Why Does A Bullet Ant’s Sting Hurt So Much?

Bullet ants did not get their name without good reason. This ant packs a powerful punch in its stinger, making even the hardiest of insect handlers think twice before approaching them without gloves. What makes the bullet ant such a feared insect, and why is its sting so incredibly painful?

The bullet ant has the second most painful sting

There are insect handlers out there who actually get stung on purpose. You heard that right! Entomologist Justin Schmidt even created his own pain index, rating insects by their sheer pain power. One of these insects would be the Paraponera clavata, aka the bullet ant. The bullet ant sits under the tarantula hawk wasp on the pain scale, an insect that carries the most painful sting. The pain from one sting of the bullet ant has been described as stepping on hot coals with a three-inch nail in your heel. Although the bullet ant’s sting is not dangerous, it may make you think of saying your last goodbyes.

Bullet ants make their home in harsh environments
Source: YouTube/Brave Wilderness

Bullet ants make their home in harsh environments

Bullet ants reside in the dense forests of Central and South America. Here, the harsh conditions of the tropical rainforests make it dangerous territory. One more reason for the effective use of their feared defense mechanism. With vast colonies of up to 3,000 ants, they make their homes in the ground and live off nectar and small insects. Like most other ant species, they have larvae and pupae to care for and protect. Giving adult ants much more to worry about.

Bullet ants don’t have time to mess around with predators

Like most insects on the food chain, bullet ants naturally have predators. Natural predators range from monkeys and lizards to predatory birds. Although we doubt that any sensible animal who has wrestled with a bullet ant will do it again, the larvae make easy targets. For this reason, the adult ants must always be on guard, making good use of their great stinger and its immense power. It’s maybe no wonder it has developed such a powerful weapon for defensive purposes.

Bullet ants would choose a peaceful life if they had the choice
Source: Flickr/Anton Sorokin

Bullet ants would choose a peaceful life if they had the choice

These ants are somewhat more aggressive than other ants in comparison. Like most, bullet ants just want to get on with their day and finish their work, providing for their colony. However, because of their enormous size, they make for easy targets. This creates a hard-knock life for the bullet and having to resort to stinging predators just to survive. Before they use their feared stinger, however, they try to warn enemies. They give off a pungent stench of garlic to ward off hungry predators and make intense squeaking sounds that rattle most ears capable of hearing the high frequency.

From being a typical and hard working ant to its size, its sting is the most prominent feature of this insect. Although they don’t tend to be aggressive, bullet ants should still be left to their own devices. If not, you might regret ever coming too close to this insect.