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#1
Old 12-07-2006, 04:36 PM
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Do ants ever eat people (or animals) alive?

In the 1954 film The Naked Jungle, Charlton Heston's South American coffee plantation is threatened by swarming marabunta army ants. At one point, a boat floats down the river bearing the clothed skeleton of another planter, Gruber. Heston (picking up an empty liquor bottle out of the boat): "They must have caught him when he was drunk."

Drunk or sober or staked out on an anthill, is anyone ever in serious danger of being eaten alive by ants? I thought they only ate dead meat (and live plants).
#2
Old 12-07-2006, 05:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
Drunk or sober or staked out on an anthill, is anyone ever in serious danger of being eaten alive by ants? I thought they only ate dead meat (and live plants).
I only eat dead meat myself, but I'm not above killing it and then eating it. From what I've seen on the Nature Channel most people get bit and then just step aside and the ants leave them alone. I don't doubt that if you were staked to an anthill and smeared with honey that they would go ahead and eat you. It also depends on what type of ants you got.

I couldn't see someone so drunk on a boat that enough ants would be able to get on a boat to finish off a body down to bones.
#3
Old 12-07-2006, 05:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
I thought they only ate dead meat (and live plants).
They will eat live insects. If a beetle ends up on its back and unable to right itself it will probably be eaten alive by ants.
#4
Old 12-07-2006, 05:27 PM
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Can I just say that this is a fantastic question and I can't wait for more answers.
#5
Old 12-07-2006, 05:38 PM
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From a BBC website:

Quote:
Army ants can't kill large vertebrates, but African driver ants can. A tethered cow is occasionally discovered, smothered in ants, asphyxiated and bleeding internally from where the insects swarmed in through its ears, mouth and nose.
In a documentary I saw, villagers in Africa said they looked forward to driver ant infestations. They only lasted a day or two and afterwards all the stinking detritus was gone. The presenter also bravely allowed a driver ant to bite him. They have improbably large and strong jaws. He could not pull this tiny creature off him without tearing off a chunk of flesh. So I think I you are very drunk or otherwise incapable it would be best to lie on a platform during the tide.

Last edited by fluiddruid; 12-08-2006 at 04:38 PM. Reason: Attributed and shortened quote
#6
Old 12-07-2006, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by bigbabysweets2000
Can I just say that this is a fantastic question and I can't wait for more answers.
Yours is the rightest, most right, reply I have ever seen.
#7
Old 12-07-2006, 06:50 PM
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When I was a boy, once saw a baby bird on the sidewalk that had fallen out of its nest. It was not dead but nearly so: it was weakly struggling to raise its head, twitching its featherless wings, and opening and closing its mouth soundlessly.

Its eyes were covered with little black ants. And two lines of these small ants were already crawling over its body and in and out of its open mouth.

It was horrible and left quite an impression on me (I can still recall the image clearly). I thought maybe I was supposed to "put it out of its misery", but couldn't think of how to do so other than by stomping on it, which I couldn't bring myself to do.

Ultimately I went into the candy store nearby and told the proprietor, the nearest adult I was on speaking terms with. He said he'd take care of it later but didn't seem to be in a hurry to do anything, and I didn't feel like sticking around to see what it would be he did (if anything). I just left and went home.
#8
Old 12-07-2006, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ywine
From a BBC website:

Army ants can't kill large vertebrates, but African driver ants can.
The website also explains why this is so, as follows:

Quote:
New World army ants and driver ants from Africa are swarm raiders, hunting above ground. Like many ants, army ants possess a powerful sting, which contains high counts of tissue-dissolving enzymes. Like spider venom, it may help to liquefy as well as immobilise prey - helpful, because adult ants cannot eat solid food, and they survive on liquid lunches. A big swarm can consume a litre or so of insects in a day.

But the driver ants in Africa don't have stings. Instead, they have much sharper mandibles to slice away at their victims, something the army ants are unable to do, and because of these differences, the range of prey items varies between the two families.
On the other hand there seems to be a species of New World army ant Cheliomyrmex andicola which doesn't obey the above description. It has claw shaped jaws with spine like teeth and is, apparently, related to the African driver ant. Researchers observed Cheliomyrmex andicola feeding on a dead snake. The same researchers noted that other New World army ants occasionally sting and kill small vertebrates but rarely consume them.

