What it Feels Like to be Bitten by an Army Ant

Okay, this is not for the squeamish.

One gets a fair number of bites while studying army ants. In the Old World "driver ants," all the workers participate in the attack, whereas the most famous New World species have a soldier caste specialized in vertebrates (photographers among them). These soldiers cannot cut flesh in the way driver ants do, and so in the New World species vertebrates are rarely killed and never consumed.

Nevertheless, each soldier causes considerable pain: she pierces the skin deeply with mandibles sharply recurved at the tips in such a manner that, like fish hooks, they are virtually impossible to extract (see close-up below).

Her death therefore is certain. Insult to injury: she inserts her stinger during the bite.

This essay expands upon page 91 of AAA.

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