Macro photographs reveal the tiny, brutal world of ant warfare


Think ants are only interested in crashing your summer picnic? When they’re not after our stray watermelon slices, it seems they’re busy in engaging in ant-to-ant combat. Alex Wild’s ant macro photography reveals the warring nature (and surprisingly frightening jaws) of these seemingly unassuming insects. His photos and their equally fascinating captions reveal fights over territory, conflicts between colonies and brutal take-downs that rival UFC brawls – all going on otherwise unnoticed at our feet. 

Photo by Alex Wild.
Photo by Alex Wild.
Photo by Alex Wild.

Wild’s photographs reveal ants to be fearsome creatures, working together to pin down a much larger intruder on their home territory and gang up on a neighbor that wandered over from another nest. The Illinois-based biologist studies insect evolution and sees photography “as an aesthetic complement” to his research. We find his photos engrossing, and slightly squirm-inducing.

Heading to the great outdoors with a macro lens yourself? Take a look at some composition basics from photographer Erez Marom. And watch your step as you look for interesting subjects – they might just be waging a war at your feet. As always, you can share your macro photos in a gallery or write an article on the subject.

More macro advice from Erez Maron:

The what and why of wildlife macro photography
What we want in a macro shot – Detail
What we want in a macro shot – Background
What we want in a macro shot – POV and special scenes
Macro photography: Understanding magnification
Depth of Field in Macro Photography



Radiolab did a story about how argentine ants are controlling huge territories in the USA, an amazing story.

radiolab is one of my favourite podcasts.


What lens/camera did you use?


Does it matter? Can you still enjoy a photograph without checking the EXIF?


Suppose you want to have a go yourself, might be handy to know the sort of level of equipment required to get this sort of magnification – lens or bellows for instance…


From the EXIF is Canon EOS 7D.


Nice photos!

it’s all fun and games until someone totes out the can of RAID..


ConanFuji…Just click on the first photo and a new window will open with loads of photos to see 😎


DP.. How about more than just 3 photos…?


saw some winged carpenter ants in my building and got really worried, but they died off somehow. I say die ants too.


They fly and mate in the air, then queens land and drop their wings and find some wood to chew into and make a nest. If they don’t find a suitable nesting area in time they either die or are eaten by something else. Most ant species swarm in the late spring. That is what the mating flight of the winged males and queens is called because the rest of the colony pours out of that nest to protect them till they get airborne.


Really superb. He’s got loads of great insect photography on his site. Everyone should take a look.


The small ones always win. Of course, I am speaking of ants, not of pancake lenses!


In most ant fighting it is usually the bigger army that wins not the size of the ant. I think it was Stalin that said “quantity has a quality all its own”. One examplen he notes is that army ants are the only known species that can successfully overwhelm and destroy a leafcutter ant nest. The various species of army ants, driver ants, and legionary ants of the Southern Hemisphere are at the top of the ant heirarchy when it comes to killing other species of ants. Individual ants can always be overcome by numbers.


indeed. see my other post about argentine ants taking over north america.


They’re bigger in Texas.


Ants are so similar to humans, they just bleed less.


Great macro work!


I suppose these were taken with an iPhone, right? No? Oh well…

Roland Karlsson

Ants don’t love each other.


What Waldo said!

Waldo Nell


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