Crematogaster peringueiy

Commonly known as the black cocktail ant or swartwipgatmier (Afrikaans)

These ants are always immediately recognizable for their ability to ‘cock their tails’, ie raise their gasters almost over their heads when alarmed.  The gaster contains the ant’s heart, digestive system, and chemical weaponry.  

Crematogaster do not actually sting their prey or enemies, but instead exude volatile defensive (and offensive!) chemicals at enemies and any perceived threats.  Their bite can be painful, but their mandibles are too small and weak to draw blood.

Ants are equipped to help the environment.  Crematogaster peringueiy build elaborate organic ‘carton’ nests in bushes and trees, constructed of chewed vegetable matter resembling brown papier maché.  They use the same material to build sun and rain shelters over their aphid farms.  This organic matter also provides a good environment for the germination and development of seeds and seedlings.

Ants are important to the fynbos of the Western Cape because they bury indigenous seeds.  Many types of ants eat the nutritious sugary coating (known as an elaiosome) surrounding the seeds of fynbos plants. To do this they take the seeds still containing the elaiosome into the ant nest. Once the elaiosome has been eaten, the seed remains in the nest. The nest then provides protection to the seed from predators or other environmental damage, such as fire.  Some fynbos rarities, long thought to be extinct, have reappeared more than fifty years later thanks to seeds which have survived underground in ant nests.