative universe than we do. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that. I can imagine him going into an apoplectic shock 🙂

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