This subfamily contains some of the most common and well-known species of Australian ants. This includes the meat ants (in the genus Iridomyrmex), a group found throughout Australia (except Tasmania), often in very large numbers. Some of the rarer Australian ants are also in this subfamily. For example, Turneria bidentata has been collected fewer than 15 times. A significant introduced pest, the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), is also a dolichoderine.
Most species of Dolichoderinae are general predators or scavengers. Many also tend Hemiptera to collect honeydew or are associated with caterpillars. Nests are found in a wide variety of locations, including in the soil, under rocks and other objects, in rotten and living wood, in termite mounds, and in cracks between rocks. Some species (in the genus Bothriomyrmex) are thought to establish their nests by new queens invading the nests of other ants, killing the queen, and using the captured workers to help raise her own offspring.
Species of Dolichoderinae can be found in most regions of the world and in all major habitats. There are about 1000 described species and subspecies placed in 22 genera world-wide. Fourteen genera and 160 species and subspecies have been described from Australia, with numerous taxa still awaiting description. Two of the genera, Doleromyrma and Froggattella, are only known from Australia.
This relatively small subfamily is most diverse and abundant in tropics of both the Old and New Worlds. The few genera present in the Nearctic Region are at the northern limits of their ranges. Seven genera occur in our area; two of these are introduced. Most of our species are primarily southern in their distributions. One, Tapinoma sessile, is omnipresent south of southern Canada.
The Dolichoderines lack a sting, but are armed with defensive compounds produced by the anal gland - a structure unique to the subfamily.
This is the source of the pungent, and often unpleasant odors produced by many species when they are disturbed, crushed or otherwise annoyed. In many species colonies may be polygynous and/or polydomous. Some are predaceous, but most appear to be generalized scavengers with a strong liking for carbohydrates taken directly or indirectly from plant sources. In addition to founding colonies via single newly mated queens, some produce new colonies by budding or fission. Most Dolichoderines are free-living; a few are social parasites on other members of their subfamily.