Discover the Dorylus Ant: The Indomitable Ants That Eat Everything in Their Path
Imagine a legion of 50 million ants headed your way. The marching ants are so numerous you can hear footsteps and clicking noises as they grow closer. The swarm fans out for hundreds of meters, eating mostly earthworms and insects. However, they will munch on small animals such as snakes, birds, mice, or anything else that can’t move out of the way in time. These are Dorylus ants, also known as African driver ants, safari ants, Siafu ants, or army ants. Read on to learn about these fascinating and ferocious insects with a voracious appetite.
Discover the Dorylus Ant
Dorylus ants, members of the Formicidae family, contain over 61 different species and are the most aggressive ants on the planet. Aside from their hostile nature, fierce bite, and piercing sting, they overtake their prey in large numbers. The common ant found in North America forms colonies of up to 40,000 individuals, but driver ant colonies can number in the hundreds of thousands or even the millions.
Nomads That Hunt in Massive Swarms
The evolution of Dorylus ants can be traced to the mid-Cretaceous period, slightly over 100 million years ago. These ants are known for their nomadic existence and their manner of hunting in massive swarms that are known to carpet the forest floor. As they creep across the land, insects and other mammals flee from the armies. The unfortunate animals that are too sick or injured to move may be consumed by the ants. But the majority of the driver ant diet consists of insects and earthworms.
Driver ants not only swarm the ground but can cross water, scale walls, and cliffs, and climb trees. They do this by creating bridges or tunnels with their bodies. The columns they create are flanked by the larger soldier ants, while the smaller workers can pass through safely.
Dorylus Ant Appearance
Although driver ants differ in appearance depending on the species, there are some similarities. Most of them are a dark reddish-brown color. The soldiers have large heads and powerful jaws, which they use to clamp down on their prey. The males are sometimes called “sausage flies” since they have sausage-shaped abdomens and wings. The wingless queens are the largest ants on Earth and can grow up to nearly two inches long.
Where Dorylus Ants Live
The ants are found in Central, Eastern, and South Africa and tropical Asia. Their habitats are rainforests, grasslands, and scrublands. The ants are nomadic and live in temporary underground nests, which they relocate often.
Dorylus Ant Life Cycle
The colony contains one queen ant that mates with males. Like other ant species, the workers and soldiers carry out the work. Driver ant queens are not only the largest ants on earth, but they also have the greatest egg-laying capacity. During egg-laying periods, the queens can lay millions of eggs per month. A single queen will produce 250 million eggs throughout her life.
The worker ants carry out tasks to support the colony, while the larger soldier ants and their scissor-like mandibles protect the colony. When a new queen is ready, nearly half the workers go with her to form a new colony. When a queen dies, the workers may leave to join another colony.
How Dorylus Ants Benefit Humans and Other Creatures
You may not think a ferocious ant with a powerful bite that swarms in the millions would be a benefit to anyone. And they can be a menace to humans, especially when their path takes them through homes. However, these ants will annihilate pest insects in an area as they move through, without harming crops. When a swarm of driver ants has passed by, very few insects, alive or dead, remain behind. Also, when the ants do infest a home, they don’t stay long, but move on quickly, clearing the house out of all nuisance insects. However, when ants swarm through a home, it’s best to get out of the way until the horde moves on. Though they don’t pose a severe risk to humans (as long as you can get out of their way), their bite is said to be extremely painful. Also, they can kill animals as large as chickens.
Despite the dangers, humans aren’t the only species that can find the ants to be of benefit. Researchers have found some African birds follow the swarms to grab their next meal. The birds follow the swarms of ants and make easy meals of the insects fleeing from the coming hordes.