Ants may not be the most impressive-looking creatures, as they are small enough that a mere footstep can massacre several dozen of them. Many people do not take the time to notice the tiny bugs that crawl below their feet, but ants are surprisingly fascinating creatures. Ants are, as far as insects are concerned, relatively smart insects with sophisticated survival strategies. Since ants were one of the earliest insects to appear on the planet millions of years ago, they have become quite diverse. At the moment, scientists have documented over twelve thousand different ant species, which makes them one of the most species-diverse insects to exist. While many ants possess remarkable adaptations that have allowed them to control their environment despite their size, no ant species can compare to the velvet ant, particularly female velvet ants. Velvet ants have been studied for decades, mostly due to their overtly aggressive nature. Unlike all other ant species, the velvet ant is capable of surviving basically any type of predatory attack. Even lizards that are several times their size don’t stand a chance in a violent confrontation with these ants. However, one thing must be known, velvet ants are not actually ants. Despite looking exactly like ants, these creatures are actually wingless wasps that closely resemble ants.
Velvet ants may be familiar to some people, as they have been purported to kill cows. Due to this unverified claim, the ant-like wasps have been creatively dubbed “cow-killers”. These wasps are great survivors since they have extremely tough exoskeletons, and they excrete chemicals that irritate their enemies. In an effort to determine just how tough velvet ants can be during predatory encounters, researchers from Hanover College in Indiana pitted the insects against lizards, shrews, moles, birds and an American toad. As it turned out, this tiny wasp species managed to survive all of these violent encounters. The only animal that came close to defeating the velvet ant was the American toad, but after consuming the wasp, the toad stopped breathing for twenty seconds before vomiting the wasp back up. The wasp lived, and when the toad was offered another wasp, it wisely stepped away in fear.
Have you ever sustained a bite from a velvet ant?