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Not evaluated (IUCN 3.1)
The sugar ant (Camponotus consobrinus), also known as the banded sugar ant, is a relatively large ant, identifiable by its orange-brown body, black head, and mandibles. The sugar ant's name comes from its liking for sugar, but it is attracted to savory foods as well. Sugar ants are commonly referred to as pests, but their bites are not painful. Contrary to popular belief, the sugar ant is not related to the ghost ant, nor the similarly looking bulldog ant, although the latter share similar colours, like the red and black sections of their bodies. They are found in many parts of the world, including the United States.
Sugar ants are one of the largest groups of ants in Australia and the United States and species vary in shape, size, and color. Worker ants vary from 5 to 15 millimetres (0.20 to 0.59 in), depending on location and species. Their bodies are a brownish-orange color, and they have relatively large black heads, with protruding mandibles. Depending on caste, sugar ants vary in size. A soldier ant is easily noticed by its fairly large body and mandibles compared to workers.
Distribution and habitat
The sugar ant is located throughout all of Australia and the United States and is commonly found in urban areas, forests, woodlands, and heaths. Nests are commonly found in a variety of sites, including holes in wood, roots of plants, twigs of trees and shrubs, between rocks, and in the soil. In the soil, sugar ant nests are easily recognised by the large dirt grain hill constructed surrounding the hole.
Contrary to its name, the sugar ant does not primarily feed on sugary foods. Sugar ants are in fact omnivores, collecting nectar and other liquid secretions from plants and honeydew from aphids and other plant-eating invertebrates, such as caterpillars. Sugar ants also feed on other insects or any other animal they can forage. Most of their meat comes from scavenging dead animals.
Sugar ants are mostly nocturnal, and workers can often be seen heading out at dusk in marked trails to forage for food. They can also be seen during the day, but are more active during the night. They are more active during the warmer seasons, especially summer. During winter, they keep a low profile.
Sugar ants collect secretions made by plant-eating insects. Of these, aphids are the most prominent. Sugar ants tend aphids much like farmers tend their stock, moving them around and protecting them from predators. This behaviour is mutually beneficial to both parties, as the ants protect the aphid from predation and the aphid provides a sap-like liquid to the ants.
When provoked, a sugar ant will lift up its abdomen and use its large mandibles to fend off an attacker. If further provoked, the sugar ant (depending on species) can defend itself by spraying acid from their abdomens to deter predators. If the nest is attacked, however, hundreds of ants will attack in force. Unlike some other ants, sugar ants do not sting and thus do not pose any threat to humans, even when swarming. Bites are noticeable but do not cause any pain.
During late spring to early autumn, the queen sugar ant produces eggs that hatch into new queens and males (alates). These alates (winged reproductive ants) are completely black (with some variations between species), compared to the orange-coloured workers. During late autumn, hundreds to thousands of alates will mate in the air, with hundreds of workers keeping guard on the ground.
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