Top 10 Deadliest Ants
People have died from ant stings. It is almost always because the person had an allergic reaction to the sting and suffered anaphylactic shock. If you are not allergic to things like medications, foods and insect stings then you will live through an ant sting. If you are unsure and going to an environment where insect stings are likely it would be worth checking whether you are susceptible to allergic reactions.
The ants listed below therefore may or may not kill a person based on the persons allergies and how many stings they are given. This list also takes the pain of the sting into account.
10. Pony Ant
Habitat: Sub tropical regions of Asia and Australia.
Size: Up to 0.7 cm (0.4 in)
The Pony ant, also known as Ponerinae after their genus, is a small, sometimes colourful ant that does have a painful string.
Although it is not a particularly aggressive ant, they make their nests on the ground where they are liable to be stood on. If you are going around the undergrowth in bare feet and stand on a nest you will certainly feel the stings as they attack you.
9. Meat Eating Ant
Size: Up to 1.0 cm (0.5 in)
Meat Eating ants, also known as Meat ants or Gravel ants are omnivorous and will clean up dead animals as well as feeding on plant matter. They will also attack live animals, particularly if the animal has stumbled across their nest. They are very territorial.
Meat ants don’t have a sting but they will give you a really annoying bite with their very strong mandibles. To see if you are an alive or dead piece of meat perhaps. The sting is somewhat like a bee sting. Well, somewhere between a bee sting and a big mosquito. They scavenge continuously and if you camp near a nest you will often be bitten on the feet and lower legs.
They are also good at eating poisonous Cane Toads, an introduced pest in Australia, as they are immune to the toads poison. Go the Meat ants.
8. Green Tree Ant
Habitat: Tropical regions of Asia, Australia and Africa.
Size: Up to 1.0 cm (0.5 in)
Green Tree ants, more formally known as Weaver ants, are unique in the ant world in that they form nests in trees by wrapping silk around large leaves and rolling them together into hollow balls. The nests can extend to a large number of neighbouring trees to form the colony.
These are an inquisitive ant that will constantly scour the ground around their nest looking for small insects for food. They are reasonably large and easy to see and will normally be alone. They don’t attack in great number unless the nest is disturbed.
Although they don’t have a sting they do give you a painful bite with their long and sharp mandibles, made worse by spraying formic acid straight into the bite.
Unluckily for them they are also considered a delicacy by some people. High in protein and with a slightly lemony taste. Hmmm.
7. Argentine Ant
Habitat: Native to northern Argentina and southern Brazil, but also introduced to the temperate areas of many other countries around the world.
Size: Up to 0.3cm (0.1 in)
Argentine ants are a most invasive type of ant and are very good at wiping out competing ants colonies in their location, so much so that they will disrupt the ecology of an area. They will also infest a dwelling looking for food and water.
If they get on you they will bite you. They don’t have a sting but their mandibles will give you a sharp bite. These are a big nuisance more than anything, but don’t tie yourself to the ground near their nest and open a jar of honey.
6. Bullhorn Acacia Ant
Habitat: Most Tropical areas.
Size: Up to 1.2cm (0.5 in)
The Bullhorn Acacia ant is given its name because they live in Acacia trees. In fact it’s one of the rare examples of an ant relying on the plant and visa versa. Grazing animals that would otherwise eat the leaves of these trees can smell the ants and know to stay away.
If you disturb a tree full of Bullhorn ants they will attack you in great numbers and they will do so very aggressively, running down the trunk to the ground to attack, but also simply jumping out of the tree onto you.
Their sting is, according to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, rated 1.8 out of 4, so it’s not the end of the world but you will certainly move out of the area.
5. Saifu Ant
Habitat: East and Central Africa.
Size: Up to 1.2cm (0.5 in)
Also known as Army ants or Driver ants, these are the ants that move in a swarm of millions of ants cutting and eating everything in their path. They can sting but it’s their fierce shearing jaws that really hurt.
These ants don’t have a nest, they literally swarm around looking for food to feed the millions of ants in the colony. The colony will stay put for a few days when the queen has layed eggs, but once the newbies are ready to rock the colony is off again tearing up the place.
They can’t move very fast so it’s not like they will chase you and eat you. But if you can’t move out of their way for some reason, like if you are in a horror movie or if you’ve upset drug dealers in the Congo, you will be in real trouble. The Saifu ants mostly eat other ants, worms, wasps, beetles and spiders but they will attack larger creatures like snakes and lizards.
4. Fire Ant
Size: Up to 0.6cm (0.25 in)
There are various species of Fire ants, the most aggressive being the Red Fire ants. They don’t necessarily go looking for trouble, but if you disturb them they will swarm. Their sting releases a pheromone that causes the other ants to go nuts.
The sting is like being burnt with a match head that has just been put out, but what’s worse with these guys is that the sting site will become inflamed, swollen and develop into a pustule. That’s right, pus. The pustule will last for 3 or 4 days but the red spot can last for up to a month.
3. Florida Havester Ant
Genus: Pogonomyrmex badius
Size: Up to 1cm (0.5 in)
These ants get their name from the fact that they harvest seeds from plants and store them underground in their ant nest. They will even take the husks off the seeds before storing the actual seed. The husks can be found around their nest. Interestingly, if the seeds get wet the ants will take them to the surface so the seeds don’t sprout and grow.
The sting from these ants is said to be excruciating. The Florida Dept. Agric. & Consumer Serv. quotes one D. L. Wray saying that, apart from the intense pain, the area around the sting site went “deep red in color and immediately a watery, sticky secretion came out of the skin”.
Human deaths have been attributed to this ant.
2. Bull Ant
Size: Up to 4cm (1.5 in)
The Genus Myrmecia has a number of Subfamily members including the Red Bull ant, the Bulldog ant and the Jumping Jack ant. They are found around Australia, particularly the southern states.
The Bull ant is one of the largest and most aggressive ants in the world. They have long mandibles with which they hang on to prey while curling their abdomen around to inject the prey with their venomous sting. In many cases they will sting repeatedly in rapid fashion.
They have large eyes and can see very well and will not back away from any size opponent, including humans. Indeed they will attack intruders who come too close to their nest and even chase the intruder.
If you intimidate them they will rise up with their mandibles wide open ready to strike and may charge at you. They are carnivorous so don’t sleep near one of their nests.
The Bull ants’ sting is extremely painful and deaths have been attributed to this ant, although suggestions that deaths occur every year in Australia are incorrect.
1. Bullet Ant
Genus: Paraponera clavata
Habitat: South Central America and the north of South America
Size: Up to 3cm (1.2 in)
In the 1980’s an entomologist name Justin Schmidt studied the stings of insects, creating the ‘Schmidt Sting Pain Index’. He personally subjected himself to something like 70 different stings and ranked them for us. Much appreciated Jussie.
The Bullet ant got the top rank, supporting those that had gone before him and experienced pain that was said to be the equivalent of being shot. In addition to the pain, the venom from the sting will affect the nervous system and may cause muscle spasms so don’t drive if you have been stung.
These ants live in the humid rainforests of Central America and are easily distinguished by their very dark brown or red body and hairy legs. Nests are often found at the base of trees.
The indigenous people of Central and South America were known to have used the mandibles of Bullet ants as a form of suture for large cuts. They would let the ant bite the wound and then twist the body off, leaving the ants head and mandibles in place. That’s gross, but good thinking.
Ants have been on earth for at least 100 million years. They have a single pair of chromosomes which is the lowest number possible for any animal. Pretty prehistoric.