Bullet ant or hormiga veinticuatro — the most dangerous ant in the world. Translated — «ant 24 hours». That is how much the non-toxic insect venom acts, which it injects when it bites. This ant's sting is 4 on the Schmitt scale, which means that the pain from the sting is much stronger than the stings of many dangerous bees and wasps.
In some Indian tribes, this type of ant is involved in the initiation rite of boys, to prepare them for the complexities of adulthood and initiation into warriors. These insects are woven into gloves and put on hands for 10 minutes. Numerous bites lead to paralysis of the limbs. These actions are performed many times during the month.
View origin and description
Paraponera clavata or bullet ant belongs to the animal kingdom, a type of arthropod. A detachment of membranous. Ants family. Genus Paraponera species Paraponera clavata. The species was originally described as Formica clavata in 1775 by the Danish etymologist Fabricius. Ants are one of the most ancient insects on our planet. Ants have inhabited our planet 100 million years ago since the Mesozoic era.
Video: Bullet Ant
The paleontology of ants is divided into 4 stages: the Lower and Upper Cretaceous, the Paleocene and Early Eocene, the Middle Eocene and Oligocene, and the modern fauna of the Miocene. The fossil remains of ancient ants are poorly preserved and it is rather problematic to describe them. Over time, scientists have developed a separate species of Paraponera, these species belong to the subfamily Paraponerinae Emery.
Ants of this species are predators. They feed on both living insects and carrion. They live in tropical forests. They have a large brownish-black body. They live in families in one family, there are up to 1000 individuals. They have a sharp sting. When bitten, a dangerous neurotoxin, poneratoxin, is sprayed out, which paralyzes the bite site. They are one of the most dangerous arthropods in the world due to painful bites and the danger of death if an allergic reaction develops.
Appearance and features
Ant bullet has a rather large body from 17 to 26 mm in length, covered with a hard shell. Worker ants are smaller. The female uterus is especially large. Shuplis located on the lower jaw of the insect are 5-segmented. Shuplis located on the lower lip are three-segmented. The head of ants of this species is subsquare with rounded corners. The eyes of the insect are located in front of a slightly convex round shape.
Rainbow black. There are spurs on the lower legs of the hind and middle pairs of legs. The first segment of the insect's abdomen is separated from the others by a constriction. The hind wings have a developed anal lobe. Insects produce a special pheromone liquid with the help of the dufour gland, this liquid is a mixture of carbohydrates.
The body color is from gray-brown to red. On the whole body of the ant, you can see thin needle-like spikes. There is a sting about 3-3.5 mm long. The poison reservoir is about 1.10 mm long and about a millimeter in diameter. Between the sting and the reservoir for the poison there is a duct 3 mm long. The poison contains poneratoxin, which acts for 24 hours, and brings severe pain to the victim.
Unnecessarily, it does not attack, before biting it warns of danger with a characteristic posture and hissing. Paraponera clavata eggs are large, round, creamy or off-white in color. The queen ant is distinguished by its especially large size and large convex abdomen.
Now you know whether the bullet ant is poisonous or not. Let's see where the dangerous insect lives.
Where does the bullet ant live?
Ants of this species live in the tropical rainforests of South America from Costa Rica and Nicaragua to Venezuela, Brazil, Peru and Paraguay. And also these ants can be found in the forests of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia. For life, ants choose lowland forests with a humid tropical climate. Ant families arrange underground nests among the roots of massive trees. These nests often have only one entrance and one exit. Ants guards are constantly on duty at the entrance, in case of danger they warn others about it and close the entrances.
Nests are located at a depth of about 0.5 meters. In one such nest, a small colony of up to a thousand individuals lives. About 4 such nests can be found on one hectare of forest. Inside, the ants' dwelling is somewhat reminiscent of a multi-storey building. From one long tunnel to the sides, long and rather high galleries depart to different levels. During construction, a drainage system is also installed, for which a rather deep channel is constructed, it goes down from the nest.
Interesting fact: To create a nest, ants most often choose a place at the base of trees. Pentaclethra macroloba is a tree secretes sweet nectar, which these insects love to feast on.
Sometimes ants place their nests in the hollows of these trees high above the ground. The height of the hollow in this case can be at the level of 14 meters above the ground. The life expectancy of worker ants is about 3 years, the female queen lives much longer than 15-20 years, this is due to a more calm and measured life.
What does a bullet ant eat?
Ants of this species are surface zoonecrophages; they feed on both carrion and live small insects.
The diet of Paraponera clavata includes:
- small insects (flies, cicadas, butterflies, centipedes, small bugs, etc.);
- plant nectar;
- fruit and fruit juice.
The search for food is carried out at night, and exclusively by worker ants. When leaving the nest, insects leave a mark of pheromones along the way, they can return to this mark, or other ants can find it. The search for food is carried out mainly on a tree and very rarely on the ground. Ants are perfectly oriented in space at any time of the day. Food can be obtained both in a small group and alone.
Ants divide large prey into small pieces in order to deliver it to the anthill. One ant is often simply not able to bring the entire prey, so a whole group of ants is involved in the delivery of food. While searching for food, they can find a dead insect, it will be an excellent prey, they can hunt small insects.
