Bull ant encounter

This evening my wife pointed out that there was a bug crawling up one of the vertical blinds in the living room. I walked over, saw it was an ant, and grabbed it to take it outside. Next thing I knew, my thumb was like on fire, I threw the ant across the room, and screamed loud enough that my wife thought I was dying.

Turns out it was a bull ant (Myrmecia sp.), which are more or less common where I live in Sydney. I thought I’d been stung by these guys before, having experienced several very painful ant stings in the past, but no, this was a whole new level of pain. All my previous ant sting experiences must have been different species with less potent venom. (And yes, they sting with their tails, they don’t bite with the jaws.) After recovering the ant and immobilising it in a ziplock bag, I took this photo:

Bull ant

Fortunately, I’m not allergic to these guys. For people allergic to the sting, Wikipedia says median time from sting to cardiac arrest is 15 minutes, and most people are dead within 20 minutes. In non-allergic people, all that happens is intense pain. I iced it, and an hour later it’s still quite intense.

I found an article which says that these ant stings are number 4 on the top 10 list of most painful animal bites/stings in Australia. Yeah, no – I’ll pass on all the others, thanks.

One Response to “Bull ant encounter”

  1. Glen Barnett says:

    Ants *can* of course bite with their jaws — indeed, many kinds of ant bite when they sting in order to get better purchase. However bites are relatively less painful than a bull ant sting. Meat ants (Iridomyrmex purpureus) — which I had many encounters with as a child — don’t sting — they rely mainly on their bite; their jaws can efficiently slice flesh and the ants can be very aggressive if you’re near their nests: you definitely know when a few of them get hold of you.

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