How African tribesmen sew up wounds using ants

What does science know about ants? First of all, scientists know about the existence of more than 12 thousand species included in this vast family of insects. Ants can be found in every corner of our planet, except Antarctica. They live in anthills where a clear social structure is maintained, consisting of a queen, soldiers and workers. They play an important role in nature by accelerating the decomposition of dead animals and plants, as well as dispersing seeds and controlling pest populations. Some species of ants have unique abilities, such as secreting antibiotics to treat injured soldiers. There are also African tribes whose members use ants to stitch wounds. You will learn more about all this right now – as always, everything in simple words and with photographs.

How African tribes sew up wounds with the help of ants. Ants can heal wounds of their own kind and even people. Image source: Photo.

Ants can heal wounds of their own kind and even people. Image source:


  • 1 Ants in Matabele Africa
  • 2 How ants heal wounds
  • 3 Animals that heal wounds
  • 4 Ants for stitching wounds

Ants in Matabele Africa

In human society, when someone gets sick, those close to them start caring for them. We use drugs like antibiotics to treat diseases, and scientists have observed the same behavior in the societies of some ant species.

Ants in Matabele Africa. Matabele ants attack termites. Image source: Photo.

Matabele ants attack termites. Image source:

For example, this is observed in colonies of Matabele ants (Megaponera analis). They are found throughout Africa and received their unusual name in honor of the African Matabele tribe living in the southwest of Zimbabwe. Unlike other types of ants, this Matabele insect does not feed on nectars, but on termites. When attacking more dangerous creatures, the ants receive wounds and then treat them.

Ants in Matabele Africa. Representatives of the Matabele tribe in the image of 1984. Source: Photo.

Members of the Matabele tribe in the image of 1984. Source:

Read and watch:A selection of photographs of wild tribes of the 21st century and facts about their life

How ants heal wounds

Observations have shown that during raids on termite nests, up to 22% of ants lose one or two legs. Wounded individuals do not remain lying on the battlefield – other soldiers drag them back to the anthill. Previously, scientists did not know why they did this, but then it became known that Matabele ants can heal the wounded even from serious injuries such as severed limbs.

How ants heal wounds. Close-up of a Matabele ant. Photo source: Photo.

Matabele ant close-up. Photo source:

Of course, they cannot sew the lost leg back, but they are quite capable of distinguishing a normal wound from an infected one. If there is an infection in the wound, the ants inject into it a substance containing about 50 different components with an antimicrobial effect.

Animal healing wounds

To test how important “healers” are in Matabele ant colonies, scientists tried to separate them from wounded individuals. Without them, 90% of injured ants without treatment with the miracle substance died within 36 hours. In comparison, infected ants surrounded by healers died only 22% of the time. If termite-eating ants did not have the ability to heal each other, their colonies would quickly die from injury and starvation.

Animals heal wounds. Matabele ants are large, but termites are also a big danger to them. Photo source: Photo.

Matabele ants are large, but termites also pose a great danger to them. Photo source:

According to scientists, ants are the only animals that can heal their fellows as well as humans. Perhaps in the future they will be able to more carefully study the medicinal substances they contain and use it to create new antibiotics, against which bacteria have not yet developed immunity. There is hope that the new medicine will help people in the fight against Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

Read also:Why are ants one of the most powerful insects in the world?

Ants for stitching wounds

Ants are able to heal not only their own kind, but also people. True, they do this far from their own free will, and they pay for it with their lives.

In addition to the Matabele ants, ants of the Dorylus species live in Africa. They do not have the ability to heal each other, but have powerful hook-like jaws on their heads. They need them to protect and eat victims, but representatives of African tribes have found another use for them – they sew up wounds with ants.

Ants for stitching wounds. The jaws of Dorylus ants are excellent for stitching wounds. Photo source: Photo.

The jaws of Dorylus ants are excellent for stitching wounds. Photo source:

Up to 20 million individuals can live in one colony of Dorylus ants. When one of the people receives a wound, he can catch several ants and force them to bite the skin so that the jaws interlock the two edges of the flesh. After the insect has burrowed into the skin and closed the wound, its body is thrown out, and the head remains on the wound until complete healing. Even in the absence of medical supplies, local residents can obtain a strong suture that speeds up healing.

Ants for stitching wounds. A wound on the hand stitched up by ants. Image source: Photo.

A wound on the hand sewn up by ants. Image source:

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So, ants know how to treat each other with antibiotics, and are also used for suturing. But that's not all the amazing skills of these insects. Right now you can read about how and why they give milk, as well as how they heal damaged trees. Well, the most delicious thing: some ants are able to change the size of their brain.