Where Are the Ants Carrying All Those Leaves? | Deep Look

Where Are the Ants Carrying All Those Leaves? | Deep Look


We’re looking at some of the world’s earliest
and most competent farmers. These leafcutter ants make humans look like
newbies. We’ve been farming for 12,000 years. Ants have been doing it for 60 million. We developed plows and shovels. Ants use their own bodies. Their mandibles
are shears that cut through leaves with incredible efficiency. The ants drink the sap in the leaves for energy.
But they don’t eat them. Remember, they’re farming here. They’re using the leaves to grow something else. But first they have to haul the gigantic leaf
pieces away. This is no small matter. For a human, it would be like carrying more than
600 pounds between our teeth. Then, they clean the leaves. They crush them. Cut them into little pieces. Arrange them carefully in stacks. They even compost the leaves, with a little
of their own poop. They spread spores around, like seeds. Over time, a fungus grows. And that – this highly nutritious fungus
– that’s what the ants are after. They feed it to the colony’s offspring, millions of them. For humans, farming was the origin of our
civilization. And it’s the same for ants. They are fungus tycoons. Their colonies are
true underground cities with a bottomless need for resources. Having this reliable source of food has given
them the luxury to specialize. Leafcutter ants have the most complex division of labor
of any ants. There are tiny worker ants. And large worker ants. And enormous half-inch-long
soldiers that protect the colony. Like human farmers, their abundant food source
has made leafcutter ants very, very successful. And this is where two civilizations – ant
and human – collide. From Texas to South America, leafcutter ants
are huge agricultural pests. Working stealthily at night, they can strip an entire tree of
its best leaves in just hours. As their ant civilization grows, they build
up the soil in the tropical forest. But they also pose a threat to those around them. And in this way, we resemble them more than we might like to admit.

Flesh Ripping Ants?

Flesh Ripping Ants?