In addition to insects, ants of this species are not averse to feasting on the sweet nectar of trees; for this, ants make small cuts in the bark of trees and receive sweet juice. Adult ants bring sap drops to their nest to feed their larvae. Ant larvae of this species eat food without any preliminary processing.
Character and lifestyle features
Like all ant species, Paraponera clavata has a highly developed social structure. These ants spend their whole lives doing what they are supposed to do in the family. Some ants are builders, others get food, the female uterus brings offspring. Ants are active mainly at night. At night, they go hunting to get their own food. Peace and mutual assistance reign within the family.
However, their relatives from other families are treated with hostility and skirmishes between clans constantly occur. Food is obtained from trees, or (very rarely) on the ground. Ants dig deep holes and live there in large families. Both males and females take care of the offspring. Adult individuals responsible for food extraction bring food to the anthill for the larvae and the female queen, which practically does not leave the nest.
Foraging takes place on a tree or in the forest floor, while the ants can leave the nest at a distance of up to 40 meters. Before that, a special strategy is developed for finding food, where each ant from the group performs its mission. Returning to the nest, about 40% of workers carry liquid, 20% bring dead insects, and 20% bring plant food.
Ants bringing cargo move much faster than individuals returning empty. If there is a source of food nearby, the ants feed exclusively on what is available. It should be noted that the anthill is guarded by a special guard of several ants, in an incomprehensible situation they examine the area, and in case of danger they close the entrances and warn other ants about the danger.
In relation to people and other creatures, they are not aggressive if they do not feel danger. But, if you approach the nest or try to take the ant in your arms, it will begin to hiss warningly and release a foul-smelling liquid warning of danger. After that, the insect sticks a sting and splashes paralyzing poison. For allergy sufferers, this bite can be fatal.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Nest swarming is done in spring. Worker ants do not participate in the breeding process; special, healthiest males are selected for breeding, which die after mating. Mating does not take place inside the nest, as is the case with most living creatures, but on the ground. During mating, the female receives an amount of sperm that is enough for the next 20 years of her life. After fertilization, the female independently breaks off her wings and settles in the nest.
The first laying is made in March-April. The female lays her eggs in a special chamber. The eggs are round and quite large. The color of the eggs is cream or white with yellowness. The first larvae are born in a few days, the offspring are cared for by the whole huge family. Worker ants pass food along a chain from mouth to mouth. The food does not need any special processing, it is absorbed by the larvae in the form in which it is only slightly crushed.
The larvae also receive water and nectar from worker ants. When the offspring grows up, each ant takes its place in the anthill, and begins to fulfill its specific mission.
An interesting fact: Belonging to a certain caste in larvae depends on hormones that are produced by the glands of the lower jaw and enter the food.
Natural enemies of the bullet ant
Ants of this species have a lot of natural enemies.
The natural enemies of the bullet ant include:
During the attack on the anthill, the column begins to actively defend itself. Ants do not hide in an anthill, but remain to protect their offspring. Often a colony can survive at the expense of some individuals dying. When attacking enemies, ants of this species bite painfully, thereby disarming the enemy. The enemy can paralyze the limbs from the venom of the ant and he will retreat. Ants are often attacked when they crawl alone, or in small groups.
Interesting fact: Bullet ants are able to scream quite loudly during danger, warning other ants of the danger.
Ant nests are often parasitized by Apocephalus paraponerae flies, which feed on the secretions of ants. And also Bartonella bacteria are often found in the body of ants, they play an important role in the digestive system, with an increase in carbohydrate top dressing, the number of bacteria inside the nest increases greatly. The most dangerous enemy for ants is man. People cut down the forests in which these insects live, destroy anthills. In addition, among many Indian tribes, these insects are used for rituals, after which the insects die.
Population and species status
Due to the fact that in nature there are a large number of twin species that can be outwardly similar, it is very difficult to determine the number of these arthropods. Ants of this species live either underground or high in trees, live in large families and it is quite difficult to monitor their numbers. Ants are quite persistent insects and are well experienced by negative environmental conditions. In the course of evolution, ants have developed special features that help them survive and protect themselves and their homes. In many European countries nests of wood ants come under protection. In our country, the ruin of anthills is considered an administrative offense and is punishable by a fine.
Paraponera clavata does not cause any particular concern, and does not need additional protection. In order to preserve not only this species of ants, but also other animals and insects, it is necessary to stop deforestation in the habitats of ants. Create more green areas and parks. In recent years, many fanciers have been setting up ant farms and acquiring these dangerous ants as pets. In captivity, bullet ants feel good, they are easy to train, but it must be remembered that these arthropods are very dangerous. For allergy sufferers, the bite of such an ant can be fatal, so keeping them at home is not recommended.
Ant bullet — the largest and most dangerous ant species in the world, in fact, quite calm and peaceful, with high intelligence and a well-developed social organization. These ants are dangerous only when they defend themselves and warn before biting. When you see these ants, in no case do not touch them with your hands. In case of a bite, you must take an antiallergic agent and seek medical help.