Opisthopis, The Strobe Ant
What's so special about Opisthopsis ?
Opisthopsis is a genus of ant unique to Australia and South East Asia known for their bright orange and black colouration, massive eyes and unique strobe like movement. Their movement is difficult to describe in words, but it's almost as if you are watching them at 10 frames a second.
In my experience all of the queens I have found have been in or near eucalypt forests. Workers can often be seen running up and down the trunks of eucalyptus trees. Other Australian ant keepers however have described nests in arid almost desert like conditions. Once you've spotted a queen, catching them can be somewhat challenging due to their ability to quickly dart around and see behind them as the positioning of their eyes give them an almost 360 degree range of vision.
Opisthopsis are a relatively easy genus to keep once you've got your hands on a queen. The queens are claustral and therefore a test tube setup will work nicely for them. Colonies of Opisthopsis typically have less than a few hundred members and are somewhat slow to develop so you will want to make sure you don't rush them into a formicarium or use a formicarium that is too large.
Despite their small size, containing these colonies can be somewhat of a challenge. Opisthopsis are excellent climbers and able to cross almost every barrier that I tried except for fluon (PTFE). So keep that in mind when choosing a formicarium.
In terms of food my Opisthopsis rejected most processed sugars. I now feed them raw honey or Sunburst ant nectar in a Galileo liquid feeder . I have found that feeding raw honey is better received than the processed honey you would normally buy, and that the chance of drowning is reduced to virtually zero as the ants can freely walk over it.
Some Interesting Observations:
Despite being well known for their strobe like movement, in my experience this is something that they only do outside of the nest. In the nest there is no need for such movement as there are no predators to be concerned about and may actually help them conserve energy.
Much like Myrmecia I suspect these ants rely more heavily on their vision and I have noticed they will actually watch and follow your movement to some degree. This makes feeding them particularly fun as they will sit and watch, waiting carefully for you to place the food. Once they can't see you they will run out and grab the food and return it to the safety of the nest.
If you are looking for a genus of ant that is not too challenging but still very interesting I highly suggest trying to look after these little guys. These have been my favourite ants to keep!