– I’m Coyote Peterson. Recently, I ran into a
species of ant with a bite so powerful, it’s capable of
breaking through human skin. If you don’t believe
me? Watch this. One (phew) Two, three Ouch (grunts) Ah. Ah! Yep, that might break it
through the skin there. Oh, like little razor blades. Ah! Yeah, he’s popping
holes into my finger. Ahhh! Oh, yeah, that hurts. He’s got me good right there. Ahhhhhh! Oww! Look he’s
banged his head in my finger. Argh! Ah! Ahhh! Ah ah ah Ooh! Yikes! Yeah, that hurt. (panicky wilderness music) – [Voiceover] All
right, Coyote, yikes. That leaf-cutter ant. That was something, but what
people at home might not know, is that was actually
not the first time you were bitten by
that ant, was it? – No, no it was not. Now when we arrived
at Costa Rico, we were told by all the locals
that when you’re out there looking for creatures,
whatever you do, make sure to avoid
leaf-cutter ants. I said to myself,
leaf-cutter ants? I didn’t even know you
had leaf-cutter ants. Do they bite? Sting? They
said, “No, no, no, no. They don’t sting.
They only bite. The bite is so powerful, it
can break through human skin.” Knowing me, first
thing I think is, “I gotta see if this
is really true.” So as we’re out there
walking through rain forests, we finally came across
a track of leaf-cutters. Found some workers,
found some soldiers. Mark said, “Okay,
here’s the ants. Let’s catch one, and
let’s do the scene.” So I picked up an
ant. You guys ready? – [Mark] I’m ready. Wait, wait. Where are you
gonna let him bite you? – Right there in
the crux of my hand. Hold up my hand like
this, put it right there, and let it start chomping,
and it’s chomping, and it’s chomping, but
it’s not breaking skin. Even with all that
power and that pinch… Ouch! That really, really hurts. I don’t think he’s gonna
be able to break skin. We’re thinking, okay.
It’s just a myth. Leaf-cutter ants can’t really
cut through human skin. Ah, there we go. – How’s that feel?
– [Coyote] Wow! Ah! Feels good to have
it off of my hand. Well, there ya go. Finally. An ant challenge where I’m
walking away mostly unscathed. Well, as we’re heading
back to our base camp, we come upon the nest. All right, well we
have found the nest. Watch your feet. Look at how many of
these monster-sized leaf-cutters are coming out. They are sending out
the troops right now. What you didn’t see
is me wandering into
the nest at first. Me, I’m like, holy cow,
these ants are everywhere. And just for fun, I
pick up another ant, put it on my finger, and boom! Immediately, it cuts
through the skin. Those things are monster! Ow! Ooh, yeah.
Ow! Bite me there. Oh, geez! Ah! Ah! Ah! That one definitely popped
right through the skin. Look at that. Holy cow. Fortunately, you’re
looking at it here. This is me holding up my finger, and you can see all
the blood running down. Now you didn’t see
this in the episode because we weren’t
ready to actually shoot the scene a second time. I didn’t think he was
gonna bite me that hard. The one that we were working
with through the scene didn’t. Break skin. Ah, an angry one is definitely
capable of breaking skin. What should we do? Should
we shoot that again? – [Mark] Think we have to. – Like right here. – [Mark] Yeah. Sigh. – Hehe. So, like a good director, Mark
says, “Cut, cut, cut, cut. Back to one. We gotta
shoot this scene again.” Now at this point,
I’m pretty nervous, because I’m thinking
to myself, oh, boy. That ant just massacred my
finger in one single chomp. Now he want to actually
put an ant on my finger, and let it do its thing. So, what you did see
is Mark, Mario, and I heading back into the nest, and this is where all the
ants were swarming out. Mark’s getting bitten.
Mario’s getting bitten. And finally, I get a
large, angry soldier. Come back into the
scene, sit down, put up my finger, and
place the ant right there, and it was painful. Now, I did last more
than 60 seconds, and I had to last
more than 60 seconds so that we could
get all the shots. Shooting these episodes
is pretty tough because there’s
multiple cameras going, and we have to make sure
we get the cool shots so that you guys can
enjoy the episode. In total, I was really chomped
by this leaf-cutter ant for probably about two
and a half minutes. Now that also includes,
once the video camera stopped rolling, and we
get out the still cameras to get that cool shot, you know
that’s the screen grab there on the YouTube video of
me like this, “Ahhhhhhh!” of an ant on my finger. A lot of pain to go through
just to get that single frame, but it was totally worth it because ultimately we
proved a myth to be true. The leaf-cutter ant is capable of chomping through human skin. I’m Coyote Peterson. Be brave. Stay wild. We’ll see ya next week. – Whoa whoa whoa. What
about the million subs? – Oh, yes! Sorry. I get so excited
about those ants. Coyota pack, we have made it to a million subscribers
on YouTube. How cool is that? ♪ Oh, yes ♪ Oh, yes ♪ Oh, yes ♪ Yes, yes, yes ♪ Now, on behalf of
myself and the entire B rave Wilderness team, I
just want to take a moment to thank each and
every one of you out there who’s
watching all our shows. We couldn’t do this without you. It’s you guys that keep
us out here in the field making these awesome adventures, and getting ya up
close with animals, whether it’s Breaking
Trail, Dragon Tails, Coyote’s Backyard
or a new series that’s about to come out
this summer, Beyond the Tide. Stay tuned for that. We couldn’t do it without
each and every one of you. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being
such an awesome member of the Coyote Pack. All right. That’s it for me. We’ll see you guys next week. If you enjoyed this
behind-the-scenes look, make sure to go back and
watch the full ant attack, and don’t forget, subscribe
to join me and the crew on this season of
“Breaking Trail.” Oww! Ahh! (loud rumble) (coyote howling)

CRAZY ANT BITE!

CRAZY ANT BITE!


