How Strong Are Ants? Let’s Find Out!

If you enjoy reading this article, why not check out our articles on Do Ants Get Hurt When They Fall? and Can Ants Become Immune to Poison?

Many are amazed at the ability of ants to carry heavy loads even if they have small bodies. In fact, many experts have studied these creatures extensively to understand how they are able to do such an incredible act. There are many species of ants and all of them are equally interesting to study.

How strong are ants then? Expert entomologists say that ants can lift 10 to 50 times their body weight. It can be roughly translated to a western-built male carrying 850 kg to 4500 kg on his head. New studies on the matter have also mentioned that ants can carry up to 5,000 times their body weight. When you compare ant strength to human strength, it’s even more incredible. Read about it in our article How Strong Are Ants Compared to Humans?

Another cool ability of ants is that they are also fast. It is estimated that most ant species can run an average of 300 meters an hour. Let’s talk about some of the popular ant species to give you a clearer vision of how strong they are.

Carpenter

The reason why they are called carpenter ants is because of their preferred nesting sites. Most of them would nest in rotten wood by boring holes and tunneling through the wood to create extensive nests. Carpenter ants are considered to be both predators and scavengers. You’ll find carpenter ants either hunting for food or tearing off pieces from a dead insect’s corps.

This type of ant species is considered to be very social. Each nest may contain about 2,000 to 3,000 worker ants with one queen that lays eggs for up to 25 years. These ants tend to go dormant during winter but will continue to remain active if placed near a fireplace. On average, carpenter ants can lift up to 50 times their body mass. They do bite, so you better watch out.

In addition to biting, some subspecies of carpenter ants have the capacity to explode themselves at will. This act is known as autothysis and this is the reason why they are called exploding ants.

Carpenter ants

Leafcutter

Leafcutter ants got their name from their foraging habits. They would cut large sections of leaves and transport it back to their nest. They are easy to spot because they form a sort of parade where different sizes of cut-up leaves can be seen being carried by these ants. The leaves that they collect are not their main diet. Instead, these leaves that they collect are processed and used to grow fungi that feed the ants.

Leafcutter ants

Many might assume that these ants cause large destruction in the forest but contrary to that, these ants help stimulate the growth of vegetation. Think of it in a gardening perspective, these ants prune the leaves and therefore gives the plants a chance to grow more. They have the ability to lift up to 50 times their body weight, just like carpenter ants. Both the carpenter and leaf cutter ants are considered to be one of the strongest ant species to date.

It is also worthy to note that the fungus that these ants cultivate to feed them can only be found inside a leaf cutter ants nest and nowhere else.

“These ants help stimulate the growth of vegetation”

Fire ants

Fire ants are a known invasive species of ants. They are often identified through the soil mound they make when they construct their nest. The invasive species of fire ants usually have copperish brown coloring with a darkened abdomen. It will mostly be the worker ants that you will see and their size can range from 2 to 6 mm.

These ants gained their name because of their tendency to sting. The venom these ants inject causes a stinging sensation that is often described as similar to the feeling of getting burned. The venom that these ants carry is a toxic alkaloid venom called solenopsin. Fire ants are much more aggressive than any other native ants found in American soil. They are known to attack and sometimes kill small animals but their main diet is young plants and seeds.

Fire ant queens

An interesting fact about fire ants is that even though they are aggressive they have a mutual relationship with some butterfly species. They also have the ability to survive flood but can suffer a catastrophic loss in their population (80 – 90%) during winter. As for the exact weight they can carry, no academic paper or article on the internet has mentioned it.

Fire Ants are fascinating and can be very aggressive. Check out Can Fire Ants Kill Your Pets? to learn more!

Bullet ants

Bullet ant

Commonly found in lowland rainforest areas of Nicaragua, south of Paraguay and east of Honduras, where the environment is humid. It is given by Portuguese, Spanish and Native Americans plenty of nicknames depending on the region it is found. One of the most popular nicknames is one given by the Venezuelans; hormiga vienticuatro. It is translated as “the 24-hour ant” in the English language. It is a fitting nickname because the pain from the sting lasts one whole day.

