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Rainforest Ants – Continued

Rainforest Ants – Continued

Rainforest Ants

  • Bullet Ant
  • AKA 24 h ant
  • Large Size

Bullet ants (Paraponera)

If you ask an Amazon guide their most feared animal in the rainforest, they will not mention jaguar, black caiman, or the bush master. The animal most guides fear in the rainforest is the bullet ant. So named because the pain of their sting is like getting shot, Schmidt defined it on his pain index as the most painful insect sting on Earth.

Bullet Ant Initiation Ritual

You may think this means people avoid the ant at all costs, but this is not quite the case. A tribe in the Brazilian Amazon use the ants in initiation rituals for manhood (video). The Satere-Mawe of Brazil weave the ants, stinger first, into specially woven gloves. The initiates then wear the gloves in a ceremonial dance to begin their ascent to adulthood. After the ritual the initiates are comforted by the tribe’s women, making anthropologists think this is a special part of the traditional courting process.

Siafu (Dorylus)

Rainforest Ants - African Driver Ants

  • Driver Ant
  • Males: sausage Flies
  • 20 Million Workers

If you venture to Africa you will no doubt see the incredible siafu. These are the driver ants of Africa and well known among local people. Farmers are fond of the ants as they rid the grounds of pests. They conduct raids for animal prey, taking over 100,000 animals on one night’s mission. They differ from the Amazon army ants as they do not sting, instead rip prey apart with powerful jaws. These ants have a dark history in their relationship with humans as they were once used to execute adulteress woman in Africa. If you are camping in the African bush with young children or the elderly, it is wise to have a healthy respect for this species as fatalities have occurred. The ants can swam over the body, enter the wind passage and cause suffocation.

Eciton Army Ants

The Amazon army ants are another fearsome species. Instead of making lasting nests like most species, army ant workers lock together into a ball to form a temporary living nest. The most fascinating is a generalist predator named Eciton burchelli. The soldier ants have fearsome sickle shaped jaws for grabbing and carrying prey. These ants were used by Amerindians as sutures to stitch together open wounds. The jaws are so large that the ant is unable to feed itself, having to instead rely on its smaller sisters for nourishment. When capturing prey the smaller worker ants inject enzymes into the creature, digesting the animal from the inside. The army ants then simply remove the different parts to carry back to their nest. These are an easy species to spot in the Amazon Rainforest and you will probably find yourself trying to stay out of their way. If you are eager to find them, try and listen for birds flying low through the rainforest trees. These are the ant birds, which follow army ant swarms to catch fleeing insects (video).

Rainforest Ants

Rainforest Ants - Leaf Cutter Ants

  • Leaf Cutters
  • First Farmers
  • Feed on Fungus

There are plenty of other rainforest ants to fascinate the mind. The most well known are the leaf cutter ants that chop up leaves and tirelessly carry fragments back to their nest. There are also the recently popularised glider ants found in both the New and Old world. These live high in the rainforest canopy and if they accidentally slip, glide back to the tree like miniature missiles.

If you are in the tropics, you will never be far from an ant. Be careful when you lean up against or grab hold of certain trees, as some tropical rainforest ants form strong bonds with certain plants, defending them with their lives. It is also a good idea to tie up bags of sugar etc. to keep rainforest ants from stealing your food. But even if they do steal your food, you have to admire their family spirit as they carry it all back to their sisters.


More on Rainforest Animals
Rainforest Crocodiles
Rainforest Frogs
Rainforest Beetles
Rainforest Spiders

Rainforest Ants



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4. Going to the Amazon Rainforest

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