Savvy Acrobat Ants Make The Most Of Damage Caused By Other Insects

Our Texas insect expert answers common questions about bugs.

By Laura RiceDecember 19, 2018 2:55 pm,

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Office insect specialist Wizzie Brown says acrobat ants sound like adorable insects, but they can cause problems for plants and wooden structures.

Brown says acrobat ants are sometimes mistaken for carpenter ants because they’re often found around damaged wooden structures. But acrobats look pretty different than their carpenter counterparts.

“They are going to be much smaller than carpenter ants,” Brown says. “They’re usually a brownish-red [color] and then they have this bluish-black abdomen, and it’s a little heart shape if you look close, which makes it very easy to discern.”

She says they got their name because they lift the bottom part of their segmented body – their abdomen – when they’re agitated.

“If you poke at them, they will lift their abdomen over their head and thorax,” Brown says. “They look like little, tiny acrobats, which … is so incredibly cute for a bug.”

Brown says acrobat ants are “honeydew tenders.”  Honeydew is a sweet, sugary substance produced by other bugs like aphids and mealy bugs, and Brown says the ants will protect those insects from predators and parasites in order to protect the honeydew. That means the acrobats protect the bugs that destroy some plants.

Brown says the acrobats will also nest in hollowed-out wood that’s been damaged by termites, water or wood-boring beetles.

Listen to the rest of the audio in the player above.

Written by Caroline Covington.