Ants are amazing creatures for a variety of reasons. Ants are able to adapt to challenging environments by resorting to novel solutions. For example, some ants can create bridges upon encountering a cliff, and some ants can even pile together in order to form floating rafts that traverse across bodies of water. Ants also appear to be not only competent, but also altruistic, as many species have been observed rescuing wounded ants from violent conflicts with other insects. In many cases after ants are rescued by their fellow colony members, specialized medic-ants administer medical treatments that have been proven to accelerate the healing process. Although all of these abilities are impressive coming from a tiny insect, no ant species can be considered as brave in battle as the aptly named southeast Asian “exploding ants”. Much like some termite species, exploding ants can do exactly what their name says, they can explode. This self destruct option is used during enemy invasions when incoming enemies are too numerous for the possibility of fighting free.


There are several species of southeast Asian exploding ants, and one new species has been discovered. When an ant colony is under attack from hostile insect enemies, minor worker ants will sometimes willingly rupture their abdominal wall. Although this rupture does not cause an explosion that wipes out all invading insects in a storm of fire, it does release noxious compounds that are deadly to enemy insects. Of course, this rupturing kills the ant worker, but the death was necessary for the survival of the colony. This particular form of suicidal behavior is referred to as “autothysis,” and it is also demonstrated by termites during warfare. Exploding ants are not new to science, as they have been documented since the beginning of the twentieth century. However, no new exploding ant species have been discovered since 1935, except for one that was found recently. This most recent species of exploding ant was named Colobopsis explodens.


Do you think that the government has paid for research into the noxious substance expelled by the exploding ants for military purposes?


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