Weaver ants are a species of ants from the genus Oecophylla. They’re found throughout tropical regions throughout the world, particularly in Southeast Asia. They’re known for their unique nests which they create by weaving leaves.
Weaver ant species include the Oecophylla longinoda and Oecophylla smaragdina.
In this article, we’ll learn more about weaver ants as we discuss the following:
- Characteristics of weaver ants
- Distribution of weaver ants
- Weaver ant habits
- How weaver ants build their nests
- Benefits of weaver ants
- Are weaver ants dangerous?
Characteristics of Weaver Ants
Weaver ants are relatively large ants with slender elongated bodies. They have distinctive waists that separate their thorax from the abdomen. 
Their size varies depending on the castes. Queens are usually around 20–25 millimeters (0.8–1.0 in) long. Workers, on the other hand, are polymorphic. Major workers are around 8–10 mm (0.31–0.39 in) in length while the minors are around half of that.
Weaver ants have large eyes which provide them with better vision than most ants. They are typically green or reddish to yellowish-brown in color.
Habitat and Distribution of Weaver Ants
Weaver ants are found in many tropical and subtropical regions. They’re found throughout the world including Asia, Australia, and Africa. They are most commonly found in forested areas, where they build nests in the canopy of trees.
Weaver Ant Habits
Weaver ants have unique and impressive nests. They build their nests by weaving leaves together with larval silk. These nests can range in size from a single leaf to large intricate structures. They can measure over half a meter in length.
These nests provide weaver ants with shelter and protection from predators. They are strong and impermeable to water. That said, they have to be regularly replaced as they can die out or get damaged by storms.
Weaver ants are polydomous. A single colony can have more than a hundred nests spanning a good number of trees.
Weaver ants are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders. They consume a variety of food sources depending on availability and preference. They commonly eat insects, spiders, nectar, honeydew, fruits, and seeds.
Weaver ants are particularly effective at hunting and preying on insects. However, they can also cooperate to hunt larger prey. They use their mandibles to subdue their victims and carry them to their nests.
Aside from predation, weaver ants form symbiotic relationships with plant pests like aphids. They protect these pests in exchange for honeydew.
Weaver ants follow the typical ant colony structure. They have 3 castes: queens, workers, and drones. These castes each have specific functions.
Queens are the only females in the colony capable of laying eggs. Their primary role is to reproduce and maintain the colony’s population.
Weaver ant colonies can either be monogynous or polygynous. This means that they can have 1 or more egg-laying queens.
Workers, on the other hand, are sterile females. They dedicate themselves to helping the queen and her brood. They do everything from finding food and nest maintenance.
Weaver ants have polymorphic workers. These workers are either minor or major. Major workers perform tasks outside the nest. These include foraging, defending, maintaining, and expanding the colony.
On the flip side, minor workers tend to stay within the nest, where they care for the brood.
Drones are produced when the colony needs to expand. Their sole purpose is to mate with virgin queens.
Monogynous weaver ants reproduce through swarming. At certain times of the year, winged reproductive ants fly out of their nests to swarm. They meet with other ants from different colonies and mate. After mating, the drones die, and the queens land and shed their wings.
The mated queens then search for a suitable location to start a new colony. Once they find a suitable site, the queen will dig a small hole in the soil and lay a small bunch of eggs. These eggs eventually hatch into her first workers.
On the other hand, polygynous weaver ants often expand through budding. In this process, they don’t fly out to swarm but instead, mate close to their nests. These mated queens then take some workers and break away to start new colonies.
How Do Weaver Ants Build Their Nests?
Weaver ants build their nests through the remarkable cooperation of their workers. They start by finding suitable leaves for nesting. These leaves are those that are flexible enough to bend and align with other nearby leaves.
Weaver ants pull the edges of these leaves together using their mandibles and legs. If the leaves are far from each other, they form ant chains by grasping each other’s waist. These chains help them pull large and out-of-reach leaves.
Once these leaves have been pulled together, the workers then bring out larvae from the nest. They tap the head of these larvae to cause them to excrete silk. This silk glues the leaves together to form a pouch-like structure.
Over time, the nest grows larger and more complex as the ants add new layers of leaves and silk.
Benefits of Weaver Ants
Weaver ants provide a number of benefits. These benefits are as follows::
Weaver ants play an important role in their ecosystem, both as predators and as prey. They prey on a variety of insects and are often used as a natural form of pest control in agricultural settings. They have been used as a natural form of pest control in a variety of crops, including mangoes and cashews. 
Weaver ants serve as a nutritious food source for many animals. In fact, weaver ants are among the common ants consumed by humans. They’re considered delicacies in Thailand where they’re eaten as snacks. They’re also used as toppings for salads, soups, and with vegetables. They taste good and provide a good amount of protein and fatty acids.
Weaver ants are also used as traditional medicine in certain communities. For example, in some parts of India, they’re used as a remedy for rheumatism. They’re also used to treat stomach infections and as an aphrodisiac.
Are Weaver Ants Dangerous?
Weaver ants aren’t generally considered to be dangerous. However, they are very territorial and can be aggressive when threatened. Their mandibles can inflict painful bites. They also spray formic acid to defend themselves.
Weaver ants can also be pests. They can tend to plant pests like aphids and thus, negatively affect plant health. Their territorial nature can also drive away important pollinators.
Lastly, they can also damage plants directly by eating sugar from floral nectaries. See this article to learn if ants are bad for plants.
Why Are They Called Weaver Ants?
They’re called weaver ants due to their unique ability to weave leaves together with larval silk.
Are Weaver Ants Strong?
Yes, weaver ants are strong. The Asian weaver ant, for example, can carry about 100 times its body weight.
Summary: What Are Weaver Ants?
To summarize, weaver ants are a type of species found in the tropical regions of Asia, Australia, and Africa. They’re known for their unique nesting behavior in which they weave leaves with larval silk. They’re highly territorial ants that can become aggressive when threatened.
Weaver ants provide a number of benefits, including pest control. They’re also considered delicacies and medicine in various communities like India and Thailand.