In November of 1961, a writer named Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, created the superhero team known as The Fantastic Four. It changed the world of comic books completely and ushered in what is today called the Silver Age of comics and the Marvel pantheon of heroes.
You can probably name many of the Marvel heroes, but do you know who was the next Marvel character created after The Fantastic Four ? Hulk? Spider-Man? Thor? Iron Man? Nope, it was a guy named Hank Pym, who would become better known as Ant Man. Although Ant Man was second, he never quite reached the levels of popularity as the other heroes created at that time, even though he became a founding member of the super-team known as The Avengers.
Today, you may know of Ant Man because of the buzz surrounding the movie due out later this year. You’ve probably seen the trailer and know that Ant Man’s powers are that he can shrink down to the size of an ant while maintaining his normal-sized human strength. He also wears a cybernetic helmet that lets him control ants, flying ants and other insects. He uses his costume, helmet and abilities to fight crime.
It’s an interesting perspective – trying to make anything involved with ants into something heroic. Granted, one has to suspend their disbelief when it comes to superheroes, but given the nature of some types of ants, it does beg the question: is Ant Man a hero or a pest?
Ants As Pests
What makes an ant a pest? Most insects become pests because they invade homes and buildings and cause emotional distress, property damage, or bring risks to human health. Not every species of ant is really a pest, and some of them are beneficial, but there are a few that definitely have earned the adjective of “pest.”
Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA)
These guys pack a powerful punch. Red imported fire ants have thrived here in the states and they are notorious for their tendency to swarm over threats and their painful sting. What’s more, they tend to sting over and over again.
Pharaoh ants are small, even for an ant. They have oddly colored bodies and are relatively harmless to humans as far as their bite is concerned. However, they love to eat our food and they have a particular fondness for hospitals and care centers. This makes them a real annoyance to people already trying to recover from illness and injury.
No, you cannot hire these guys to build you a deck. They are called carpenter ants because they love to set up their nests inside the wood and wooden structures around your home. Unlike termites, these guys don’t eat wood, but build nests inside them, which ends up causing about the same amount of damage.
So, is Ant Man a Pest?
If we take the definition of a pest literally, then our diminutive hero fits the bill. According to the dictionary a pest is: a destructive insect or other animal that attacks crops, food, livestock, etc. It also has a secondary, less formal, definition of: an annoying person or thing; a nuisance.
If we open up the “etc.” in the first definition, that could mean an insect or animal that attacks humans. This definitely applies to Ant Man, although with the caveat that he is a hero and therefore only attacks humans that are up to no good. Still, if we are working with strict definitions, then he qualifies.
In the second, informal, definition, it’s probably a good bet that anyone facing off against Ant Man and his horde of ant friends, will likely consider him to be an annoyance. In fact, in the very first Avengers comic Ant Man distracts the rampaging Hulk by flying around his face – annoying him.
So, given literal definitions, Ant Man, when down in his ant-sized form, would have to be considered a pest. Fortunately, we are not living in a literal world, which gives Ant Man the advantage.
But, He’s a Hero!
The qualifier that helps lift Ant Man out of the realm of an actual pest is that he is a hero. He fights all kinds of villains in the comic book world who are threatening people’s lives. Although he uses a huge army of ants to do his bidding, and they are most definitely pests, he uses them in the name of good rather than ruining picnics.
In fact, to classify all ants as pests is not entirely accurate. In the real world, certain pests can be beneficial. The honey bee can certainly be a pest if they’re stinging you at a backyard reunion, but they are crucial to pollination that helps produce fruits and vegetables. In fact, your average bee is more interested in the flowers around you than you.
Photo of Driver Ant from April Nobile of AntWeb.org
In Africa, there is an ant known as the driver ant that swarms the jungle floors. An army of many thousands set out to devour anything and everything in their path. With their powerful jaws they tear apart whatever it is they find, be it animal or vegetable.
Yes, they can also bite humans, but local tribes also see them as beneficial. They often let streams of driver ants into their homes because they seek out pests like mice, rats, scorpions and other more dangerous insects. They can even be used as sutures by pressing their heads and powerful jaws against a cut, causing them to close those jaws, and snapping off the heads. You now have a natural suture that can last days and allow the cut to heal.
So, What is Ant Man?
He is both, depending on what side of the law you’re on. If you are a true believer fighting for the good, then he is a fellow hero – an Avenger. If you are on the wrong side of the law, Ant Man is a tiny pest that you want to destroy. It all depends on how you look at it.
But, what do you think? What is Ant Man? Is he a hero or is he a pest?