What are the world’s most dangerous ants?

What are the world’s most dangerous ants?
(Image credit: Stephen Ausmus)

Ants don't just build tunnels and scavenge for food - they live in highly organized societies alongside humans. When these two civilizations clash, it's usually the insects that come off worst, but the most dangerous ants in the world are more than capable of inflicting a few casualties first. If you find you have an ant problem, we have a guide to the best pest control companies to help you remedy it.

Ants live everywhere in the world except for Antarctica, and form colonies that can range from a few individuals to colonies that stretch into the millions of individuals. They evolved from wasp-like ancestors over 66 million years ago, but today we keep them as pets in ant farms, and they are eaten in parts of South America, India, Myanmar and Thailand. Unfortunately, their ubiquitous nature often brings them into conflict with humans, whether that be as a pest that eats crops or, in the case of the world's most dangerous ants, they can use their powerful jaws and venom-laden stings as weapons that can actually kill.

Bulldog Ant

(Image credit: Peter Bertok)

The Bulldog Ant is the official record holder for the most dangerous ant in the world. This ant lives on the coast in Australia and is extremely aggressive, using its sting and jaw at the same time to defend its nest. When it bites, it injects venom that can cause a severe allergic reaction in its victim. It has killed adults within 15 minutes. Thankfully, this ant cannot be found in the United States.

Pony Ant

  (Image credit: Steroid Maximus)

Another Australian species, also known as the green-head ant. A mere 7mm long at their biggest, pony ants deliver a venomous sting that can cause an anaphylactic shock. A sting that doesn't provoke a reaction is painful but short-lived, and the ants can be a beneficial neighbour as they control pests such as beetle and moth larvae, as well as termites.

Safari Ant

(Image credit: Bartolucci)

East and Central Africa's Safari ant likes to swarm its predators, and its prey: a colony on the march can consume up to 500,000 prey animals every day. In fact, these ants will eat and destroy anything that may be in their way. They don’t have nests, but live a nomadic existence, stinging and biting whatever gets in their way. Again, thankfully these ants do not exist within the United States.

Fire Ant

The Fire ant is one of the most aggressive types of ants. If you disrupt these ants, they will swarm, and release a pheromone that makes more ants want to attack. These ants also have an extremely painful sting, with an initial burning sensation followed by raising and reddening of the skin. A swollen, itchy bump will form, which can become infected if you scratch it.

Bullet Ant

(Image credit: Didier Descouens)

South America's Bullet Ant holds the record for the most painful sting. It is also known as the 24-hour ant because of the pain you feel for up to 24 hours after being stung. Other reactions to the venom include swelling, limb paralysis, and uncontrollable shaking. Some victims even describe being stung by this ant as painful as being shot - hence the name.

While there are many more dangerous ants in the world, be cautious of these five and stay away from their stings. If not, you may not live to the tell the tale.

Ian has been a journalist for 20 years. He's written for magazines and websites on subjects such as video games, technology, PC hardware, popular (and unpopular) science, gardening and astronomy. In his spare time he has a pet tortoise and grows his own vegetables. He also has a passion for cameras and photography, and has written for TTR on these subjects.