Death by ants is not a common headline you read of in the papers or on TV but it is not foreign. In fact, instances are recorded of people killed by ants, especially the Safari ants of Africa and the Australian Bull Ants. Now, you don’t have to be scared because ants are not out to eat you, but if you collapsed in the path of an army ant hunting party or the nest of any of these dangerous ant species listed here, you will end up in hospital if not dead. These are the most dangerous ants known to man.
African Safari Ants (Siafu)
There are thousands of Army ant species known to live in Africa and South America but none can be as ferocious as the infamous Siafu ants of East and Central Africa. They live in giant colonies of up to 50 million individuals and keep migrating from place to place because they always need new hunting grounds for their large colonies. They are Africa’s most feared ants which scare even the Savanna’s largest mammals.
The hissing sound of an army of Safari ants approaching sounds like a million cobras coming your way. When they invade a village, the only way to stay safe is to abandon it for days until they are done because they eat everything that walks in their path. The Maasai Nomads use them for pest control since they kill pests and bugs in an entire village whenever they find one in their path.
They are also called the 24-hour ants because the pain from their sting can last for weeks depending on how many of them stung you. The bullet ant is one of the largest ant species in the world and therefore stocks lots of venom. They are not aggressive, so they won’t attack you without being provoked, but when they do, their venom acts as a neurotoxin so you can expect waves of excruciating pain for weeks. The effects remain long after the pain of the sting is gone, which is why this is one ant you don’t want near you. The Satere Mawe tribe of the Amazon has boys sticking their hands in gloves filled with dozens of these crawlers to be bitten and if they withstand the stings without screaming off, then they are considered men.
Australian Jack Jumper Ants
These are also called the Bull ants and they are rated by Guinness World Record as the deadliest ants in the world with at least six deaths traced to their attacks in the last century. They are called Jack Jumpers because some species jump 3 to 4 inches when they feel threatened. They are dangerous because they are also large ants that pack a lot of venom and every single sting can cause a range of adverse symptoms from red skin to loss of consciousness. The severity of the stings depends on how many of them sting you and your body’s reaction to the venom. Their mandibles are also large and they can cut deep into your skin and stick in there even if you cut the ant in half.
Fire ants are not as large as the other stingers listed here; a typical worker will be about half an inch long when fully grown but they pack a hell of a punch in their stingers. If you are not allergic to ant venom, a sting will only cause red skin and a little rush and probably some swelling which goes away after some hours o days depending on how many of them stung you. If you are allergic, a single sting can result in anaphylaxis which can result in death if not treated. They are native to South America but many have now been imported into the US and they are considered an invasive species.
The Pony Ant
Also known as the metallic pony ants, these tiny ants are also endemic to Australia and tend to keep to themselves unless threatened. They have a shiny green or blue metallic shine on their heads but the wonder is in their stings which tend to take down small mammals with so much ease. There is no recorded incidence of attack on humans but they are listed among those ants you don’t want near you. The workers rarely exceed 8mm in length but still carry such a painful sting.
Some consider these ants a natural pesticide because they don’t entertain other crawlers and animals in their space on leaves where they have woven their nests. Other people also consider them a delicacy, but for the rest of us, these are fierce ants that can leave you with swellings all over your body. They weave great nests high up in the canopies in Africa and parts of China and when attacked, the workers bite ferociously. The worst pain comes when they inject formic acid into the point where they sting because your pain levels will be worse.
Bullhorn Acacia Ants
Although these ants’ sting doesn’t have as long-lasting effects as the ones mentioned before, their sting is one of the most painful in the world. They make their nests in thorny trees in many tropical forests around the world and tend to swarm on any animals or people that come too close to their nests. The number of stingers that drop on you will determine how severe your pain will be and it all comes down to how much disturbance you caused and how long you stay in the vicinity of the nest.
Maricopa Harvester Ants
Many people talk of Florida Harvester ants which are also in this same family and also pack a very painful sting but it can’t be as excruciating as the Maricopa Harvester ants found in Texas, Nevada, California among other US states. After being stung, the spot immediately becomes red and starts swelling and the spot where the sting was inserted becomes tender with a colourless liquid. They are considered one of the deadliest insects in the world.
Florida Harvester Ants
As mentioned earlier, these are yet another species of harvester ants that survive by harvesting seeds from plants and storing them underground to feed their colonies. They are known to be smart enough to prevent the seeds from sprouting underground by bringing them out to dry when the seeds become wet. They also have a strong venom that they inject with their stings as well as cutting deep into the skin with their tough mandibles. Their sting also causes sore red skin alongside the excruciating pain and immediate swelling which might linger for days.
The Argentine Ant
These are considered one of the world’s most problematic pests that pesticides just doesn’t seem to kill. Pesticides cause the queens to lay more eggs which only results in more ants. They don’t have stings but they have strong mandibles with which they can bite causing pain and bleeding if you are attacked by many at the same time. They also destroy other ant colonies in the vicinity of their nests, attack and kill small animals and also multiply rapidly making them one of the most dangerous pests in the world.