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Ants Mimicry - Myrmecomorphy

Myrmecomorphy are arthropods that have evolved a morphological resemblance to ants.
Ants - the model of Ants Mimicry
Ants are the most abundant group of insects and have powerful defense mechanisms such as acid taste, aggressive biting, painful sting, and group defense. Ants are generally not subject to predation. They are the ideal models in mimicry rings. Many insects and spiders have different ways to resemble ants. This is known as Myrmecomorphy.

Myrmecomorphy highlights an important aspect of mimicry - the behavior. Predators use different aspects of prey appearance when making a decision to attack. Behavior is an important part of multi-modal signals. Constant waving of antennae is a common feature of ants. Ants are also characterized by their jerky and zigzag  movements.  Those ants behaviour are commonly seen in the ant mimics. 
Followings are the examples that we found in the Ants Mimicry Rings. ALL of them are NOT ants.

Ant-mimicking Jumping Spiders - Family Salticidae
Jumping Spider, Salticidae is a very large family contains the most colourful species of spiders. The Myrmarachne genus mimic ants. Besides the colours and body shape, those spiders' behaviour likes an ant too. They continuously waving their front legs as ants waving their antenna. However, when disturbed, the spiders ran very fast and jumped as a typical Jumping Spider. We also noticed that those jumping spiders did not interact with its ant model, i.e., did not prey on foraging ants. They may simply gain protection by mimicking the locally abundant ant species. Click here on details about Ant-mimicking Jumping Spiders.

Ant-mimic Lynx Spider - Family Oxyopidae
We saw this spider once in Alexander Hill. It was hunting on a small Acacia tree, where ants with similar shape and colour can also be found. When hunting, the spider walk like an ant. When disturbed, it ran much faster than an ant. We observed that this spider was actively interact with ants near by. They may mimic ants as a trick to approach and prey on its ant model , i.e., aggressive mimicry. We need more observations to confirm this.

Ant-mimicry in Katydid nymph - Family Tettigoniidae
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We will never guess they are the first instars of the Katydids until we saw their development. They are dark brown and some are black in colour. They are quite large, about 10mm in body length. They just look like large black ants. This is an advantage to the young instars for most predators will avoid armed ants. They have very long antennae, about four times their body length. They are very active, running and jumping between plants. Details please click on here.

Ant-mimicry in Assassin Bug nymph - Family Reduviidae
Quite a number of bug1st instars, order Hemiptera, resemble ants, including this Assassin Bug. When hatched from eggs, those young bugs stay together, look like a group of ants which most predators will avoid.

Ant-mimicry in Coreid Bug nymph - Family Coreidae
Coreid Bug 1st Instars also mimic ants to gain protections. They have a pair of long antennae and three pair of long legs. Their heads are black, thoraxes are yellow and abdomens are red. They stay together for a few days. At this stage, they look like ants.

Ant-mimic Bug - Family Lygaeidae 
Yes, this is a true bug, Hemiptera. Its body colour and behaviour is mimicking the black ant. It was found wandering on a large gum tree trunk, where a lot of black ants is running around. It did not have the waist, which is the characteristic of all ants, but its body colour pattern mimics just exactly this.

Ant-mimic Bug Nymph - Pod-sucking Bug
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The adult Pod-Sucking Bugs and different stages of instars on the Easter Cassia (Senna pendula) cylindrical seedpods. The small Pod-Sucking Bug nymph mimics black ants.

Ant-mimicking Longicorn Beetle
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? Ochrya sp. body length 20mm
We saw this Ant-mimicking Longicorn Beetle once in Karawatha Forest during early summer. It was a cloudy day. The beetle was resting on a leaf until we disturbed it. It then slowing walked away. The patterns on the beetle's back made the beetle looked like a large black ant, with eyes on large head, narrow waist and round abdomen.
Fly waving wings mimicking group of Ants
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Subfamily Tephritinae, body length 6mm
We found this fly mimics ants when moves. By just looking at those fly photos, you may not recognize how this fly mimics ants. When we first saw this fly, it was walking on a board leaf. When moving, it waved its wings alternatively. We thought we was watching a small group of ants moving prey or two ants running in panic/alert mode. We believe the mimic was target to fool the predator that hunt by visual, such as the jumping spiders, lynx spiders or small mantids. Most insects predators will avoid the panicking ants or ants with prey. Look at the second photo and with a bit of imagination, you may see an black ant pattern on each wing. 

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Last updated: November 05, 2008.