Bullet Ant Sting

At 4:05 am this morning, while getting breakfast, I stepped barefoot and bleary-eyed on a Bullet Ant that had wandered into our kitchen. More than an inch long, this species is known for having the most painful sting of any ant or wasp in the world, akin to being shot (hence the name), which can last up to 24 hours.

Well, it got me. The thick skin on the bottom of my foot may have provided some protection – it felt more like stepping on a big nail than a bullet – but I staggered over to a chair, passed out, and then, apparently, keeled face first onto the floor with a loud thud. I woke up completely disoriented, with a throbbing foot, my nose smashed into the concrete, and with Ed shouting for our night watchman. Interesting. Luckily, the pain went away completely within a couple hours, and Ed and I set up our mist nets as usual. Unluckily, it rained (also as usual), and we got soaked, spent five hours sitting in a small shelter waiting for the rain to stop, then gave up, packed up our nets in a downpour, and went home to dry out.

7 replies
  1. Jean Brown
    Jean Brown says:

    I so enjoy your blog and check it on a regular basis…that said, gosh, I’m glad that I am not your mother; I’d never sleep!

  2. Amy Isler Gibson
    Amy Isler Gibson says:

    Someone posted the story of you and the bullet ant on Facebook, so I followed the story to your site. Wow, never heard of this, and I am SO GLAD you are alright. Now, having read your site a bit, I want to say what wonderful thing you are doing with your life. I love birds, and nature, and wish I had done something like this at your age (I am 53.) But fortunately, I live in Oregon, also one of the most beautiful parts of the natural world, more beauty to explore than I will ever be able to . Your bird photos are lovely. I am a psychotherpist and trained philosopher (used to teach at college level) and currently one of my great passions is working with people using a program called EAGALA, I will let you look that up, I think you will enjoy seeing it. I have been a therapist for 20 years, but this past year have been re-training to be able to work with returning Veterans and their families. I have been against these wars from the beginning and now get to help, in a non-partisan way, and have the skills to do so. This is how I wish to spend the rest of my career. The other part of life is fine art photography, 3 wonderful boys, the best husband. Well enough about me, thought you might like to know a bit about your knew big fan. Well I am not very big, but a big fan! Best to you, very, very cool work. Stay away from those ants!!!

  3. John Sullivan
    John Sullivan says:

    Hey, Noah, this is Laura (Johnson). John and I have heard horror stories about bullet ant stings and that they’ll bite and sting a person simultaneously! Your encounter reminds me of, but sounds much worse than, the scorpion camoflaged on the bath mat at a lodge near Golfito, Costa Rica, that stung the bottom of my foot,1 yr. ago (1/2010) . I was, thankfully, able to maintain consciousness! What species snake was it that the herp guys pulled arduously out of the rotten log (described on your great tinamou post day) and what other cool herps have you seen there, so far?

  4. Patricia Keene
    Patricia Keene says:

    What a pleasure it is to continue to follow your excursions, delight in your excellent anecdotes and feast the eyes on your photography. I do hope you have no more such encounters with stinging ants!

  5. Noah Strycker
    Noah Strycker says:

    @Denise: Thanks! Yes, we’ve had better days this week ;)

    @Jean and Linda: My mom emails me every single day to say she supports my adventures. Awesome parents really do make the world go round.

    @Amy: Wow, glad you enjoyed it! Good luck with your programs, and stay in touch.

    @Laura (and John): Ouch. We found a scorpion the other day on our toilet paper roll, bad place for it to live! As for snakes, ah, don’t remember the scientific names. But I saw a super-rare boa, identified by one of those herpetologists, yesterday. Will ask them what it was.

    @Patricia: Thanks a lot, and me too!

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