Honey Ants

The Honey Ants are found in the Western Desert of Australia.

They have adapted to their environment and developed an unusual method of storing food for the colony to be used when regular food supplies run low.

The ants harvest honey dew, a by product of the digestion of Aphids.

The Aphids suck the sap from trees and produce sweet honey dew liquid which they secrete.

The ants use their antenna to stimulate the aphids to release this liquid.

A symbiotic relationship has developed between the aphids and ants with the ants looking after the aphids in order to maintain their harvest of honeydew.

In times of rain and good seasons the ants feed the excess honeydew to a special type of worker ant called repletes who stores the Honey Dew in their abdomens which can swell to the size of a small grape.

The repletes hang from the ceiling of the hives underground and in times when food stores run low they are able to provide food for the colony.

The Aboriginal tribes of the Western Desert dig into the ant colony’s to find the ants hive and to eat their honey, which is considered a delicacy.

The area around Papunya is known as the Honey Ant Dreaming site.


It was in this settlement of Papunya that a young art teacher Geoffrey Bardon in 1970 encouraged the elders of the tribe to paint a mural on the wall of the school.

He encouraged the men to use the symbols previously shown to him and used in sand drawings during ceremonies.

The encouragement offered by Geoffrey Barden to the local elders to create this mural showed the men that they had something of value to offer to the world.

This was the impetus to start the Aboriginal Art Movement which is the biggest modern day art movement in the world.