The excruciating pain a victim feels after being stung is often compared to a gunshot wound. It is that fact that got them the “bullet ant” name. In addition to that name, some may also refer to these species as bull ants. Just like the fire ants, there is no scholarly, academic or internet article that specifically mentions how much these ants can carry.

An interesting fact about bullet ants is that they are used in a rite of passage ceremony performed by the Sateré-Mawé people from Brazil. The rite involves boys to gather the ants themselves. The ants will then be put in a sedated state while they are being stitched into a glove. The boys will then put these gloves on the moment the ants wake up. The right calls for the boys to wear the gloves for five minutes straight. This act will be repeated 20 times for the boy to fully complete the initiation. 

The excruciating pain a victim feels after being stung is often compared to a gunshot wound.

Chimera ants

This one got me a bit confused because the first time I heard about chimera ants is in an animated series entitled Hunter X Hunter. When I did my research, my memory serves me well and I saw that the two were closely searched together. My research led me to a few pieces of information about chimera ants.

Apparently, chimera ant queens look exactly like any normal ant. The only thing that sets her apart is her ability to pass down the traits of the other species she devours as her meal to her offspring. This process is called Phagogenesis. The first few born will be soldiers who are loyal to the queen and then later on royal guards will be born in preparation for the king that will be born. Some queens will give birth to multiple kings or just one who will continue the line by mating and giving birth to a new queen.

The existence of chimera ants in the real world does not have a definite article or scholarly papers and academic research available. So, I cannot say that chimera ants exist other than in the world of Hunter X Hunter. As for how strong they are, if we take into consideration the Hunter X Hunter world, chimera ants can be pretty strong as they can pass the abilities of their prey into the new generation.

Army ants

Army ants is a name given to over 200 species of ants whose aggressive foraging behaviors are the same. Army ants go out on foraging groups called “raids” on a certain area. Also, most species under the army ants do not build a permanent nest as other ant species do. Another reason why they are called army ants is because they continue to move from place to place throughout their lifetime.

It is written that a single army ant colony can devour as much as 500,000 prey every day. So you can imagine how voracious their appetite is. This is also the reason why army ants pose a great threat to some species. As for their nesting habits, army ants build a living nest using their own bodies as a temporary structure for their nest. The exterior is made up of older female workers while the younger female workers make up the interior.

Army ant colony

As for their strength, a single ant can carry up to 20 times its weight but because of their huge number, large prey can be turned into bones within minutes. The interesting fact about them is that they have two phases of activity that they go through depending on the stage of their young. The nomadic state is when the colony constantly wander. It usually happens 10 days after the queen lays eggs. The stationary phase begins when the larvae pupate. This will turn the daily foraging trips during the nomadic state into more infrequent trips.

“A single army ant colony can devour as much as 500,000 prey every day”

Compared to humans

I know that you might be picturing the large ants in the latest Antman Movie by Marvel Studios but there is more to the matter than just flicking a switch and turning anything to giant or minuscule within a second.

The estimation of the ant’s ability to lift 10 to 50 times their body mass, can be equated to an average western male with a piece of baggage weighing anywhere between 850 to 4500 kilograms placed on top of his head. Let’s not forget that ants are fast too, they can carry their load and run about 300 meters per hour. If we translate that into human terms, our western male would also be running around 83km per hour while carrying his heavy load.

This is the simplest comparison we can make but research believes that the reason why ants are so strong and fast for such a small creature has something to do about scaling. The simplest explanation for this is that surface area does not scale in direct proportion to volume. So, some weird things can happen to these ants; medically speaking, if they are scaled into human size.

“If we translate that into human terms, our western male would also be running around 83km per hour while carrying his heavy load.

Life Lessons From Ants

It is very interesting to watch how ants work, especially if you’re into insects and creepy crawly things. But for those who just want to learn a thing or two from how ants live then here are some good life lessons from them.

Teamwork

Every ant knows that they are a part of one whole colony. Each of them knows that they are stronger together and needs to work as a team. If you watch ants closely, you’ll notice that they often bump into each other and that is their way to communicate. Each ant passes on pertinent information to others that come along their way.

I think that if you look at ants on a deeper level, you’ll realize that they are the perfect role model for teamwork. All of the ants in a colony know what their work is and cooperates with each of the castes in the colony so that the whole nest performs as an effective single unit.

