Monday, May 7, 2012

Wondering About Ants

Today I read an old post of mine about an encounter with a large Australian ant.  It bit or stung me, and that hurt a little bit  I had wondered if it was a bull ant.   Someone in comments said if it had been a bull ant I would have been in agony.

I definitely wasn't in agony.

I thought maybe the commenter was sensitive to pain so I did some googling.  I then became a bit terrified because I kept seeing websites saying that bull ant stings are horrific.

I don't think I knew that.

I imagined bull ants stings were about equal to fire ant bites.  I've been bitten by those.   I was bitten a few days ago.  It hurt, but in a quick and mild way.  There's an OW!  Then it's over.  At least for me.

I was thinking, though, maybe it's another case of mistaken identity. If I wasn't stung by a real bull ant in Australia, maybe I also wasn't bitten by real fire ants in Texas.

Maybe there's another big ant in Australia—one that stings, but it doesn't hurt excessively. And maybe there are biting ants in Texas that aren't fire ants?


I've been thinking of our encounter with massive amounts of big ants in Australia.  Jack was terrified.  Tim used dishonesty to calm him down, saying their stings/bites were no worse than a mosquito.   I tried to be more honest, saying they'd hurt, but the pain would be over in a few seconds.   Although now I'm thinking maybe my attempt at honesty was a failed one. I've seen people online complaining that the pain can last for quite awhile.  

I'm trying to reassure myself right now, because I'm a bit scared now that I know these bull ants can cause agony.   The thing is, though, we did encounter a lot of ants in Australia (bull ants or not) and we never got stung (knock on wood).  We encounter lots of wasps and ants in Texas and have never had a painful encounter (KNOCK ON WOOD). 


Have you ever been bitten or stung by anything?  Did it hurt as much as you imagined it would?   Less?  More?  

Do you get nervous when you encounter insects that sting or bite? 


Andrew said...

We also have jumping jacks, which look like a large black ant and yes they jump. And they sting. And it hurts. While bull ants are large and reasonably easy to see, jumping jacks are not so big and there is usually many of them together.

Dina said...


Maybe we saw the jumping jacks on our nature walk then. They were big, but not as big as the bull ants we saw at Sydney Wildlife World.

The prevalent ants in Texas are very small; so most Aussie ants probably would look very big to me.

Do the jumping jacks hurt as much as bull ants; or less?

Have you been bitten by one before?

FruitCake said...

I wouldn't know a jumping jack if it bit me. Outside built up areas, the trick with ants is to look where you are standing, because what I think are bull ants have quite conspicuous nests.
When I was young and foolish I once stood on a bee, and no longer walk anywhere outside without at least thongs on.
European wasps terrified me when they first arrived and their population increased, because their flight path is so unpredictable.
Sand fleas can be a bit of a bugger. With respect to spiders, the trick is to be sensible. If I'm moving fire wood around I look for centipedes before stacking it along my arm to carry inside.
In my experience, the most vicious beast in Australia is an emu in any kind of zoo that thinks you might have a peanut in your hand - they don't attack, but their beaks are big and hard and hurt when they peck at what they think is food.
As for snakes... what snakes? They tend to be shy so if you stop on the side of the road for a pee, and the grass is long, stamp your feet if you are worried. The only times I ever really seen them is if they are crossing a road from one patch of bush to another, or if they are soaking up some warmth by sleeping on hot bitumen or the metal bits of a railway crossing.
The worst thing about ants is if they are small and start running frantically up your leg or arm in huge numbers it's annoying.

Dina said...


I'm thinking Americans talk about the scary animals of Australia. But we have them too.

We have the wasps. We have snakes. Our coasts also have sharks. And on top of that we have bears.

I still think though that Australia is a bit scarier in the wildlife regard. But you're right. Common sense helps. And not having the very rare bad luck that dooms a few.

It's not like people are being killed by stonefish and blue-ringed octopus every week.


I'd much rather encounter a bull ant than a grizzly bear.

Andrew said...

I've not been bitten by a bull ant but a couple of times by jumping jacks. I think the bull ant would be worse.

FruitCake said...

Okay, just went to YouTube channel slk320k and had a look at the Jack Jumper Ant. If I understand correctly, the Jack Jumper is a member of a large family known as the bull ant, but Jack is the most venomous.
Jack hides his nests. The ants I call bull ants have quite conspicuous nests, and I have been stung by these as a kid but not over-reacted. Maybe I'm just not one of those prone to anaphylactic shock, in which case I'm not so concerned now about further stings from bees.
Looks like someone has developed an anti-venine for the jack jumper.
But I've never seen ants actually jump like these.

I guess if you are concerned, the best things are to carry an epi-pen, wear proper footwear if in bush, and don't rake an infested backyard while wearing thongs like the woman in the video clip.

I'm with you on the bear thing.

Very interesting topic, Dina!

As an aside, have also heard bull ants called meat ants, and wonder if this is where the ancient australian expression "mad as a meat axe" comes from.

Dina said...


That video is quite terrifying. The testing of the vaccine is a bit spooky.

I guess it's one of those things that you need to worry about only if you're allergic.

The scary thing is...the allergy doesn't seem overly rare. AND until you're bit and stung by one of these creatures, you don't really know.

Red Nomad OZ said...

I've been bitten? stung?? by inch ants - they are pretty big, but not as deadly sounding as the other two ...

I remember watching a Billy Connolly comedy routine where he expressed amazement that any Aussie child made it to adulthood because of all the dangers.

But as you can see, many of us have!! Despite the sharks, crocodiles, stinging trees, green tree ants, stone fish, bullrouts, irukandji (box jellyfish), snakes, blue ringed octopi, spiders, native wildlife, and fellow Aussies ...

Dina said...

Red Nomad Oz,

I consulted Wikipedia about inch ants; and it says there that they're the same as Bull Ants.

The Latin name for them is Myrmecia, and their common name is bull ants, inch ants, sergeant ants, or jumper ants.

I'm wondering why their stings are dreadfully painful to some people and not others.

Maybe some species in the genus have less potent stings.

Maybe different people have different pain tolerances.

Maybe the ants inject different amounts of venom?

Red Nomad OZ said...

I think your 2nd theory works. Different pain tolerance AND different physical reactions. I've been bitten by an inch ant - it wasn't pleasant, but the pain didn't last as long as described. Maybe it also depends on the treatment??