Melophorus bagoti at Simpson's Gap, near Alice Springs, 2001-2003

Rüdiger Wehner, Sibylle Wehner, and I looked for this ant, known as the red honey ant, in January 2001. We found them near Simpson's Gap, and the research started there. In 2002, two students from the University of Zurich, Martin Kohler and Christina Brand, studied the animals. In 2003, Barbara Muser from the University of Ulm did her Diplom project here, assisted by Stefan Sommer from the University of Zurich. I also did a small pilot project in 2003, assisted by Daniela Strano of Macquarie University.

Although, our collaborative research started at this site, it has now switched sites. See the next page linked at the bottom.

Simpson's Gap Site

The field work takes place about 17 km from


The field site is at the Visitor's Centre, some 5 km from Simpson's Gap:

The landscape there looks like this:

The dominant grass there is not native, but a South African invader, the buffel grass:

(These two characters are actually working. They are tabulating ant activity at a nest.)

Native spinifex grass can be found further west in the West MacDonnell Ranges:

Spinifex is waxy and sharp at the tips.

Bush fires in September 2001 charred the landscape and cleared some of the buffel grass:

The grass has since grown back:

(This grid is an experimental setup, described on another page.)

The Simpson's Gap Visitor Centre is a great field site. While surrounded by beautiful desert landscape, the site itself has shade!

Much welcome respite from the 35 to 40 degree heat. At the right of this picture is a water fountain that dispenses water. And at the other side (not shown in photo) are toilets. Pretty easy conditions for field work.

Curious friends sometimes visit, such as this perentie, the largest lizard on the continent:

photo by Barbara Muser


or a lizard: ,

or a bearded dragon:photo by Barbara Muser

Many birds are also frequently seen, including Port Lincoln parrots, crested pigeons, magpie larks, and raptors: eagles, falcons, and black kites.


photo by Barbara Muser

I found a temporary 'girlfriend' at the Reptile Centre in Alice Springs: Beatrice the diamond python. No, this 'friend' does not visit our field site.

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