Basketballs in the trees

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On my recent visit to the coastal forests of Kwazulu-Natal I noticed basketball-like growths on many of the Acacia trees.  In North America, any large gray ball you see hanging off a tree branch is liable to be a hornet’s nest.  In South America, it’s probably a carton nest of fierce little Azteca ants. The equivalent in South Africa?  I didn’t know.

A little bit of poking around in the acacias revealed the culprit.  It was Crematogaster tricolor, an orange ant about half a centimeter long:

They didn’t appreciate the disturbance, apparently, because they came after me without hesitation:

6 thoughts on “Basketballs in the trees”

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  2. James C. Trager

    I’m going to guess the Schmidt rating for this one is fairly low, as it is for most (all?) Crematogaster spp. Indeed, I think the most any species in this genus does is pinch with the mandibles, then smear venom with a spatulate sting, rather than pierce and inject venom. But they make up for the small pain inflicted by an individual with aggressive behavior and numbers!

    The ant is a beauty, well-named, and beautifully rendered in the images.

  3. Johan Pretorius

    James you’re right – the rating is very low. They will quickly swarm all over the parts of your body touching any substrate to which the nest is attached and bite – which is more irritating than painfull.

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