Suicide bomber ant?

I recently came across an interesting cartoon about Camponotus saundersi, a species of ant commonly found in Malaysia and Brunei. The cartoon below sparked a curiosity about the fact that the Camponotus saundersi can explode. It turns that ants have different ways to defend themselves, and for the Camponotus saundersi, they explode.



According to (Ridley, 1995), the Camponotus saundersi has an enlarged mandibular gland, many times the size as those found in other ant species. Such glands contain several poisonous chemicals and glue-like substance. These carpenter worker ants when disturbed and threatened can explode, immobilizing the nearby enemies. They do this by contracting their abdominal muscles with large strength, which results in the explosion of their glands through a process called autothysis. In this process, the sticky, corrosive and poisonous material will burst out from it’s mandibular gland, and entangle it’s victim by covering it. Talk about an explosive anger!

Most of the time, such destructive act by the Camponotus saundersi occurs during territorial battles with other ant species. It can also happen for predatory purposes. While this self-sacrificial act by the worker Camponotus saundersi would result in their own death, it would benefit their whole colony by eliminating it’s enemies. Such sacrifices indeed help to preserve the existence of the whole ant colony. At the expense of it’s own life; it indeed is a warrior!


(Main) Ridley, M., 1995. Questions about animal behaviour, Animal Behaviour: An introduction to Behavioural Mechanisms, Development, and Ecology, Blackwell Science, USA, Pp.1-3

Jones, T.H., D.A. Clark, A.A. Edwards, D.W. Davidson, T.F. Spande, & R.R. Snelling, 2004. The Chemistry of Exploding Ants,Camponotus spp. (Cylindricus complex). Journal of Chemical Ecology, 30(8): 1479-1492.

Lvet, 2012. Five remarkable ant skills, Universal Ants Blog, 31 Oct 2012. URL: (accessed on 3 Apr 2013)

Hosler, J. The Field Guide to Super Powers #6: Nitro and Camponotus saundersi, Drawing Flies, 8 June 2010. URL: (accessed on 3 Apr 2013)

Main, D. The original suicide bombers? Borneo’s exploding ants commit suicide to protect colony, Discover, 14 Sept 2011. (accessed on 2 Apr 2013)

Camponotus saundersi, Wikipedia, (Accessed on 3 April 2013)


“Camponotus Cartoon”, by Jay Hosler. Drawing Flies, 8 June 2010. URL: (accessed on 3 Apr 2013)