Photo credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim
Human beings have learned to be wary of small beasts which prove to be very formidable in their own way. What we probably fear the most are stings, especially when they are intended to inject venom… Venom is an evolutionary weapon used by many animal species to defend themselves, to immobilize their prey or even to kill them. win over a competitor. In this merciless world, is it possible to elect a champion in any category and award the title of most venomous animal in the world?
In our opinion, this title goes to a member of the large family of harvester ants. They are primarily predators and their venom plays a fundamental role in capturing and paralyzing their prey. The components of the venom also act on the decomposition of the tissues of the prey to facilitate consumption. Finally, their venom is used to defend their colony against intruders.
Harvester ants are members of the Formicidae family and are divided into two genera named Messor and Pogonomyrmex. There is therefore not one species of harvester ant but several species. We find Messor here, in the Mediterranean region. Those of the genus Pogonomyrmex live in the desert and semi-desert regions of North America.
Who are harvester ants?
Harvester ants measure between 4 and 15 millimeters in length. They are usually red, brownish or black in color. They are distinguished by their powerful mandibles and enlarged hind legs, which allow them to carry large quantities of food. These are insects that live in hierarchical colonies. Each colony is made up of a queen, males, workers and larvae.
Who is the champion?
The most venomous of all is undoubtedly Pogonomyrmex maricopa, which lives in the southern states of the United States. Its venom is more powerful (about 20 times) than that of a wasp. It is also more venomous than the famous black widow. Three stings from this ant are enough to kill a 500 g rat.
What does this ant’s venom contain?
Its venom contains different chemical components:
Paralyzing toxins that target the prey’s nervous system and quickly paralyze it; Digestive enzymes that break down the tissues of the prey; Pheromones that attract other ants to the prey, because they are very sharing insects. What if a Pogonomyrmex maricopa bit us?
The effect of its venom on a human varies depending on its sensitivity and the amount of venom injected. If you are bitten, the most common symptoms are:
Severe pain: the sting is usually very painful and can cause a burning sensation; Swelling and redness: The area around the sting may swell and become red; Itching: severe itching may accompany the bite; Allergic reactions: In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction may occur, causing serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, dizziness, or even anaphylactic shock.
Our instinct is therefore right to keep us away from these animals that are potentially dangerous to us. However, we should not panic: it is still easy to crush an ant before it stings us.