Trap Jaw Ant


Actual Size: 12 mm

Characteristics: Slim, black to dark brown. Identified by their strong mandibles.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Construct nests in soil, leaf litter, and rotting logs. Will nest in the mulch underneath hedges of landscaped areas near homes, commercial buildings, malls, and hotels.


  • Active hunters with venomous stings and a powerful bite.
  • Their mandibles snap shut at incredible speeds, up to 145 mph.
  • Will use their mandibles to not only attack predators, but to escape from them.  


Trap-Jaw Ants in Eastern Tennessee

Trap-jaw ants are vigorous hunters with venomous stings and jaws strong enough to fling themselves through the air. Generally found in tropical areas, they are currently spreading throughout Eastern Tennesse and the Southern United States. These ants use their powerful mandibles to not only attack but to escape, by hurling themselves away from predators. When foraging for food, trap-jaw ants may wander into homes where they may become an issue due to their painful bite, venomous sting, and aggressive behavior when their nest is threatened. 

Trap-Jaw Ant Habitat

Building small colonies with only one queen and less than 200 ants, trap-jaw ants eat small insects and sweet substances. Trap jaw ants nest in soil, leaf litter and rotting logs. They are typically found under dead wood or beneath forest floors. In urban areas, their nests can usually be found in the mulch underneath hedges of landscaped areas near homes, commercial buildings, malls, and hotels.

Trap-Jaw Ant Behaviors, Threats or Dangers

The obvious danger regarding trap-jaw ants is their bite. Researchers have found the ant’s jaws accelerate at 100,000 times the force of gravity. When snapping their jaw shut, trap-jaw ants reach speeds up to 145 mph, exerting forces 300 to 500 times the ant’s body weight! Additionally, these ants have a painful stinger, and if a nest is threatened, workers immediately assault their attacker, stinging and biting. The trap-jaw ant’s stinger is not barbed and can be used repeatedly.  Although their venom isn’t fatal, it can produce allergic reactions. If you suspect a trap-jaw ant issue on your property, it is best to consult a licensed ant exterminator.