Meat ant cover 1 (Credit to Miopixia, Flickr)meat ant cover photo bill and mark bellftj


How do meat ants acquire their food?
Iridomyrmex purpureus is an aggressive and dominant species of ant that forages in great numbers (Harris and Berry 2013).  Meat ants are omnivorous, eating both plants and animals, foraging mostly during daylight hours.  The ants collect live and dead invertebrates and acquire the meat of dead vertebrates, which is where they gained their name of “Meat Ants” as they clean carcasses (Queensland Museum 2013; Australian Museum 2010).  Often, a number of nests will spread over a wide area of one colony and be connected by a large number of trails, creating super nests (Australian Museum 2010).  These trails are used to travel between nests and to trees which provide seeds for foraging, mutualistic relationship grounds with caterpillars, and insects as food.  Foragers are more active during the summer season due to the New South Wales citrus orchard nearly halting over winter (Harris and Berry 2013). 
Do these ants interact withMeat Ant on Leaf any other species?
The meat ants typically form a mutualistic relationship with caterpillars of different butterflies, such as Lycaenid larvae.  The ants protect the larvae from predation in an exchange for sugary fluids secreted by the butterflies (Harris and Berry 2013; Australian Museum 2010). 
What predators are typical?
Meat ants are extremely aggressive towards other species of ants and are the dominant species of the Australian ant population. I. purpureus will be aggressive to other neighboring colonies to establish borders and territorial grounds (Australian Museum 2010).  They typically travel in large numbers which fends off predators, but there are spiders that mimic and prey upon the meat ant.  Although the method is effective, this typically will not hinder population due to large colony sizes (Harris and Berry 2013). 
Does it affect humans or serve as a use to us?
These ants do not serve much use to us besides the beneficial carcass foraging that they partake in.  They help clean up dead carcasses and rid of the waste.  Meat ants do possess a slight risk for impact on horticulture.  The ants feed on seeds, create paths to trees or vegetation and use them as sites for foraging and mutualistic relationships (Harris and Berry 2013). 

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