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Bullet Ant: 4 Spine Chilling Facts & How to Deal with the World’s Most Painful Insect

bullet ant sitting on flower

The bullet ant belongs to the species of ants. It is called a bullet ant because of its potent sting which is a characteristic feature of these types of insects. The scientific name for bullet ant is Paraponera clavata. Bullet ants are the largest ant species; they are also referred to as giant ants. They are reddish black in appearance, with large heads and a huge pair of gaping jaws called mandibles which are used for feeding. They do not use jaws for the stinging purpose. Their abdomen comprises of a stinger which helps in stinging the mammals and invertebrates.

They are Commonly found in the humid forests of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Paraguay. Bullet ants are widespread in sunken forests of South and Central America. Their average length is around 1.5 cm but may vary from 1.5-2.5cm. They are called giant ants because their size is four times larger than the common ant species. When we compare bullet ants to the relative ants, they are hairier in nature with a reddish-brown color. Worker ants are reddish-black in appearance and wingless wasps. Bullet ants are divided into two categories according to the workload which they can bear. One is the larger, stronger and labor division who serve as foragers and guards while the next group includes the weak and young ones who look after the easier work that is attention to the young ones and eggs inside the nest. The queen of the bullet ants has a slightly larger size when compared to the worker ant.

Living with the Most Deadly Animals(Habitat and Distribution)

Bullet ants are found in the form of colonies inside the nests. These nests are built at the bottom of the trees. These nests are also found in tree canopies, arboreal cavities, and shrubs. There are many studies which show that bullet ants form four colonies within the one-hectare area which they inhabit. There are many openings to enter the nest. The nest contains the escape routes and drainage system. The openings in the nest may also be used to remove the soil. The temperature range inside the nest varies between 23 to 28-degree centigrade. These colonies are located in the tropical lowland areas sandwiched among sea level and 700-800 meters beyond the sea level. They can also build colonies at higher altitudes example 1500-1600 meters appearing in Parque La Amistad. The settlements comprise of worker ants and queen. Each colony is formed by many bullet ants.

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Bullet ants geographically inhabit Central America and South America. They also inhabit northern parts especially Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras. They inhabit the Southern part especially Columbia., Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru.The ants which appear in Australia are referred to as Bull ants instead of bullet ants. Bullet ants are geographically distributed in these areas due to the favorable environment for these insects particularly low altitudes and humid forest which are typically found in these regions.

Feeding Ecology and Diet

Bullet ants nourish upon plant nectar. They feed upon plant exudates which include resin and sap from particular species of plants. They may also feed on small insects. They drink water in the form of small droplets. The scavengers bring the hunted food back towards the nest. The bullet ants hold the food among their mandibles. The food is shared by the colony members within the nest. Larvae also feed through tiny droplets of food placed by the scavengers.

Small Colonies(Behaviour and Habits)

Bullet ants show categories on the basis of labor within their colonies. They exhibit colonies which are independent and small. They move around individually and explore for food. Worker ants explore food at the upper canopy of trees within the forests and also from grass and herbs. They are divided into two assemblies; one group pays attention to the nests to prevent an attack from neighboring colonies particularly by Apocephalus parapineal while the other group breeds inside the nests. Each colony has a single queen bullet ant who gives birth to new offsprings by laying down eggs.

Bullet ants are not aggressive in nature until they are disturbed or agitated.If disturbed they might sting you. Bullet ants are protective in nature against their enemies by attacking them with a sharp bite. However, first, they release a strong odor which serves as a signal for the counter enemies.

【Read more about Ants】

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Bullet ant Rite

Local tribes use bullet ants for the initiation of ceremonies. The Amazonian basin in Brazil comprises of a tribe called Satere-Mawe where the young men aged between 13-17 years dip their hands into the basket which is woven like gloves. These baskets are filled with giant ants which act as rite passage indicating the transmission from childhood to adolescent stage. These bullet ants sting these young men, repeatedly to which they sing and dance to camouflage and tranquilize the intense pain. After the termination of distressing pain, these young men are graduated for the warrior class.Bullet ants do not cause death in humans until victims are prone to an allergic reaction.

How Does it Feel When you Got a Bullet Ant Sting?

The most terrible insect bite is from the Bullet Ant. They are known for their potent sting. The neurotoxin is present in the venom of bullets ant’s sting which inhibits the control on muscle contractions by interfering with the sodium ion channels. The venom of a bullet ant is injected into the body by the bullet ant’s sting which causes adverse reactions and excruciating pain. The neurotoxin is paralyzing in nature and referred to as Poneratoxin.

Bullet ants sting is used for protection against their enemies due to the intoxicating venom. It is an awful experience to get a bullet ant sting.It causes a deep throbbing pain which lasts for several hours. The neurotoxin in the venom causes a potent effect in a localized body part of mammals which is stung although the effect is not life threatening and will only lead to temporary paralysis while in arthropods the transmission in Central Nervous system is inhibited which leads to immobility. The poneratoxin is a type of a peptide which causes cold sweats, vomiting, nausea, irregular heart rhythms and extreme pain.

Bullet ant sting can be treated by either extracting the venom from the body parts, applying cold compresses, taking antihistamines for a soothing effect and reducing allergic reaction.

How to Get Rid of Bullet Ants When you Accidentally have them?

1. First Evict it Without a Fuss

Bullet ants clamp on tightly to our body parts with their mandibles that are why they are difficult to remove. Do not create a fuss and evict them without slapping otherwise they will get agitated and sting. Pick the bullet ants one by one and remove them from your body either by hands or by brushing them off, If you feel that many ants have invaded your clothes get rid of them immediately.

2. Avoid Stepping into the Bush Where Bullet Ants Live

Bullet ants are aggressive in nature if they are agitated or disturbed. So avoid stepping into the bushes or shrubs where bullet ants live otherwise you will get a sting. Keep your eyes wide open and look before you step or touch anything with bare hands.

3. Wear Over-the-knee Boots to Avoid being Bit

When you are exploring forests so you should wear over the knee boots before traveling otherwise there is a chance that you accidentally disturb the colonies of bullet ants, and in return, they may bite you. As bullet ants are very protective in nature and they get annoyed if they are disturbed.

4. Bring the First-aid Kit with you

First aid kit is essential when infestation by bullet ants is seen near your locality, or you are traveling in forests because you are prone to getting a sting. It should contain antihistamines or hydrocortisone creams, cold compresses.


Bullet ants are the largest type of ants in the world. They are named so because of the potent sting which has the same excruciating pain level when compared to the pain by bullets. They are also known as Tocandira and 24-hour ant. It is called 24-hour ant because the effect of the venom in the ant’s sting remains for at least 24 hours. Bullet ants are a type of predator species. Shmidt Sting Pain Index is used for ranking the insect bites which lists the bullet ant sting at number four which is the most painful bite by the Hymenoptera group which includes bees, ants, and wasps.

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