The Bullet Ant: The worst sting of all

Not all bugs were created equal, in fact there are over 925,000 species of insects alone! With so many creepy crawly things around us, it can be easy to dismiss them, the bullet ant however, is not one you’d want to overlook. Out of any other insect on the planet, the sting of a bullet ant is one of the most painful injuries you could endure.


The scientific name of the Bullet Ant is Formica Clavata. Formica meaning ant, and clavata meaning studded, or club-shaped. Theses ants are some of the largest on Earth, making them fairly easy to identify. Typically, the ants range in size from 18-30 mm, that’s 0.7-1.2 inches!


Bullet ants are arboreal foragers, this means that they look for their food in the trees. -
Bullet Ant.png

Bullet ants are arboreal foragers, this means that they look for their food in the trees.

The Bullet Ant is only found in the Neotropics, or in other words, Central and South America. They reside in deep forests and usually forage in the forest canopy. These ants tend to be non-aggressive unless they are threatened. in which case, they first make a small squeaking noise as a warning.

When a bullet ant colony is threatened, make no mistake, they will sting, and it will hurt. That being said, let’s talk about just how awful it truly is.


The venom used by the bullet ant is called “Poneratoxin” and it packs one tough punch. Just one sting from these tiny creatures is enough to put you in agony for up to 24 hours. This isn’t just a minor bee sting, the pain doesn’t simply come and go. It comes, it stays, and it burns.

The sting of a bullet ant is not only awful, but it can last for up to 24 hours! -

The sting of a bullet ant is not only awful, but it can last for up to 24 hours!

How it works:

  1. Th stinger injects the venom into a persons bloodstream.

  2. The venom is a neuro-toxin, which means it attacks and breaks down neurons.

  3. neurons are responsible for telling the brain when we are in pain. This is it. This is pain. Now the poor sole that got stung is feeling it hardcore.

  4. The venom slows down or stops the flow of blood, preventing the venom from diluting and becoming less effective.

  5. The venom eventually spreads causing more symptoms around the effected area. (This is why stings typically are accompanied by swelling.

Will it kill you?

The answer to this question really depends on one thing, are you allergic? If so, the sting can prove fatal, but otherwise, you are very likely to survive. The venom of the bullet ant has evolved to do one thing over anything else: cause pain. While it may make you wish you were dead, the goal of paneratoxin isn’t to kill, but rather, it is to send a message. Once stung, most any predictor would gladly keep away. Except for humans of course, we don’t learn that easily…

The Sateré-Mawé people:

The bullet ant glove -

The bullet ant glove

Bullet ants hurt, so it would make sense to try and stay away from them right? Not if you’re part of the Sateré-Mawé people of Brazil. These people don’t just go looking for the ants, they allow themselves to be stung by eighty of them at a time! Why? Initiation of course! Boys of the Sateré-Mawé are expected to go through a ritual wherein they must place their hand into a hand woven glove with 80 bullet ants entwined in the threads. For ten minutes they must allow their hand to be repeatedly stung and to make matters worse, the pain will stick with them for days. Oh, and let’s not forget, they have to go through this same ritual 20 times through the space of a few years or sometimes even months!

Don’t Believe it? See for yourself:

But it gets worse!?!?!

The sting of a bullet ant is one of the worst stings you can get, but when it comes to bites, things can get even more awful…

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