Southern Meat Ant

Iridomyrmex purpureus

Southern Meat Ant, Iridomyrmex purpureus. A worker of the Southern Meat Ant, Iridomyrmex purpureus. nest mound of the Southern Meat Ant A huge nest mound of the Southern Meat Ant covered with small pebbles. Southern Meat Ant workers Southern Meat Ant workers clustered around one of the entrances to the nest.

This species builds large, domed, oval nest mounds that are bare of vegetation and covered with small pebbles. The mound has many entrance holes, each leading to an independent system of galleries which do not join up with each other underground. A single meat ant colony may consist of several nest mounds connected by well-worn paths.

When the mounds are walked on, the workers ‘boil’ out of the entrance holes to defend the nest. They do not sting, but have mild bite and spray an irritant chemical from the tip of the gaster.

This species prefers open forest and woodlands and is widespread in south-eastern Australia with an isolated population in the MacDonnell Ranges in central Australia.


The workers are mostly active during the day but are sometimes also active at night. They gather live and dead invertebrates and strip the meat from dead vertebrates. A large part of their food supply is honeydew from sap-sucking insects.


Workers are about 6-7 mm long and mostly reddish or reddish-brown with a slightly paler head and a darker gaster. The body has iridescent reflections which are purple between the eyes and on the sides of head. All the workers within the nest are similar in size. There are several very similar species of meat ants that differ in the colour of their bodies and their iridescent reflections.


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