To read more about the communal nature of ants, take a look at Why Do Dead Ants Attract More Ants?

Separation of Work and Rest Time

Most of us would have a hard time putting a line between work and rest time. The ants, on the other hand, deserves an “A” for this. They got this time separation thing right and proper. During the summer they gather as much food as they can find and store it in their nest so that they have enough food to last them throughout the winter. They also hibernate during the cold months to conserve food and energy.

This very clear separation of when to work and when to stop working is something that should be adopted by everyone. Knowing when to stop would prevent a person from getting burned-out. Having that clear distinction will greatly help any person from having to say “I’ve had enough”.

Ants feeding

Carrying A Load That They Can Handle 

If you’ve been in a situation when you realized that you had bitten off more than you can chew then you already have an idea of how important it is to know how much load you can bear. Ants know exactly how much weight they can carry and will only attempt to carry loads that are within their limits. We humans seem to forget to think about such things when we make decisions.

Having A Purpose Driven Life 

Yes, the ants have a purpose-driven life indeed. Their main purpose is to gather food for the whole colony especially their queen. They live each and every day of their life with that purpose in mind and that purpose gives them meaning and drives them to work until their last breath.

As a human, having a purpose in your life gives you direction. You create your goal according to that purpose and from there, your whole existence is directed to fulfill that purpose. We can see how ants are able to wake up each day of their life and continue to perform their work. If we adopt that kind of purpose-driven life then people might have more chances of being successful in life.

Ant queen

“Their main purpose is to gather food for the whole colony especially their queen. “

The Power Of Thinking Big

A single ant may seem inconsequential to most of us humans but that single ant is a member of a bigger colony. You might think that a single colony is just a small one but ants think bigger and their numbers can easily reach thousands in a few days and their nest can grow exponentially if not disturbed.

Thinking big is a way for a person to test his limits to know when something is already outside of his capacity. But what thinking big also does is to push that person to become the best version of himself. Thinking big helps a person aim for something that he thinks is far from his reach only to realize that he can achieve it.

Division Of Labor

I’ve already mentioned that all ants have certain work depending on which caste they belong to. This division of work is so effective for the whole colony. Think of the whole colony as a machine and each caste in the ant hierarchy is a well-oiled part of the machine. The machine works smoothly because each part works properly. 

If we adopt this kind of division of labor in our daily life, we can be certain that all our endeavors will seem lighter and easier. It would put less pressure on us and this can translate to better performance and healthier wellbeing.

Advantage Of Having a Routine

Ants follow a certain routine depending on the kind of work they perform. Each caste has its own routine to follow. For example foraging ants routine consists of looking for a food source, collecting, transporting it back to the nest and then communicating the source to other foraging ants. The routines make it easier to follow daily work and turn each ant into an efficient worker.

In life, when you develop a routine, you develop it according to the daily tasks you perform. 

Developing a routine allows you to find the most effective and efficient way of finishing a job. This can also be applied at work. A routine makes the worker a lot more productive than when there is no routine. Most employees might have developed this routine subconsciously and are already following it. The routine helps our mind remember what needs to be done and sometimes we get so in-tune with it that even our muscles remember how to perform the tasks without us really focusing on it.

Conclusion

To summarize the whole article, what you need to remember is that ants are fascinating creatures. There are more than 2,000 known ant species to date and that they can carry 10 to 50 times their body weight. Different species of ants have different behaviors and that they are more commonly found in tropical humid countries. We can learn a lot just from watching ants. Plenty of life lessons can be adapted from how ants live and work. These life lessons can be adopted and used in both your personal life and in your work life. In fact, organizations can benefit from watching ants perform as one effective unit. The above-mentioned life lessons are just a few of the things we can learn from ants but I am sure that there are plenty more if we look at the colony closer. You don’t have to do everything at once, you can just pick one and start from there. Each colony of ant is composed of different caste and these castes determined what kind of work an ant perform for the whole colony to function properly. Keep watching our little friends and find out what other wonderful traits they have that you can adapt to your life. 

If you enjoyed reading this article, why not check out our articles on Can Ants Affect House Foundations? and Can Ants and Worms Live Together?

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page https://schoolofbugs.com/about-steve-foster/

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