(deep dramatic music) – I’m Coyote Peterson. Those are leafcutter ants. And they bite,
really really hard. (sighs with exasperation) Here we go again. (pained yelling) Yeah, he’s popping
holes into my finger. OW! (rhythmic jungle music) (lion roars) Costa Rica is an outdoor
adventurer’s playground. And if you venture to
the Southwestern edge, you will find yourself
exploring the dense rainforest of the Osa Peninsula. A truly primitive paradise, that is home to one of the
most impressive creatures I have ever encountered. What you’re looking at here, this barren runway
that cuts right through the heart of the rainforest. It may look like a game trail, but believe it or not, this
was made by leafcutter ants. And as soon as the sun gets
a little higher in the sky, and the forest warms up, this is going to be swarming with those industrious
little insects. Leafcutter ants are
famous for being one of the most complex societies
in the animal kingdom. Building nests that are
over 100 feet across, and which can contain over
eight million individuals. What do these millions of
ants do all day, you wonder? Well, as their name
suggests, they cut leaves. Wow, look at that! At one point, this
was a complete leaf. And you can see where the
ants have intricately cut out little sections to
take back to the nest. Alright, well let’s keep
following the trails, and see if we can find
some of these ants. The trails can run for miles through the rainforest. And if you follow the ants
who are carrying the leaves, eventually you’ll be
led back to the nest. Not a place you’d ever
want to find yourself. Unless, of course, you were me. And you were looking
to challenge one of
the angry soldiers. Okay, so, we have
now located the nest. Wander back into there, and I will literally
be under attack. I have rolled up my pant
legs, as you can see. – [Voiceover] Great
look by the way – Yeah, no, this is
my classy jungle look. Alright, I’m gonna go get
myself an angry soldier. You guys ready? I have to do this quick. Alright, here we go, good? – [Voiceover] Yep. – Entering the zone surrounding
a nest of leafcutter ants is incredibly dangerous. And in a matter of
seconds, we were swarmed. Alright, I’m looking
for a huge one. We are under attack right now. Careful, yeah they get on you. Don’t let yourself get bit. – [Voiceover] Oh man, they’re
right out of this hole. – [Coyote] Alright,
I’m gonna grab one. – [Voiceover] Right
here, look at this. They’re just jumping
out of the hole. – [Coyote] Oh gosh, there’s
a huge one right there. Look at the size of that one. Got it, holy cow, ow! A little one bite me. – [Voiceover] Oh, I got
them crawling up my leg. Okay time to get out – [Coyote] Get out. Out out out. Abort abort. (pained grunts) – [Voiceover] Hang
on, oh jeeze, oh man. Ow, oh my gosh, they’re huge
and they’re all over me. – [Coyote] Good? – [Voiceover] Yeah, dude,
they swarmed me bad. Jeeze they come at you so fast. – [Coyote] Oh wait hang
on, you’ve got a huge one on the back of your leg. Yup, even Mark took some
bites to make this episode. Whoa, that is a big
soldier ant right there. This species of ant only
bites, it does not sting. Which is good news for me, so my hands aren’t going
to end up like they did after the fire ants. Now, size to body weight ratio, this is one of the strongest
animals on the planet. Now, I’m told that these
mandibles are so powerful, they can cut through skin. I know you guys are curious as to just how powerful
