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The Preferred Habitat of the Jack Jumper Ant (Myrmecia pilosula): a Study in Hobart, Tasmania

posted on 2023-05-26, 13:46 authored by Evans, MJ
The jack jumper ant (Myrmecia pilosula), a member of the primitive Myrmecia genus of ants, is well known for its aggressive behaviour and painful, sometimes dangerous sting. However, although the ant is well known to Tasmanians, there are few published studies of its biology or ecology. This project is an attempt to address this lack of research and seeks to explore the interaction between humans and jack jumpers by understanding better the preferred habitat of the ant. Two studies were undertaken within the boundaries of the study area: Hobart City Council, Tasmania, Australia. In the first study, jack jumper nests were searched for ten times in transects, in each of the natural vegetation types. Data were collected on the presence or absence of jack jumper nests, vegetation type, vegetation structure, moss cover, bare ground cover, coarse woody debris cover, rock cover, litter cover, litter depth, and distance to nearest tree as well as observations made about each nest that was found. In the second study, residents of Hobart were surveyed using a questionnaire regarding the features of their property and whether they had ever seen a jack jumper nest or ant on their property. They were also asked to outline the circumstances in which they were stung. To analyse the data, thematic analyses, correlation analyses, analysis of variance, Wilcoxon tests, chi-square testing, logistic regression and ordination were used. The results of the study showed that, within the Hobart City Council boundary, jack jumpers are co-extensive with dry eucalypt open woodlands. These warm, dry and relatively open environments provide the ant with a combination of insolation for warmth and vegetation for food resources such as nectar and invertebrate prey. They also utilise the radiative warmth of rocks and dry soil and often enhance their nest’s thermal capacity with decorations of seeds, soil, charcoal, stones, sticks and sometimes small vertebrate bones. In a suburban context the ants are associated with native vegetation whilst utilising cracks in concrete, walls, rockeries, dry dirt and dry grassy areas to construct nests. The suburbs with a significant matrix of native vegetation such as Mt. Nelson, Fern Tree and West Hobart all contain the ants, whereas the heavily built up areas of Battery point and North Hobart do not. Humans are most likely to be stung by a jack jumper ant in their property when carrying out outdoor duties such as gardening or collecting firewood. They may also be stung whilst walking bare foot. A common sense approach should be employed in order to avoid a sting from a jack jumper. For those wishing to live in areas that do not contain the ant, the built up suburbs of Hobart are recommended.





School of Geography, Planning and Spatial Sciences


University of Tasmania

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