Honeypot ants or honey ants belong to any of several genera (Camponotus and Melophorus in Australia). They are part of the diet of various indigenous Australians. Papunya, an indigenous community in Australia’s Northern Territory, was named after a honey ant creation story.
These ants are fed by other worker ants until their abdomens expand enormously. Their abdomens are inflated to a very huge size (such as a grape) by a gas bubble that is displaced by a sugar liquid. In this way, they can later serve as a food source for the other ants when food is scarce.
They are found in arid or semi-arid environments and some species live in very hot deserts. The ants are collected by removing the surface of the ground to find the vertical ant heap where the honey ants are located. The Aborigines dig a vertical shaft away from the ants’ nest and then tunnel in the side to reach the nest and the gallery where the Honeypot ants reside. They take only a small portion of the honeypot ants population for consumption, then close up the shaft to protect the nest.The ants’ shaft can be dug down to almost two meters.
Once gathered, they are eaten directly or crushed as a sweet food of the desert. In some places, such as the Australian outback, honeypot ants are eaten by Aboriginal people as a source of sugar.