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Odontomachus rixosus

 

Commonly known as:

The Asian Trap-jaw Ant.

 

     These are slender ants which are red in color and about 9-10 mm in length. Colonies are not large and usually consist of two - three hundred individuals. They nest on the ground but do not excavate their nests preferring instead to make use of ready made cavities in places such as pieces of old wood or inside dead bamboo stems.

     When undisturbed their movements are calm and deliberate and they slowly walk around with their mandibles set in 'trap position' probing with their long antennae. However, when their nest is disturbed they can move quickly and will defend it by latching onto your hand and delivering a very painful sting.

     The queens are very similar to the workers in size and coloration and only recognized apart by an enlarged thorax and slightly larger abdomen. It is a polygynous species and mature established colonies will often contain several queens.

     In their natural habitat they are difficult to find and observe as they prefer to forage at night under leaf litter and when disturbed they quickly move away. During the day you will rarely find any workers out of the nest.

 

     They can be kept in captivity relatively easily and readily take sugared water and both dead and live insects. A favorite food is small newly hatched crickets which are simply put into their enclosure alive - and will be found in the ant’s brood chamber the next morning.

         

     They do not climb much but prefer to forage mostly at ground level although they will explore along fallen branches.

     In their natural habitat during the winter and hot season when food is scarce they only raise a small amount of brood and colonies frequently only have a dozen or so pupae. However, once the rainy season starts and food becomes more freely available the queens quickly start to lay more eggs and they will raise much larger broods. 

 

     Because this species is capable of giving a painful sting we will only sell colonies to customers over the age of 18 - or with a signed parental consent form. Please contact us for more details.

  • Top: A queen recognizable by her enlarged thorax and slightly larger abdomen.
  • Above: A queen near a batch of newly laid eggs.

 

     The name trap-jaw comes from their specially evolved hunting technique. They have a long pair of hooked mandibles and the workers forage with their mandibles held open at 180 degrees. These automatically snap shut on pray when sensory hairs on the inside of the mandibles are touched. The force of the mandibles closing on the pray either kills it or stuns it and this followed with a potent sting which further paralyses the prey - enables the ant to catch prey which would normally quickly escape other ant species.

 

     Ants of this genus are recorded as having the fastest self-powered predatory strike in the animal kingdom. One study on O. bauri recorded peak speeds of between 126 – 230 km hr (78 to 143 mph) with the jaws closing in just 130 microseconds.

 

     These ants are also capable of launching themselves into the air by snapping their jaws shut against the ground or other hard object. These strikes serve two main purposes. When they are attacking a large intruder a mandible strike catapults the ant away from the intruder protecting the ant from a retaliatory strike and when the ants are intentionally trying to escape a predator they will also strike their jaws against the ground and the action flings them into the air – landing hopefully out of harms way. The distance jumped depends on the species but heights of 8 cm and a horizontal distance of 30-38 cm have been recorded.

 

Summery: Because of their unusual hunting method this is a fascinating species to keep - but you should avoid handling the ants as they have a very painful sting.