those mandibles are. So what I’m gonna do today, is get chomped by
the leafcutter ant. If threatened, a soldier
will attack any invader. No matter how big or small,
with incredible force. Using sheer like
mandibles, they will bite and tear the victim apart. Showing absolutely no mercy. I don’t really mind
getting bitten by things, it’s stings that
are usually worse. But, uh, I’m looking at those
mandibles, and I’m thinking This guy’s probably
gonna break skin. For my own safety, and
the safety of the crew, We have chosen to perform this
experiment with a single ant. This scene is
incredibly graphic, never attempt what
you’re about to witness under any circumstances. Get ready, there will be blood. Alright, I’m Coyote Peterson, and I’m about to
enter the strike zone, with the leafcutter ant. Here we go, ready? One. Two. Three. Ahh! (pained gasps) Yup, definitely breaking
through the skin there. Oh there’s like
little razor blades. I have an incredibly
high pain tolerance, so my goal was to
last 60 seconds, under the onslaught of bites. Can you see that? He’s popping holes
into my finger. Ow! These ants are intelligent, so
by moving from spot to spot, the ant was testing the
weakness of my flesh. Oh yeah, that hurts. He’s got me good right there. His mandibles cut through me, like a hot knife
slicing warm butter. And boy did it hurt. (grunts in pain) Oh man that hurts! Yup, definitely just
cut through the skin! Turn away if you are squeamish, this part is pretty crazy. Those little mandibles
are razor sharp. It is really tough to
just keep my hand still. And you can see the blood
is now starting to pour out. I could feel each
layer of skin cutting as the ant began to bury
it’s head into my finger. Ow, he’s burying his
head into my finger! The seconds seemed to
draw out like minutes, as beads of sweat
poured down my face. (pained grunts) Finally the ant decided I
wasn’t going to give in, and as it removed it’s mandibles
from the hole in my finger the challenge was
decidedly over. I had lasted over sixty seconds, in the jaws of a leaf cutter. Okay, I gotta take him off. – [Voiceover] Ooh, ew. – Gross. And my blood is already
starting to coagulate. But look at that. Holy cow, that is one
powerful little insect. My finger is
throbbing right now. And in my quest to find
the most powerful ant bite, and sting, I would
have to say that the leafcutter ant,
without question, is capable of slicing
through human skin. And on the ant power scale, I’m gonna rank this little
insect, as an eight. I can’t even imagine how bad
the bullet ant is gonna be. I’m Coyote Peterson. Be brave, stay wild. We’ll see ya on
the next adventure. Whoa that hurts! Like all ants, the leafcutter
only attacks if threatened. And I’m sure you were thinking, “Coyote, are you taking these
ant challenges too far?” “Look at your finger, it
looks like a horror film.” To be honest, I had
no idea a single ant could do this much damage. (slow pained groans) So the moral of the story is, if you’re ever in Costa Rica, pay attention to
your surroundings. He’s popping holes
into my finger. Because the last place
you want to find yourself, is in a swarm of angry soldiers. If you thought this ant
challenge was extreme, make sure and go back and watch my painful encounter with
a mound of fire ants. And don’t forget, subscribe to join me and the
crew on this season of, Breaking Trail. (rumble) (birds chirping)

