These are some of the most common ants in Australia and can be found everywhere, often in large numbers. Most are general scavengers, foraging on the ground or on vegetation, and can be found at all times of the day and night. Nests are usually fairly large, with hundreds or thousands of workers, and range from small and cryptic to large and obvious. They are generally active and fast moving and many will defend their nests vigorously, attacking intruders with their large mandibles and formic acid sprays.
Species of formicines are found world wide, with over 3700 described species and subspecies and 49 genera. In Australia there are 404 described species and subspecies in 19 genera, with many species yet to be described. Of the 19 genera, six are found only in Australia.
The subfamily Formicinae is world-wide in distribution and second only to the Myrmicinae in numbers of species. It is dominated by the very large and complex cosmopolitan genus Camponotus. Eleven genera occur in our area, two of which are introduced from other regions. Although Formicines seem to feed principally upon nectar and other plant exudates, directly or indirectly via Homoptera, some may be largely predaceous. Many species nest in soil or in dead or rotting wood on or near the soil. There is a substantial minority of truly arboreal species, however. The taxonomy of most of the groups, at least within North America, seems to be fairly well worked out. The major exception is the genus Formica, particularly those species comprising the rufa group.