Studies and observations have shown behavior like humans regarding field medicine in times of battle.

Matabele Ant carrying wounded comrad

Matabele Ant carrying wounded comrad

Matabele Ants have been observed raiding in mass against termite colonies and it has been revealed that Matabele ants who suffer wounds were tended to by fellow ants to save them for future raids.


Over 200 raids were observed by scientists in a laboratory setting and in the ivory coast in West Africa. The Matabele ants only eat termites and will raid their colonies in the hundreds to take termites back to the ant nest for food.

During the raids the Matabele ants would suffer losses and wounded ants, limbs would get torn off and it would be a race for other ants to pick up the wounded ant using its strong jaws and taking them back to the safety of the nest for treatment.

The ants tending to the wounded were using saliva which is believed to obtain antimicrobial properties.Matabele ants carrying termites

Scientist from Wurzburg University calculated that treatment would reduce the ants risk of dying from 80% to 10%.

The same team discovered the year prior that ants who were wounded in battle released a distress pheromone to signal that they were wounded and needed evacuation.

 Research also indicated that the ants with only a couple legs ripped off were almost always evacuated and carried over long distances – even up to 50 meters. The wounded ants would receive treatment to seal up the wound and would learn to walk and fight within 24h.

In comparison, ants with 5-6 legs ripped off were rarely evacuated, not because rescuer ants knew they couldn’t be saved but because severely wounded ants were difficult to carry, they would thrash around wildly. Lightly wounded ants would tuck in their remaining legs and remain immobile making it easier to be evacuated.

It is important for the Matabele ants to evacuate wounded members as they live in relatively small colonies, ranging from 1000 – 2000 members in 1 colony. The Matabele Ants have a low birth rate at 10 -15 ants per day, meaning every single member of the colony is valuable.


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