How to Photograph Army Ants…without being eaten alive

Anyone who has tried to get close enough to a marauding swarm of army ants  to take a photograph of them will be familiar with that first excruciating jab of pain when a heavily armed soldier sinks it’s oversized jaws into your flesh.  As the pheromones work their magic the first bite is followed by many until you leap off down the trail furiously slapping and brushing away the hundreds of ants that have swarmed up your legs and even reached your neck.Now I’m going to share a neat bit of human magic with you. It’s very simple but requires a leap of faith.
  1. Tuck your trousers into your socks. Step into the middle of the swarming ants and stay there. Try not to move around too much and don’t try to brush an ant off you and definitely don’t squish one!
  2. The ants will start swarming over your boots and up the outside of your trousers.  Give it a couple of minutes and you’ll notice that they only get as far as your knees before turning around and heading back down to the floor leaving a big disappointment pheromone that says “I’ve searched here and it’s a waste of time”.
  3. Within a couple of minutes they’ll be totally bored with you and you can start moving about. I even successfully kneeled down to film the ants with the camera on the floor in the middle of the biggest swarm our researcher had ever seen.
  4. Do not try this whilst wearing shorts!
Here are some of the clips of the ants I filmed:
Army Ant Soldiers guard the column on the forest floor  © Richard Kirby

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