The Ant Expert in Medieval Torture

Spend any time in a medieval museum and you will quickly learn that our ancestors had some horrifying techniques of torture. If you think people are crafty when it comes to the exploitation of pain, think again. There are insects that excel in torture, and have been doing it far longer than humankind. One such insect is an ant called Allomerus decemarticulatus. Allomerus might have a big name, but it is a tiny ant.

The Vengeful Ant

What sets Allomerus apart from other ants is how it builds traps. You can find this special ant in the tropics of South America. Allomerus lives on a single tree. The ants and the tree have a symbiotic relationship. The plant provides food and shelter for the ants and in return the ants destroy anything that might damage the plant or try to take a nibble. Though the plant provides nectar, the ants need protein, so they eat bugs. Unfortunately, allomerus is a tiny ant. Each one is about the size of a crayon tip. How can an ant so small take down large insects? You may have heard the quote from Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” This defines Allomerus. The ant might be tiny but they make up for it in ferocity and intelligence.

The Terrifying Trap

Using a combination of fungus and ant slobber, Allomerus builds traps on the plant. They coat the surface of the stem with a platform and fill it with holes. The ants wait inside of the holes with their mandibles ready. Once an insect or spider walks across the surface, they grab its legs and spread it like a victim in a medieval torture rack. Once the target is immobilized, hundreds of tiny ants swarm out of their hiding places. Each one is equipped with a small stinger and attack the far larger insect. After the battle, the ants dismember the unfortunate bug and have a high protein lunch. When it comes to the art of traps and torture, nature is truly terrifying.