Don’t dick with the Dikbun

August 18, 2011

Red bull ant

When I was 6 years old, whilst on a camping holiday I inadvertently placed the leg of a camp chair smackbang on a bull-ant’s nest.  Understandably pissed-off, the soldier bull-ant’s launched a ferocious defence of their home.  I only recall jumping up squealing, then waking up in a tent with a lot of worried adults encircling me.

I recently read that several dreamings from the Northern Territory highlight ant’s ability to sting a dead person back to life.  That’s rather interesting: three years earlier my mother had attempted suicide and was none too happy to wake up and find out she was still alive.

Mayhaps the very real possibility that I could have succumbed to the bull-ant venom was the wake-up call for my mother to emerge from her zombie state of self-absorption. To get some gratitude going for what she did have in her life, and to cease mourning for what was gone.

As for me?  You betcha I’ve never sat on a bull-ant’s nest since and when I come across a nest, I leave a little pool of water for them……and then I run because these buggers chase you.

Dikbun (bull ant) by Colin Andy

About the painting

Bull ants are fierce little creatures. The sting of a bull ant is not barbed and does not remain in the victim, unlike the sting of a bee. The bull ant can sting again and again repeating its dose of nasties. The bull ant’s stinger is located in the abdomen. The jaws of the bull ant workers are quite gentle unlike many other ants. They feed on other insects and things such as honeydew from scale insects. The queen bull ant leaves the nest at night to forage and supplement the food supply of her progeny. (the baby bull ants) These ants have a red head and thorax but the abdomen are black. They make their nests underground and have quite extensive tunnel systems. You can usually identify a bull ant’s nest by the mound of dirt with rather large opening, sometimes several openings at the top. The dirt is loosely scattered around the mound and two or three bull ant guards (soldiers) can often be seen in the immediate area keeping a sharp eye out for any possible intruders.



  1. As a kid, I stepped on a red ant hill once when we were out in the bush berry picking. Those ants swarmed all over me in seconds. I was screaming and crying and my Mom had to strip off all my clothes to get the ants off me. Quite the experience! My Mom and I were just reminiscing about this a couple of weeks ago — we both still remember it well, more than 45 years later.

  2. After I blogged that, I found my copy of Robert Johnston’s “She”, opened it randomly ~ and read about how the ants helped Psyche sort out the seeds in one of the tasks Aphrodite set her. The ants being symbolic, in Robert’s interpretation, of the animus. Ants in our pants indeed!

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