Honeypot Individuals in an Australian Rainforest Ant Species

A Photograph and Note on Honeypot Individuals in an Australian Rainforest Ant Species

BY Julian O’Dea PhD, Canberra, Australia.


This photograph was taken by Mr Sam Wilson of Cairns in rainforest in North Queensland, Australia. It is used with his kind permission.

The species was identified as Leptomyrmex ruficeps.

Leptomyrmex ruficeps is known to be primarily a rainforest species, and these were found in rainforest beside a permanent creek.

The species is interesting given its rainforest habitat, in contrast to the arid or semi-arid habitats favoured by many other honeypot ants. It is also interesting to see that the repletes, or at least ants that look like they are on the way to becoming repletes in the above photograph (given their distended abdomens and attendant separation of the sclerites), are able to move freely and even carry immature individuals. This is despite the fact that many sources stress the immobility of repletes. The individual on the left provides a good comparison with the replete ants in the centre and right of the shot.

After I put this paper on Academia.edu here, I had the following chat with a commenter:

Adeyinka Aladesida:
Hello, I saw your post on the honeypot ants and got thinking. Could it be that the distention in the individuals captured in your photograph has not reached its maximum. I’m surprised these are mobile, I was discussing with a colleague and came up with the earlier thought.
Julian O’Dea:

Thanks Adeyinka. I did wonder the same thing. That is, perhaps they are not fully distended and so they can still move. Most of the photographs of replete ants of “honeypot ants” show them with more distended abdomens than in the picture in my note. However there is still some marked distention and the sclerites are separated in the Leptomyrmex ruficeps. But it is possible that in this species the repletes are able to remain active. Here is an interesting photo I just found of some Prenolepis imparis individuals including “repletes”. Perhaps in some species some at least of the repletes have less distended abdomens and are able to remain more active.


And here is another photo by Alex Wild of some Leptomyrmex erythrocephalus individuals including a “replete” holding a larva:



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Julian O'Dea on February 17, 2017 at 2:42 am

    Alex Wild’s photos are mentioned above. This is an interview with the man:



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