7 Unbelievably Hardcore Ants

7 Unbelievably Hardcore Ants


[♪ INTRO] Skull-gathering hunters. Exploding,
toxic defenders. Inflictors of pain. These aren’t characters from a movie:
They’re ants! Normally, we see ants streaming
from cracks in the sidewalk, or coming to forage through our kitchens,
and they’re nothing out of the ordinary. At most, they’re kind of annoying. But some ants are actually amazing, and are a lot cooler and more resourceful
than you might give them credit for. Here are seven of the most extreme species
from around the world. Some people use tapestries and fun knick-knacks
to decorate their homes. But Florida’s skull-collecting ant adorns
its abode with, skulls. Well, more specifically, heads and other dismembered
body parts from other ant species. Which is… a mood, I guess. Scientists discovered this in the 1950s, and
noticed that most of the victims seemed to be trap-jaw ants, which was equally impressive
and alarming, because trap-jaws aren’t easy prey. They’re known for their exceptionally strong
mandibules, which they use to crush their victims and even fling themselves
away from danger. Meanwhile, skull-collecting ants look far
less fearsome. They’re pretty small, and they definitely
don’t have super strong jaws. Researchers were intrigued by how these ants
were adorning their homes with trap-jaw body parts. They weren’t sure if they were actually
killing them, or just inheriting old trap-jaw nests. But recently, they started to figure it out. In November 2018, one researcher published
new findings in the journal of the IUSSI, an organization that studies social insects. By analyzing the chemicals on their bodies
and filming their interactions with trap-jaws, he found that skull-collecting ants chemically
mimic their trap-jaw prey. The difference between their odors is almost
indistinguishable, and that allows the skull collectors to get in close enough to attack. Once they’re in close range, they spray
the trap-jaws with formic acid and paralyze them. Then, they drag their limp bodies back to
their nests, dismember them, and put their exoskeletons on display
like hunting trophies. Researchers aren’t sure why they do this,
but it could be a warning to other ants. And let’s be real: If I were an ant, I wouldn’t
go near that. The Rasberry crazy ant, sometimes called the
tawny crazy ant, originated in South America, but over the last decade, it’s been infiltrating
the U.S. Gulf Coast. These ants are just a few millimeters long,
with long legs and antennas. They’re not known for being aggressive,
and they don’t seem to sting, but they do move around in a really
irregular way when they’re disturbed, which is where their name comes from. It’s not totally clear why they run like
this, but it might be a form of protection. After all, ants scurrying around in a zig-zagging
or looping pattern are harder to smush. Besides their movement, these ants are also
strange because they appear to be drawn to the cooling vents of electrical equipment. So much so that they’ve been known to short out appliances, computers, and even entire chemical plants. Some people believe these insects
are attracted to electricity, but so far, there’s no real
science to support that. Instead, this behavior probably has to do
with chemistry. These ants have been shown to be highly
attracted to each other’s pheromones, or the chemicals their bodies release. So it seems more likely that, when one of
them gets shocked by electrical equipment, probably while looking for a place to nest, they release pheromones that
tell the other ants they’re in danger. Then, thousands of them swarm in the area
to come to the rescue. It’s a much less sci-fi scenario, although
probably no less terrifying for the people who discover a massive ant infestation crawling
around their electronics. They’re not an immediate threat to humans,
but rasberry crazy ants can actually cause major issues for other animals, mainly bees. The ants have been observed destroying hives
and eating bee larvae, which isn’t great when you think about all the other problems
bees are dealing with these days. But at least they’re not stealing body parts. The exploding ant is named after its ability
to explode. At least, in a sense. There are actually a bunch of species that
demonstrate this behavior, but a significant one is called, appropriately, C. explodens. It was identified in a 2018 paper and can
be found throughout Southeast Asia. It may look harmless, with no stinger and
a normal-sized jaw, but don’t be fooled. When some of these exploding ants feel threatened,
you don’t want to be around. First, the ant raises its backside as a warning
to a predator. Then, if the predator is undeterred, the ant,
or a few of them, turns its backside at the predator. They begin to flex as hard as they can until
their abdomens tear open, releasing a bright yellow, sticky toxin that kills the intruder. It sounds kind of horrifying, but it does
protect their colonies. Also, the ants who explode are sterile females,
so this behavior makes a bit more evolutionary sense. If these ants can’t pass along their genes,
at least they’re defending their homes. This research is still pretty recent, and
there are plenty of mysteries surrounding this species, like what that yellow toxin
is made out of, and how the ants optimize their attacks to inflict the most damage. But one thing’s for sure: if an exploding
ant shows you its butt, get outta there. There are over a dozen species in the genus
Polyergus, also called Amazon ants or slave-raiding ants. But they all have similar behavior: They’re
parasites that capture other ant species and put them to work. These ants are spread throughout the world,
