When the world around you starts to seem mundane, all it takes is a quick look at nature to remind you that the world we live is full of fascinating complexity and a whole lot of wonder! Take the hidden guests in these raids of the mighty army ants, who have figured out how to turn something most would avoid, into a fascinating opportunity!

While most try to stay as far away from brainless, ravenous masses of army ants making their way over the ground, some have taken the hoard head—or sometimes, butt—on.

Hidden among some of the most ferocious creatures on the planet, these unusual guests have managed to thrive in an environment that would be deadly to most. Cleverly disguised with smell, posing as behinds, or even masquerading as feet, these little tricksters have managed to hitch their wagons to one of the most ferocious armies in the world. Here’s why this is so cool!

This might be some of our favorite examples of how life has found a way to thrive in some of the strangest places.

Image: army ants moving

Source: Wikimedia

Army ants and their groupies!

Okay, I went into this thinking that army ants were like any other ants, but no, these little friends are intense. There are over 200 species of them scattered across the world’s tropical regions. And unlike a lot of other ant species, they don’t have a permanent home. Rather, they switch between nomadic (when they have to feed their larvae) and stationary phases (when the eggs are developing). 1 Even more, they don’t make their home under ground or in an old log, but rather, with their own bodies! (Something called a bivouac—think one big mass that protects their queen and larvae.)

You definitely don’t want to be a beetle out for a stroll when those larvae are hungry, as anything is fair game for dinner!

Despite the danger that a swarm of army ants poses, a few clever little bugs and fearless creatures have figured out how to use the ant’s quirks to their benefits!

Some deploy creative tactics to blend in—at times taking on the function of the ants body parts—while others simply just follow behind picking up the scraps.

There’s a remarkable ecosystem around these ferocious raids, and who better to learn about it from than the very funny Ze Frank! Dive into their wild world and I’ll see you on the other side.

** There are some explicit words in this piece

Via: zefrank1 2

To find more hilarious looks at the natural world with Ze Frank, check out their YouTube channel!

The actions of one creature can impact many!

How amazing is it that there is a whole group of different creatures adapted to life alongside army ants? Although hanging out with these traveling colonies seems a bit like befriending the bully at school to keep them from targeting you, you have to admire the seriously clever ways these creatures have evolved. It’s a great reminder of our planet’s unseen complexity!

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” — Albert Einstein

Everywhere we turn there are connections to unravel and explore. You and I are home to our own unique colony of microbes, tiny sea slugs helped bring back an entire ecosystem, forests thrive on an internet of fungus!

Just make sure that you enjoy this army ant wonder from afar—you would make a terrible ant butt.

Image: comic about army ants

Comic created by Rosemary Mosco, a naturalist and science writer. Inspired by the research of Dr. Daniel Kronauer.
Courtesy of Rosemary Mosco

More fascinating ant content (because you know you love it!).

Ants are hands-down one of the most fascinating families of species in my book—they’ve just got so much going on! With super strength, mass intelligence, amazing architecture feats, and even farming, this is one creature where you can find endless wonder. The best part is that in most places, you only need to walk out your door to discover it!

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Relationship Advice from… Ants? 

How do we nurture our best relationships? Today's teachers may be tiny, but they've been pulling off beautifully mutually beneficial relationships for millions of years! And yes, they've even befriended their own cows.

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As always, dear friend, stay open to new possibilities! It’s an amazing world out there.

  • Sam

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Notes:

  1. “Army Ant – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.” Sciencedirect.com, 2016, www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/army-ant. Accessed 6 Jan. 2021.
  2. zefrank1. “True Facts: Army Ant Riders.” YouTube, 15 Dec. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=p16g5IVCdeE&feature=emb_title. Accessed 6 Jan. 2021.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.