It might sound crazy, but there is a species of ants that explode when they are threatened by an intruder. These exploding ants can be found in the remote rainforests of Borneo, Thailand and Malaysia.

The strange thing is that these ants have been around for more than 200 years. In 1916, the ants made science headlines, but after that, they seemed to have been forgotten.

Thanks to scientists at the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Center in Brunei, the exploding ants are making news once again. Plenty of research has been conducted, and finally, the species of ants have been given an official name.

The journal ZooKeys is calling the exploding ants Colobopsis explodens. These special ants are extremely loyal to the colony or ant nest. In fact, they will give up their lives to save the colony from an attack.

The worker ants naturally possess a nasty-smelling gooey toxin in their bellies to use when an intruder is threatening the nest. These exploding wonders rupture their own abdomens to release their sticky yellow fluid to fight back. The toxin or venom will either kill or repel the intruder. Take a look at an exploding ant in action here.

These self-sacrificing ants have been compared to honey bees that sting. Both insects die after releasing their unique venom.

Alice Laciny is fascinated by these rare ants and wrote a college paper about them. She is a graduate student at the Natural History Museum Vienna and part of a research group watching how the ants go about their daily living.

Laciny isn’t sure what the ants eat, but she observed that they get busy from 6 AM to 6 PM. The ants roam about for food.

The group introduced an enemy (weaver ant) to watch how the exploding ants begin to burst their own bellies.

The poison then traps the invader in the gooey fluid.

Laciny reports that there are elusive males in the colony that possess wings. They fly off into the rainforest.

Laciny and the group are now studying what the ants’ goo consists of.


Photo Credit: Mark Moffett/Minden Pictures/Newscom
Source: NYTimes, LiveScience