Bullet Ant

Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata)
Spanish Name: Bala

Habitat
The bullet ant is active all over the forest, from the floor to the treetops. It is usually found on lianas and tree trunks close to the ground.

Range
This insect lives from Nicaragua down to the Amazon.

National Parks
La Selva Reserve and Biological Station.

Physical Description
This long, black ant is distinct from other ants in Costa Rica because it is enormous, second only to the Greater Giant Hunting Ant (Dinoponera gigantea). The bullet ant is hairier than fellow hunting ants.

Biology and Natural History
The colony burrows a nest with different entrances on the ground between tree buttresses. Some arboreal nests have also been discovered. Workers guard the nest against vertebrates and other insects, including other bullet ants. While these ants do live in colonies, individuals search for food alone. Foraging workers hunt insect prey and look for plant sap between dusk and dawn. They may also look for food among the trees during the day if it is cloudy.

The bullet ant has one of the most painful insect stings or bites that you can encounter in Costa Rica. Sometimes they fall from higher tree branches and attack when they encounter a large, frightening creature, such as a human. First the bullet ant bites; once the mandibles are securely squeezing the victim, the ant turns its abdomen to sting at the same time. While this may cause some pain and swelling, the venom does not cause sickness or death, and bullet ants are not encountered in droves and swarms like army ants.

Diet
This hunting ant eats insects, plant exudates, and sap.

Height/Weight
The bullet ant can reach 2.5 cm long.

Taxonomy
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae

Sources
Hogue, Charles L. Latin American Insects and Entomology. University of California Press: Berkely and Los Angeles, 1993.
Carroll, C. R. and Janzen, D. H. in Janzen, Daniel H. Costa Rican Natural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.
Kricher, John. A Neotropical Companion: an introduction to the animals, plants, and ecosystems of the New World tropics. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ, 1997.
 
-Amy Strieter, Wildlife Writer