Question: Yesterday I saw an ant I have never seen before. It was about an inch long. Its whole body was shiny bright green and it had red legs. I don’t have a photo of it, but can you tell me what it was?
Answer: Museum Victoria has a free identification service. In order to give you a definitive identification, we would need to see a photograph or a specimen. However, the “ant” you described could be a female Diamma bicolour, commonly known as the Blue Bottle or Blue Ant.
A Blue Ant (note the curved antennae)
Photographer: Alan Henderson, Source: Museum Victoria
Blue Ants are actually wasps. They look very much like ants, but their antennae give them away. Ants have distinctly bent antennae; the antennae of Blue Ants are curved.
Female Blue Ants are large (up to 2.5cm long), solitary, wingless and metallic blue-green. Their spiny legs and curved antennae are orange-red in colour. The smaller males (up to 1.5cm) look quite different from the females. They are black with white spots and have wings.
The ground-dwelling females spend their time running about in search of mole cricket larvae. When they find one, they burrow into the soil to paralyse and lay an egg on it. When the baby wasp larva hatches, it feeds on the live, paralysed cricket grub.
If you would like to send us a specimen to identify, we would be very happy to receive it. You can either post us a photograph or a specimen (specimens should be placed in unbreakable containers and, if still alive, placed in the freezer overnight before they are posted). Our postal address is The Discovery Centre, Melbourne Museum, PO BOX 666, Melbourne, 3001. We are also very happy to receive photographs to identify via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
You can also bring specimens into the Discovery Centre in person. We are located on the lower ground level of the Melbourne Museum in Carlton. We are open from 10am to 4:30pm, seven days a week. Entry is free.
Please note: You should be careful around adult Blue Ant wasps: they have a very painful sting.