When is an ant not an ant?

09 March, 2008

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 (Diamma bicolour) 

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 (discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au).

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.

Comments (10)

sort by
Kate Edwards 8 March, 2010 15:19
I have seen one of these in my garden today (mount martha) I was amazed at the colour and size!! I was concerend for my 2 children , but was unable to kill it and let it be - it had moved on withing 10 minutes when I returned to look. My children both saw it and I told them to never go near them and tell me if they saw one again! Are these common around the area I live? Next time I will take a photograph!
Discovery Centre 9 March, 2010 16:23

Hi Kate,

if what you saw was the species Diamma bicolor, this can be found in Tasmania, NSW, South Australia and Victoria. This species has no interest in people but if you step on one it is likely to sting in self defence.


ss 11 July, 2011 10:34
wow, can u please not just go straight to "omg got to kill it"
iris 23 November, 2011 14:21
funney thing i was out side with my dog when i saw it(looked like a jack jumper but bigger and red legs) i fort it was the queen juck jumper but i wasnt shure so i grabed a plastic contanier and placed it on top of it and tied the dog up because it tryed to eat it than i and whent to get mum she said it was a blue bottle and was very dangrous i was told to sqush it i didnt relley whant to but my dog keped on tryin to eat it when i whent back inside i asked mum how dangrous it was she said that she wasnt shure so i did a web serch and now i know it was a type of wasp i gess i shoud have known it was a wasp it had the same kind defences and body stuchere and sroy if i have any spelling misstakes
Discovery Centre 14 March, 2012 10:33
Hi David, there are a number of species that it might be, Myrmecia piliventris and Myrmecia fulvipes are a couple of the examples. If you can get some images feel free to send them to discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au
Ric 7 August, 2012 19:20
Just wanted to check if the bluebottle was an ant or wasp since Steve Backshall is claiming some South American ant as the most poisonous ant- as a kid living in Vic (60's/70's) I recall a couple of stings that matched Steve Backshall's claims. But yes this is a wasp. However, we also have jumping jacks in Oz, and a number of deaths from anaphylaxis have been attributed to them in the last 30 years. We use to use bracken fern to relieve the pain in the bush, and when we got home mum would put the old blue bag on it.
Robert rosicka 24 October, 2015 10:56
Wondering what your email is so I can send a photo of an unusual green coloured stick insect
Discovery Centre 24 October, 2015 12:21
Hi Robert - feel free to contact us at discoverycentre@museum.vic.gov.au
Ocean 20 November, 2016 13:42
Hello. I just found my second bluebottle wasp. I have it now in my ant box. What can I feed her? I understand she hunts molecricket lavae for her young. But she must eat something. And how long will she live? I have some photos. I can send more in if you like. More of the scary ant! http://iob.imgur.com/uYGg/yal8R2LBry
Discovery Centre 2 December, 2016 10:29
Hi Ocean, 

Female Blue Ants, or Bluebottle Wasps (Diamma bicolor) (a wingless wasp of the Family Tiphiidae), feed on the nectar of low-growing flowers and honeydew produced by sap-sucking insects. Their lifespan as adults is unknown but would most likely be 6-12 months.

Write your comment below All fields are required

We love receiving comments, but can’t always respond.