The most painful caretaker

Insects comprise the most diverse group of animals on Earth with about one million described species, more than all other groups of animals together, and estimates of up to 30 million species not described. Thus they represent over 90% of life forms on the planet.

Insects are terrestrial Arthropods such as centipedes, millipedes, spiders, scorpions and damp bugs. But they form a different group of animals. The other groups of Arthropods are often confused with insects because they have similar body structures but are easily distinguishable since insects have three pairs of legs whereas scorpions and spiders have four pairs and do not have antennas, the moisture mealy bugs have ten pairs of legs and can be rolled up, the centipedes and millipedes have many pairs of legs.

Today we are going to talk a little about a species of the family Formicidae, the family of ants. Its name is Paraponera clavata but it is known as the Bullet Ant (Photo 1). It is a primitive ant. Like many other ants, they still preserve the sting of the group of wasps from which they evolved. Yes, the ants evolved from wasps. That’s why queens have two wings, and some ants have stinger and wasp waist.

Photo 1: Paraponera clavata or Bullet Ant

Bullet Ant measure up to four centimeters long and lives in the lowland rain forests of Central and South America. In addition to being one of the biggest ants in the world it beats another world record. The most painful. Its sting is said to be as painful as being shot by 22-caliber bullet. They are the worst among all insects. For the entomologist of American nationality Justin O. Schmidt, he was the creator of the scale of the human pain produced by animals. He says that the sensation produced by the sting of this ant is comparable to “walking on embers with a seven-inch needle nailed to the heel.” Several American tribes use them in their ceremonies of passage to the adult age: The teenagers have to stand for several minutes with the arms and hands covered in Bullet Ant, bearing the pain of their stings. John Boorman showed this initiatory rite in the movie of 1985 call The Emerald Jungle (Photo 2).

Photo 2: Movie The Emerald Jungle (1985)

But should we be very afraid of this Ant? Because it sounds horrible. But it really is a quiet ant. It has nocturnal habits and usually goes by branches and lianas. It is very rare to see one of these ants on the ground and stranger even to see them during the day. It is important to understand that these are farm ants or plant guards. Their main source of food is nectarines of plants that pay them to defend them from other insects and predators, so they are not aggressive to humans. You should only follow certain advice and you will be almost 100% sure that you will not be stung. If you walk at night in the American jungle, be very careful and do not grab the lianas, branches or logs that cross your path. You should pay special attention to bridges, since bullets ant often use humane bridges to cross rivers or creeks. As they are very large people do not usually play with them, but if you see one, you should NOT play with it.

They are quiet animals, a friend of mine had one of them walking on his shoulders for several minutes until we could put it on a stick. He was never stung by the ant. It just walked from one shoulder to the other trying to find its way home.

We hope you like the story and as always you are invited to visit us in Luna Nueva and do a night tour and see the Bullet Ant.