Forget flying ants, exploding ants are here to ruin your summer

Exploding behavior of C. explodens in experimental setting with a weaver ant.                  Alexey Kopchinskiy

Exploding behavior of C. explodens in experimental setting with a weaver ant. Alexey Kopchinskiy

The small, reddish ant was discovered living in the treetops of Borneo by a team including Alice Laciny, an entomologist with the Natural History Museum in Vienna, who described how the ants would detonate themselves to save other members of the colony.

However, the ability is extremely rare and no other exploding species has been described since the 1930s. Previously referred to as "yellow goo" (glad we've graduated from this), the species is now named Colobopsis explodens. Their bodies are full of glandular sacs containing a deadly fluid, said Laciny, a PhD student at the University of Vienna.

Amongst the countless fascinating plants and animals inhabiting the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, there are the spectacular "exploding ants", a group of arboreal, canopy dwelling ants nicknamed for their unique defensive behaviour.

This self-destructing behaviour of the ants was first mentioned in 1916, but no new species have been described since 1935, as reported by

A new species of ant has been discovered, which has the ability to explode when under attack in an attempt to save its own colony.

But there's nothing cinematic about the ants' final act of heroism.

Although exploding ants were first observed by scientists more than 100 years ago, not much was known about the insects, including how many different kinds existed, until now. Members of this odd-looking caste feature big, plug-shaped heads which they uses to block the entrance of the nest.

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It's title as a model species is exciting as it means that Colobopsis explodens will serve as an important navigation point for all future research on the group of ants. The team, however, was more inclined to classify them Colobopsis explodens due to their remarkable trait to particularly sacrifice themselves.

However, Laciny said these ants will not explode for any old reason. The suicide attack kills the minor workers, whose valiant acts of martyrdom help maintain the long-term survival and viability of the colony.

Minor workers are not capable of reproducing, which is why they can be sacrificed.

"Their way of protecting their genes is protecting their sisters", Laciny added.

Ants are capable of unbelievable prosocial behaviours, such as creating bridges and life rafts out of their bodies, collecting wounded comrades from the battlefield, and even administering medical care.

According to biologists, vzryvaet ants can be explained by hypersociality: for the life of their relatives they sacrifice their own lives.

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