The research on Cheliomyrmex andicola is by no means exhaustive.
#9
Old 12-07-2006, 08:25 PM
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My best friend back home in Louisiana had a bad 4-wheeler accident in a cow pasture when we were in junior high. He flipped it end over end, got knocked out, and landed face first in a fire-ant mound. He was found about half an hour later by his brother in the same position. The concussion and broken arm were minor compared to the facial swelling and general poisoning that took 10 days in the hospital to get under control. I can't say if they were trying to eat him right then but it sure looked like they were trying to kill him and then gorge.
#10
Old 12-07-2006, 09:24 PM
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In the book Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival, the author tells of being swarmed by ants. They were attracted to the salt in his urine after he pissed himself. It wasn't pleasant by any stretch of the imagination. The book is an amazing page turner.
#11
Old 12-08-2006, 04:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty
I can't say if they were trying to eat him right then but it sure looked like they were trying to kill him and then gorge.
I remember watching one of those cable pop-doc things on fire ants. Some poor twit of a birdwatcher fell out of a tree and broke his limbs landing, near a fire-ant mound. They stung the bejesus out of him for a day until someone found him, but didn't do much permanent damage - they are defending, rather than trying to eat.

Driver ants though the locals use them for stitching shut cuts and wounds. Hold ant to wound, let it bite across, twist body from head. Jaws remain clamped like a surgical staple.
#12
Old 12-08-2006, 10:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slaphead
Driver ants though the locals use them for stitching shut cuts and wounds. Hold ant to wound, let it bite across, twist body from head. Jaws remain clamped like a surgical staple.
I remember that from a scene in Roots -- young Kunta Kinte gets a bad cut and his grandmother fashions a suture from ants' heads. Not too sterile, but otherwise it sounds effective.
#13
Old 12-08-2006, 12:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
I remember that from a scene in Roots -- young Kunta Kinte gets a bad cut and his grandmother fashions a suture from ants' heads. Not too sterile, but otherwise it sounds effective.
Actually, given that ants produce antibacterial secretions, it might be cleaner than you would think. I don't know for sure that driver ants do so, but it seems likely.
#14
Old 12-08-2006, 02:47 PM
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One of my friends here in Southern California had two geckos killed by a swarm of ants. One was a year old and the other several weeks old. He says that ants can and will take down "Frogs, lizards, geckos, hermit crabs, small birds, hamsters, mice..."
#15
Old 12-08-2006, 03:01 PM
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Anyone ever watch that documentary on Discovery Channel that was showing various ants from around the world? In one scene in a South American country (possibly Brazi) shows legions of army ants going inside a building, but nobody seems to care much because they simply capture all the vermin bugs in the building and leave as they came carrying the bugs to their doom.

The most interesting part of the documentary was the very aggressive bull ants of Australia.
#16
Old 12-08-2006, 03:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kimera
One of my friends here in Southern California had two geckos killed by a swarm of ants. One was a year old and the other several weeks old. He says that ants can and will take down "Frogs, lizards, geckos, hermit crabs, small birds, hamsters, mice...
....and Verne Troyer."
#17
Old 12-08-2006, 03:46 PM
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Originally posted by Cluricaun
....and Verne Troyer."
Well if you watch surreal life you know a bottle of booze is just as effective.
#18
Old 12-08-2006, 03:52 PM
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If you have ever been bitten by an ant, then you must know the answer is yes!
#19
Old 12-08-2006, 04:39 PM
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Moderator note:

ywine, welcome to the SDMB. Please make sure that you make sure that quotes from a third party are encased in quote tags, as well as short, and in the case of a website, with a link to the original. I have edited your post in order to properly attribute the quotation.
#20
Old 12-08-2006, 06:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
In the 1954 film The Naked Jungle, Charlton Heston's South American coffee plantation is threatened by swarming marabunta army ants. At one point, a boat floats down the river bearing the clothed skeleton of another planter, Gruber. Heston (picking up an empty liquor bottle out of the boat): "They must have caught him when he was drunk."
Of course, it's just a movie, but it's really unlikely anyone in a boat, even if drunk, would get eaten. Even if it was moored or set partly on the bank.
#21
Old 12-08-2006, 08:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pool
The most interesting part of the documentary was the very aggressive bull ants of Australia.
I did see that show, it was amazing. Those types of ants though, terrifying.

