Author Matthew Connors ◦
Alright, it’s time! Finally, I present to you all: The Best Ant! Isn’t she beautiful?? This gorgeous girl is a major worker of Camponotus thadeus, or as I like to call her, the Punk Ant 😂 And on top of how amazing she looks, this is not only the first photograph of a major of this species, but the first ever live photos of this species!
Ever since I learnt about the existence of the Punk Ant, I’ve wanted to see one. That mohawk of bright golden hairs is just amazing, and she’s actually quite large too (for an ant!) – about 1.5cm. And for the ant nerds out there, this is the only species of Camponotus with a metapleural gland!
So of course, I just couldn’t resist going to see this ant for myself! And it’s quite close by – they’re found just 120 km from where I live in Cairns, Queensland. But as you can probably guess from the fact that it’s never been photographed alive before, it’s unfortunately not all that simple. You see, Punk Ants are mountain specialists, and they’re only found on a handful of remote peaks between Cooktown and the Daintree. It’s honestly an effort to even get to the base of these peaks, let alone the top – and of course, there’s no walking track or anything like that 😛
So we assembled a crack team of photographers, ant specialists, and explorers to go find this ant and get some photographs! We were lead by Lewis Roberts, an amazing local naturalist who knew the Mt Finnigan better than I know my backyard. He took us up through open woodland, across a river, along a ridgeline covered in incredibly dense vegetation, and finally all the way up to the pristine rainforest at the top of the mountain. After several hours hiking in 40+ degree heat (we chose a bad weekend 😑), we started seeing these wonderful ants at about 840m elevation! Surprisingly they were absent from our campsite up higher at 950m, but we saw lots of other cool creatures to make up for it.
So, was the trip worth it to see The Best Ant?? Of course! They’re such a stunning species and I’m so happy to be able to show them to the world 😃
Would I do it again? Well…… that’s a different matter 😂 Although with the number of potentially new species we encountered, I don’t doubt that I will find myself on Mt Finnigan again some day!
And just in case you thought this was all I had for you, remember that I did drag along my excellent photographer friend She’s got Legs – Australian Spider and Insect Photography, so don’t forget to check out the much better photos she has of this amazing ant!
Footnote & References
- Yellow Monday – Matthew Connors Nature Photography, https://www.facebook.com/YellowMondayMC
- matthew_connors, Matthew Connors, iNaturalistAU, https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/people/659121
- She’s got Legs – Australian Spider and Insect Photography, https://www.facebook.com/shesgotlegsphotography
- Ultra-rare ‘punk ant’ with Sid Vicious-like mohawk photographed in Far North Queensland, ABC Far North / ABC News, by Chris Calcino and Adam Stephen, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-01-20/sid-vicious-punk-ant-photographed-far-north-queensland/103369530