but many are found in the U.S. and are known to prey on colonies in the Formica genus. First, an Amazon ant queen will infiltrate
a Formica nest and kill the native queen. But before she can complete her takeover,
she has to be accepted by the colony’s workers. Because, apparently, ants have rules about
this kind of thing. It’s not entirely clear how this acceptance
happens, but it might have something to do with the Amazon ant picking up the old queen’s
scent. Either way, once the Formica ants
have approved their new ruler, the Amazon ants will put them to work. They make the other ants do everything for
them, from cleaning to raising their young. Then, once those babies are grown up, the
Amazon ants move on to the next Formica colony to start the cycle over again. It’s not clear if the Formica ants get
anything out of this relationship, but the Amazon ants definitely do. They even appear to have lost the ability
to take care of their own young altogether, possibly after thousands of years of making
other species do it for them. Bullet ants are known for being the ultimate
pain inducers, and their sting is ranked among the most excruciating of all insect stings. At least, based on something called the Schmidt
Sting Pain Index. It was first published in the
1980s by Justin Schmidt, who actually stung himself
with every species he could find. Which I’m sure sounded like a great idea
at the time. Bullet ants are ranked the highest: a 4-plus. They’re native to the rainforests of Central
and South America, and their bodies are almost creepily long, sometimes approaching three
centimeters in length. Thankfully, they aren’t known for being
aggressive unless you get close to their nests. But once you’ve infringed on their territory,
prepare yourself for a world of pain. What makes their sting so incredibly painful
is a peptide called poneratoxin. It was first described in the early 1990s, and it causes painfully long-lasting
contractions in smooth muscles. Bullet ant encounters are rarely deadly for
humans, but enough stings can cause paralysis and trembling, and the pain can persist for
up to 24 hours. Although these ants are mainly known for the
pain they cause, indigenous peoples have found good uses for them, too, like for closing
wounds. They’ll hold a bullet ant close to the wound
and then, when the ant bites down, twist off its body so that only its pincers remain. It’s not a good time for the ant, but the
venom causes the person’s skin to swell and begins the healing process, making it
easier to keep the wound closed. Resourceful, considering my reaction to bullet
ants would be to run as fast possible in the opposite direction. There are around 40 species of leafcutter
ant spread throughout Central and South America, as well as the U.S. And while they won’t poison you or tear
themselves apart, they are pretty crafty. You might think of ants as stealing crumbs
off your floor, or collecting nectar from plants. But leafcutter ants are farmers. They’re known to slice up pieces of plant
material and carry it back to their nests. Then, they’ll partially digest it and leave
it out to grow their real food: fungus. The fungus can break down compounds in plants
that the ants can’t otherwise digest, and it’s the insects’ main source of nutrients. This fungus is so important that if a queen
starts a new colony, she’ll even take a starter culture to the new home. Leafcutter ants have also been likened to
the pharmacists of the insect world, since they use the antibiotics produced by bacteria
to keep unwanted parasitic fungi from growing. Scientists aren’t sure how that relationship
started, but they know that the bacteria hitches a ride on the outside of the ant, then secretes antibiotics that protect
the health of their precious fungus. All of which seems pretty
complex for a little insect. Finally, speaking of ways ants get their food,
we have honeypot ants. They belong to several genuses and are found
around the world in dry climates like deserts. For the most part, these ants seem pretty
normal, until a drought hits. Among honeypot ants, there’s a special class
of workers called repletes. They feed on things like flower nectar and
dead insects, and their abdomens can swell to enormous sizes, sometimes eight times the
weight of the rest of their bodies. This gives them the appearance of a honeypot,
and you might be able to guess where this is going. During a drought, these ants actually use
this abdominal liquid to keep their fellow colony members alive. To get this sweet substance, another worker
ant will stroke a replete’s antenna, giving them the signal that it’s time to eat. Then, the replete will regurgitate the liquid. Which is amazing, and also kind of horrifying? What makes this even weirder is that honeypot
ants are so bloated with liquid that all they can do is hang from the roofs of nests, waiting
to provide nutrients for their buddies. Like little hanging honey pots, I guess. Unfortunately for the honeypot ants, other
colonies and species of ants have also caught on to this, meaning repletes are easy prey. And in Australia, some indigenous peoples
use them in their diets. But for other ants, they’re basically living
vending machines. Which is so creepy. To most people, ants are nothing special. But like a lot of things in the universe,
you just have to look a little more closely. The ant world is an incredible, dangerous,
and downright bizarre place. And it’s all happening right under your
feet. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow,
especially to our patrons on Patreon! If you want to support science education online
and help keep us exploring this weird, amazing world we live in, you can go to patreon.com/scishow. [♪ OUTRO]