Known by many names, acrobat ants are a nuisance insect but aren’t as problematic as many other ant species. These ants are known by a variety of names, including the cocktail ant and Saint Valentine ant. All resulting from their abdomen, these names can help to identify the ants. Brown or yellowish in coloration, acrobat ants have an abdomen shaped like a heart, and they are able to raise it above their heads if alarmed or threatened.
This abdominal behavior can also help with the production of venom, which these insects use both in defense and in food gathering. Predators by nature, acrobat ants will sting their food to help disable it, while also releasing pheromones to let other ants within the colony know that prey has been found. Their preferred prey is wasps, but also will eat grasshoppers and termites. Equipped with pad-like projections called arolia, these ants can actually carry prey back to the nest single-handed, even when the nests are found in trees. However, they will recruit additional help whenever it is available.
Like many species of ants, acrobat ants live in colonies ruled by a large queen ant. This queen was originally winged, as was her mate. However, shortly after their mid-flight mating, the king ant dies, and the queen removes her wings upon landing. Under the queen are soldier ants, which help to protect the colony from threats and are the hunter-gatherers of the colony. At the bottom of the pecking order are worker ants, the smallest of the ants within the colony, who mainly raise the colony’s young.
Considered an arboreal species of ant, acrobat ant nests are often found in wood and trees. However, this can also mean that they will often nest in dark and damp areas, particularly around areas where firewood is stored, or in holes and tunnels left behind by termites or carpenter ants. The easiest way to eliminate these pests is to dry out the areas where they have inhabited.
Did You Know?
These ants do not cause damage to the trees or plants where they take up residence, and can actually help the plants by attacking predators.