To defend or to escape? (Monica)

Dear AntAsk,

I am a fourth grader, and I am doing a science project. I am required to ask an ant expert questions about my science project. Can you please answer the following questions? When you are testing ants, do they run for survival? What happens when you try to grab ants?

Thank you,

Thumbnail image for MyrmeciaPil7_stinging.JPG

Myrmecia piliventris stinging Alex Wild, who broke into the ant nest (photo by Alex Wild).

Dear Monica,

Thank you very much for your great question! Ants can react in two different ways when you try to grab them: Either they try to escape or they try to attack you. Some ants (all belonging to one particular subfamily, the Formicinae) spray formic acid, some other ants sting (for example bullet ants or Acacia ants) for defense. I find that ants usually try to escape unless you are working directly at their nest site. Once you try to grab them at their nest, they want to defend the nest and will even sacrifice their lives.
I hope this answers your question!

All the best,
Steffi Kautz and the AntAsk Team

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