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Bullet Ants: The Most Toxic Insect printer.gif

People often ask if we are frightened about getting eaten by jaguars. Nope. What about getting attacked by monkeys? No, we ae not afraid of that either.

I am most nervous about getting bitten by a bullet ant. The bullet ant is one of the largest ants found in the rainforest. They can grow to be over an inch long, and they have fiercely sharp jaws, or mandibles. They can clamp down on their prey (or my leg) and hold on with extreme strength. They are very aggressive hunters, eating termites and other insects. Scientists have even seen bullet ants attack wasp nests.

Bullet ants drink nectar from flowers and other plants and also need water to survive. Bullet ants can open their mandibles wide and actually transport drops of liquid to their nests or to a safe place to drink.

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When threatened, bullet ants make a loud, warning screech and stand their ground. They have a thick exoskeleton that is able to fend off birds and lizards. However their best defense is a toxic sting that causes intense pain (we have been told that it actually feels like being shot). While a bullet ant's sting will not kill a human, it will cause trembling, nausea, and local, temporary paralysis.

For further exploration, check out the following web sites.

Wilderness Classroom's Rainforest Library

The Natural History of Bullet Ants

BBC Online: Ferocious Bullet Ants

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