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).

I only eat dead meat myself, but I’m not above killing it and then eating it. :wink: 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. :rolleyes:

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.

Can I just say that this is a fantastic question and I can’t wait for more answers.

From a BBC website:

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.

Yours is the rightest, most right, reply I have ever seen.

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.

The website also explains why this is so, as follows:

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.

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.

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.

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 :eek: 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.

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.

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…”

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.

…and Verne Troyer."

Well if you watch surreal life you know a bottle of booze is just as effective.

If you have ever been bitten by an ant, then you must know the answer is yes!

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.

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.