Biological Diversity 2006 

Nightmare of many, dream of few. Courtesy of Antstore

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Anthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Genus: Paraponera
Species: clavata

(Longino, 1999)

Image of Conga Ant (check the stinger!)
by Barbara Strnadova coutesy ofParaponera clavata


Reports about the severity and side effects of the sting of the Conga Ant vary. Can they really cause "fever, respiratory problems . . . even death," as Brossard claims?

One curious (crazy?) scientist accidentally found out. In his article, "The Sting of the Ant," Neal Weber compares two stings he recieved from Paraponera clavata. He experienced blistering, redness, burning and "paralyzing symptoms" (1939).

His report includes such stirring passages as:
"I felt a sting comparable to a severe wasp sting on the skin at the junction of the middle and upper third of the left forearm opposite the medial aspect of the biceps muscle."

But can you die from multiple stings? This scientist won't be doing any first-hand research.


Conservation Organizations

The Amazon Conservation Team works with indigenous peoples and uses their lifestyles as a model for rainforest preservation and reconstruction. provides a great deal of information about the state of rainforests worldwide. It seeks to examine and explain trends of rainforest destruction while concretely connecting them to social, political and economic factors. This site has connections to many other conservation associations.

What better way to promote conservation than through education? I was able to see Conga Ants for myself during my semester abroad in Ecuador with the School for International Training.

Mounted Female Conga Ant
courtesy of
Paraponera clavata (Fabricius 1775)

Conga Ants
Paraponera clavata
aka Bullet Ants (hormigas balas), 24 hour ants (hormigas venticuatro horas)

These ants are found in the Neotropics (Wetterer, 1994).

Habitat -
Conga ants inhabit rainforests, where they build their nests at the base of trees, often bewteen buttress roots (Longino, 1999).

Physical characteristics-
The most striking physical characteristic of there ants is their size. They're more than 2 cm long (Wetterer, 1994). Whoa!!


These ants are aggressive!
Their colonies can grow to more than 2000 individuals (Wetterer, 1994), and upon disturbance near their nest, the ants go into action. Workers rush out to defend their territory. They will defend the nest at anytime of day, even though they are nocturnal (Brossard).

Workers leave the nest to forage trees for live prey and extrafloral nectar (Longino, 1999).

Like other colonial ant species, Conga Ants' reproduction is dependent upon one queen whose eggs populate the entire colony with infertile workers (Herlocker, 2005)


Conga ants are able distiguish nestmates from non-nestmates, as shown in the 1991 study by Breed et al. Hunting is, however, not coordinated between individuals (Brossard).

Checking between buttress roots for a Conga Ant nest
Courtesy of Quest for the giant tropical bullet ant


Conservation Issues

While the Conga Ant itself does not appear on any conservation lists, the species is dependent upon Neotropical rainforests, which face many conservation issues.

Deforestation is a constant threat due to logging, grazing, oil drilling and a wide variety of other factors. The Neotropics are an incredibly biodiverse part of the world, so habitat destruction there is especially scary, not only for Paraponera clavata, but for the multitudes of other species whose existence depends upon the Neotropical Rainforest (Rainforest Action Network, 2001).

Continued enocroachment upon its habitat could mean extinction for the Conga Ant.

Image of Conga Ant, courtesy of Quest for the giant tropical bullet ant





Literature Cited

Antstore. 2006. What’s new here? Accessed 2006 March 2.

Breed, M., et al. 1991. Intercolonial Interactions and Nestmate Discrimination in the Giant Tropical Ant, Paraponera clavata. [Online version] Biotropica 23:301-306.

Brossard, G. Date unknown. Star insects: myths and legends. Accessed 2006 March 1.

God of insects. 2005 January. Paraponera clavata. Accessed 2006 March 1.

Herlocker, D. 2005. Ant Reproduction. Accessed 2006 March 29.

Longino, J. 1999 June 1. Paraponera clavata (Fabricius 1775). Accessed 2006 March 1.

Morgan, R. 2005 March 3. Giant tropical bullet ant, Paraponera clavata, natural history and captive management.
Accessed 2006 March 1.

Morgan, R. 2005 March 3. Quest for the giant tropical bullet ant. Accessed 2006 March 1.

Rainforest Action Network. 2001. Rainforest destruction. Accessed 2006 March 1.
Weber, N. 1939. The Sting of the Ant Paraponera clavata [Online Version] Science 89: 127-128.

Wetterer, J. 1994. Attack by Paraponera clavata Prevents Herbivory by the Leaf-Cutting Ant Atta cephalotes. [online version] Biotropica 26: 462-465.


Author: Ellen Royse
Creation/revision date:
29 March 2006

Earlham Biology Department Biology 226: Biological Diversity

Copyright -2001 Earlham College. Revised 1 March 2006