Venom Injection: How Ant Stingers Work!

Venom Injection: How Ant Stingers Work!

This is what happens underneath your
spin when an ant is stinging you. About a year ago I filmed this footage
of a fire ant about to sting my finger. And in the corner of the frame was
something I hadn’t seen: before a droplet of venom being formed at the tip of the
stinger. So, I went to read more about this, how venom is actually pumped out of the stinger, and I found out that no one’s actually filmed it before. So I’ve
been working on that and now I’ve got a bunch of footage that I want to show you. This is a stinger of an ant piercing a
thin wax film and pumping venom. It’s filmed in slow motion at a thousand
frames per second. I think I know why this has been filmed
before. Ant stingers and the parts of them that are moving are really tiny and
really fast. For scale, here’s the stinger of one of the ants in this video a
harvester ant. The stinger is about 40 microns wide that’s smaller than the
width of a human hair. Stingers are made up of three parts: a stylet and a pair of
lancets. The lancets attached to the stylet and form a hollow canal through
which venom is pumped. In some ants, like harvester ants, the tips of the lancets
are barbed. While others like this trap- -jaw ant stinger are smooth and more
needle-like. What I found most interesting about this
footage was seeing how an ant actually delivers venom. When it inserts its
stinger into something the lancets are moving back and forth beyond the length
of the stylet. That back and forth movement helps the stinger drill deeper
into its target but it’s also what actually pumps venom out of the stinger. Droplets of venom are formed with each
extension of a lancet. From analyzing these clips it takes an average of 75
milliseconds for a lancet to move back and forth. That’s faster than the blink
of an eye which takes about 80 milliseconds. So, in just one second an ant can deliver
13 droplets of venom and even more if the back-and-forth movements of those
lancets overlap. So what I think this footage is showing us is that back and
forth movement of the lancets controls how fast and how much venom an ant can
deliver during the sting. So whether or not an ant catches its prey or avoids
becoming prey itself is all wrapped up and how fast it can move these two
little threads of cuticle. For example, this is an ant trying to sting a
mealworm. This is slow-motion footage 25 times slower than real life. If the
ant wants any chance of successfully delivering venom and has to be fast. I hope this video has shown you something
new about ants, I know it has for me making it. While you are here check out the
full fire ant video that inspired this one and be sure to subscribe to this
channel for more videos like this. All right let’s cut it!

79 thoughts on “Venom Injection: How Ant Stingers Work!”

  1. Crazy detail … Any chance on making a vid of the Ant's mouth? … They have a mouth within a mouth, and even 4 little arm things inside it.

  2. Could you show the setups, you keep the ants in ? I am very interested in how you keep the more rare and demanding species.

  3. this was so cool, I can't believe I never knew they stung & pumped venom, I always thought the bit you with their jaws ( venom introduced that way ) fascinating video.
    the mealworm thing is wild, i know they can move pretty fast having bearded dragons, I hate grabbing them with tweezers LOL they can wiggle out pretty damn quick!

  4. Stellar video work – I assume this has to be using microscope objectives to get this kind of magnification? And probably a ton of light too, though it seems remarkably diffuse.

  5. Amazing, Solenopsis invicta are an amazing species, i have a colony in my conservatory that enjoy chicken and mealy worms! Although it hurts it’s by no means the worst!

  6. I don't like Ants and it's painful stings but this video is awesome… love it.
    Thanks for letting me know why I don't like Ants

  7. Prior to seeing these videos, I couldn't have cared less about what ants did or how they worked. Now they seem like the most fascinating thing this world has to offer. Really great work!

  8. This is so interesting. What equipment you used to be able to capture this footage? I have a question, how long until that ant to recover its lost venom?

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