You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about ants until they show up in your home, crawling around in lines across your kitchen floors, over the counters and throughout the home. They are considered a nuisance by many, but throughout much of the world ants can be dangerous and downright strange.
Estimates differ as to how many species of ants there are, but it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 22,000 species scattered all over the world. In North America, most of the ants are nuisances, but not exceptionally dangerous. They are small, normally black or red, build huge hills and colonies, but most of them aren’t poisonous.
That is not the case in the rest of the world. In fact, there are a number of weird, sometimes deadly, ants around the globe. Here’s a look at five of them:
1. Suicide ants – The ant that blows itself up!
One of the most common genus of ants are carpenter ants. They are known for their strength and ability to build elaborate homes and tunnels. However, one particular species, known as Camponotus saundersi, has a very special way to defend itself if it gets into a fight.
It kills itself by blowing itself up.
The Camponotus saundersi ants have very long mandibles, or jaws, that extend the full length of its body and its sides are lined by poison glands. If a fight is going wrong, it flexes its abdomen and the jaws pierce those poison glands, spraying a sticky, toxic substance all over the enemy.
2. Trap-jaw ants – Deadly weapons on its face!
These ants also have a unique defense, and you can see it right on their face. These ants have potentially painful bites because of those large, extremely powerful jaws. They provide a very potent offensive weapon, but they hide a special defense.
These ants have been studied and they can close to mandibles at speeds of up to 143 miles per hour. When they get into trouble, they can slam those jaws shut against the ground so hard that it propels them upward and backward, sometimes several feet, and away from danger.
3. Bulldog ants – The ant with the high jump!
Australia is just one of those countries that has lots of odd and dangerous pests. The bulldog ant, or jack-jumper, is certainly among the nastiest insects down under.
Bulldog ants are famous for being one of the most aggressive ants in the world, with the ability to jump both high and far. They also have exceptional eyesight and can track prey up to one meter away thanks to their large eyes. They do pose a threat to humans because they have a very painful bite and have been known to cause deaths.
4. Siafu ants or Driver ants – Voracious eaters/Medical device
These are a breed of army ant known for going on “raids” in gigantic numbers, found in Africa. They are completely blind, but have extremely powerful senses that more than make up for it. They travel in such large numbers that they can devour small animals, tearing them apart with their powerful jaws. Although they can cause harm to people, they are considered great for pest removal in some homes lived in by Masai tribes.
Siafu ants will form bridges and tunnels with their own bodies, with the fighting ants protecting the workers as they run through those tunnels. They even have a practical use because their jaws are so powerful if a Masai tribesman has a deep cut they can press a siafu ant against it, causing its jaws to close, pull the body away and leave the head behind, forming a natural suture.
5. Eciton hamatum – Devourer of everything!
These odd-looking ants also swarm, but they tend to stay in columns, crawling up trees and other tall objects, looking for the larvae of other insects. They have big jaws and can swarm in numbers in the thousands, devouring anything and everything that happens in their path.
Weird ants are everywhere
There are species of ants in all corners of the world. Remember that the next time you see those black ants at your picnic that it could be a lot worse. More than likely those little creatures crawling along the potato salad is just interested in eating the food and not you.