Ants in the Amazon Create Elaborate Traps to Catch Prey

Ants in the Amazon Create Elaborate Traps to Catch PreyAnts

You don’t hear of many ants that are able to kill and eat much larger insects such as grasshoppers. They’re just too small to be conceived of as a threat. But, strength in numbers can sometimes overcome even much larger animals, turning the prey into the predator. Such is the case with the Amazonian tree ant, also known as Allomerus decemarticulatus, a small ant that lives in trees in the forests of the northern Amazon. These tiny little ants are bloodthirsty creatures, and rig up pretty ghastly traps, which they use to snare their much larger prey, sting it to death, and then carve it up into many pieces for a grisly protein-heavy meal. I never thought ants could be this terrifying.

The Amazonian tree ants make their home on only one specific plant, the Hirtella physophora. The ants actually build galleries under the stems of the plant, which they use as traps for their prey. The ants build these galleries with hairs they strip from the host plant, reinforcing them with fungus. The end product is a kind of platform covering the plant, with pitted holes spread throughout it.

The ants hide underneath these holes, waiting with their mandibles spread open for prey to walk past their trap. When some poor insect crosses over their trap, they all emerge at once, grabbing the legs and antennae of their prey. With the ants pulling on the poor creature’s legs and antennae, stretching them out like a modern insect version of the medieval rack, the prey is totally immobilized. That’s when the worker ants clamber up and all over the prey, biting and stinging it until it is dead or paralyzed (and probably wishing it was dead). The ants then chop up the carcass into manageable pieces and carry them back to their nest (also on the same plant) to devour. It’s like something out of a horror movie…

Have you ever heard of any other insects that catch their prey in a similar manner or another equally gruesome way?

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