How Many Ants Does It Take To Kill A Human? [Not Many]

Ants claim the spot of having the highest population among insects. With more than 12,000 species, they are practically everywhere on the planet. Lethality-wise, ant bites are still considered nothing compared to mosquitoes, the world’s top killing insects.

In a research study by Forbes McGain and Kenneth D Winkel, they found that from 1980 through 1999 in Australia, only six ant sting-related fatalities were identified. All of these deaths were from a single bulldog ant (bull ants/jumper ants) within 20 minutes of being stung.

You can read more about that study here. (Source)

In the event of physical contact with a hazardous ant species, it could be game over.

Any ant species you can’t identify should be treated cautiously and avoided in most situations.

It is critical to know what these dangerous ants look like and where they hide.

In this article, we tackle the number of ants it takes to kill a human, some ants that should be avoided, and a few other insights about these deceptively harmless little critters.

Can an ant kill a human?

An ant can kill a human. This is usually because of anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction to an antigen in the ant’s sting to which the body has become hypersensitive. Without Epinephrine (Adrenaline) to reduce the body’s allergic response, an ant’s sting can be fatal.

One of the most dangerous is the bulldog ant.

In Australia’s coastal regions, bulldog ants range from about 15 millimeters to 40 millimeters in length.

Look how scary this thing looks!

bulldog ant

They are alert, aggressive, and highly protective of their underground nest.

Unlike most ants, bull ants have a superior vision that can track potential intruders from as far as a one-meter distance.

This is a huge biological advantage because most ants struggle to see.

How Many ants does it take to kill a human?

It only takes one ant to kill a human. Due to anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction to an antigen in the ant’s sting could happen. Without Adrenaline to reduce the body’s allergic response, even one single ant’s sting can be fatal.

Most ants aren’t deadly, but it only takes one ant to invite hundreds of its peers through pheromones to exhibit how dangerous they could be.

A few hundred bullet ants could kill a human being with their stings, which are believed to hurt like a gunshot, hence their name.

Dr. Justin Schmidt, an entomologist and creator of the Schmidt sting pain index, has adjudged a bullet ant’s bite to be the most painful sting on earth, which he described as “pure, intense, brilliant pain…like walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch nail embedded in your heel.”

Here is a picture of a bullet ant:

bullet ant picture
Paraponera clavata show his jaws . Large species of ant, commonly known as the bullet ant, named for its excruciating sting. Tortuguero Cerro, Costa Rica

How many ant bites does it take to kill a human?

It only takes one potent bulldog sting to kill a human. For the bullet ants whose sting is the most painful in the world, according to a scientist, a few hundred stings can land a person in the hospital or cause death very quickly.

Endemic to Australia, bulldog ants (also called bull ants or jack-jumper ants) are notorious for being the most deadly ants.

This is due to their incredibly potent stings, which can cause an anaphylactic shock and lead to death in minutes.

Over the years 1980 to 1999, there were six reported deaths related to ant bites in Australia, five of which were caused by stings from the bull ants.

The patients died within 20 minutes of being stung, suffering an anaphylactic shock.

Anaphylactic shock is an intense allergic reaction from the ant venom.

bull ant
Picture of a bull ant keeping aphids in check on a branch

Can Fire Ants Kill You and How Dangerous Are They?

A 30-year-old woman died of anaphylaxis after being stung by multiple fire ants. When her blood was taken during the autopsy, it was found she had fire-ant-specific venom antibodies within her blood (>5000 ng/ml), proving that she had been stung multiple times.

While it’s believed she was allergic to this venom, it still shows the danger of aggressive fire ants.

Read more in this paper (Source).

Fire ants are considered one of the most dangerous ant species in the world.

Their venomous sting can cause swelling and redness.

A fire ant sting victim could suffer moderate to severe allergic reactions immediately.

While rare, their stings could also be life-threatening and deadly.

fire ants

Fire ants are an infamous and hated globally as invasive ant species.

They come in massive battalions, eat all of the food in the ecosystem, cause short circuits in our appliances, and leave us with excruciating stings.

In many countries such as the US, fire ants are a major agricultural pest and have been included in the list of “Biohazard pest species to quarantine.”

As the fire ant population grows exponentially, they can draw strength from their numbers and are more powerful as a large colony.

Are Ants Dangerous?

Several ant species are deemed dangerous. Top of the list is a bull ant, whose powerful sting could kill a human in about 20 minutes. Then the bullet ant, whose excruciating sting is considered the most painful in the world.

We talk about many more dangerous and strong ant species in a couple of other posts on our blog.

Ant Colonies In General

Ants are extroverted, social insects.

Colonies in ants are what societies are to humans.

Colonies vary from small to large, with an average of 100,000 to 500,000 worker ants per colony and a few hundred of their winged buddies with the queen ants.

Ants in colonies consider each other families, with an egg-laying queen ant responsible for multiplying the population.

Worker ants are sterile female ants, while the winged ones, aptly called the reproductives, do the mating.

The male reproductives serve as the sacrificial lambs as they die after mating with the reproductives.

Final Thoughts and How Many Ants Does It Take To Kill A Human?

The key takeaway here is not to underestimate the size of insects and their capability to be of harm to humans.

While it is infrequent for people to die from ant stings, and most are harmless, some ants can take you down with only one sting.

If you are stung by an ant and have any signs of an allergic reaction, quickly seeking medical attention is highly advised.