Highly recommended documentary, especially for anyone interested in this thread.
#22
Old 12-08-2006, 10:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrainGlutton
In the 1954 film The Naked Jungle, Charlton Heston's South American coffee plantation is threatened by swarming marabunta army ants.
That's one of my favorite hokey jungle movies. The marabunta aren't merely army ants, but are sort of a cross with leaf-cutter ants. They not only eat animals, they also strip all the vegetation from the hills as they swarm across the landscape.

My favorite scene is where Heston has tried to defend his plantation with a water filled ditch, and the ants make little boats out of leaves and sail across it.
#23
Old 12-08-2006, 11:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri
That's one of my favorite hokey jungle movies. The marabunta aren't merely army ants, but are sort of a cross with leaf-cutter ants. They not only eat animals, they also strip all the vegetation from the hills as they swarm across the landscape.

My favorite scene is where Heston has tried to defend his plantation with a water filled ditch, and the ants make little boats out of leaves and sail across it.
This movie is one of my guilty pleasures. I love the scene whrn Heston hammily confesses his virginity to Eleanor Parker.
#24
Old 12-09-2006, 09:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Colibri
That's one of my favorite hokey jungle movies. The marabunta aren't merely army ants, but are sort of a cross with leaf-cutter ants. They not only eat animals, they also strip all the vegetation from the hills as they swarm across the landscape.

My favorite scene is where Heston has tried to defend his plantation with a water filled ditch, and the ants make little boats out of leaves and sail across it.
What I like best was the opener -- on the screen flashes, "SOUTH AMERICA" -- like it's all one country . . .
#25
Old 12-09-2006, 10:13 AM
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This is veering into Cafe Society territory, but I once used several clips from The Naked Jungle in an exhibition on tropical rainforests, in a video on popular images of the rainforest. Those clips, along with some from Indiana Jones and King Solomon's Mines, depicted the image of "the jungle" as an impossibly dangerous and implacably hostile place.

One of the clips we used was the one in which the sterotypical fat lazy Latin American foreman, who is supposed to be on guard at the ditch to keep out the marabunta, of course decides to take a siesta and awakes shrieking covered in ants.

I also like the scene in which the marabunta swarm, which is miles across, appears on a distant hillside and the entire tropical forest melts away as they munch it down. Evidently marabunta are part termite too.
#26
Old 12-09-2006, 12:30 PM
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If memory serves me right, I saw an ant program that said during village history,some peple have been killed. Infirm, living alone,babies and passed out drunks.
#27
Old 12-09-2006, 12:35 PM
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_ant They say so too.
#28
Old 12-09-2006, 01:28 PM
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I read the OP yesterday, then watched Discovery Channel "I Shouldn't Be Alive" in which they answered the question. A guy in Africa injured and sleeping woke up to find driver ants feeding on his arm. So, yes they will eat a person that is alive. Additionaly the show stated that the driver ant is the only insect that will eat a human (those were their words, not sure if correct).
#29
Old 12-09-2006, 01:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fluiddruid
Please make sure that you make sure that quotes from a third party are... <snip>
Actually we only need to make sure of this. We don't really need to make sure that we make sure of it. Though I suppose if we want to be really sure, we could make sure that we make sure that we make sure.







Sorry.
#30
Old 12-09-2006, 01:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RaftPeople
Additionaly the show stated that the driver ant is the only insect that will eat a human (those were their words, not sure if correct).
Swarming driver ants may be the only insects capable of eating an entire human, but larvae of the human bot-fly and some other parasites certainly eat living human flesh.
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