Driver ants, also known as Dorylus or siafu ants, are a species of army ants found in the tropical regions of Africa. These ants are mostly known for their large colonies and aggressive behavior. They perform massive swarm raids that drive out other animals.
Driver ants are important in the ecosystem as they serve as both predators and prey. They play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.
In this article, we’ll learn more about driver ants as we discuss the following:
- Characteristics of Driver ants
- Driver ant habitat and distribution
- Driver ant habits
- Are driver ants dangerous?
- Benefits of Driver ants
Characteristics of Driver Ants
Driver ants belong to the Dorylinae subfamily of ants. This is a group of ants that are known for their aggressive behavior and nomadic lifestyle. 
These ants are characterized by their large mandibles, which they use to catch and kill prey. They are generally dark in color, ranging from brown to black.
Driver ants can grow up to 63 mm in length, depending on their caste. Their workers exhibit extreme polymorphism, meaning they have different-sized workers. Specialized workers called soldiers have larger heads and mandibles.
All driver ants are blind. They communicate primarily through pheromones.
Habitat and Distribution of Driver Ants
Driver ants are found throughout the tropical regions of Africa and some regions of Asia. They are typically found in humid habitats such as forests and savannas.
Driver Ant Habits
Driver ants are nomadic and do not build permanent nests like many other ant species. Instead, they construct temporary nests from their own bodies and the surrounding environment.
These nests are called bivouacs. They build these nests by linking together their legs and bodies. It’s a living structure that protects the colony from the elements and predators. They move this bivouac as needed to follow food sources or avoid danger.
Driver ants are subterranean and build their bivouacs in underground cavities. They excavate and inhabit these cavities for up to 3 months at a time.
Driver ants are voracious predators. They feed on a variety of prey including insects, spiders, small mammals, and reptiles. They also scavenge for carrion and other sources of protein.
They hunt for prey by conducting massive swarm raids. Together, they ravage the forest floor and vegetation. They swarm any prey they encounter and dismember them with their strong mandibles.
Driver ants follow the typical ant colony structure. They have 3 castes: queens, workers, and drones.
These castes each have specific functions. Queens are the only females in the colony capable of laying eggs. Their primary role is to reproduce and maintain the colony’s population. Driver ant colonies are monogynous. They have a single egg-laying queen.
Workers, on the other hand, are sterile females. They dedicate themselves to helping the queen and her brood. They do everything from finding food and nest maintenance.
Lastly, drones are produced when the colony needs to expand. Their sole purpose is to mate with virgin queens.
Unlike many ants, driver ant queens are wingless. This means that they don’t reproduce via the nuptial flight. Instead, they mate on the ground and within their nest.
On the other hand, driver ant drones are capable of flight. During the reproductive season, they fly out to mate with virgin queens. They find the queens by following pheromone trails left by driver ant workers.
These trails eventually lead the drones to a driver ant colony. Upon encounter, the colony removes the wings of the drone and carries him back to the nest. There the drone mates with the queen and dies shortly afterward.
Meanwhile, the queen stays alive and can eventually lay up to 1,000,000 eggs per month.
Driver ants establish new colonies through colony fission. Whenever the colony reaches a certain size, they’ll split into groups and create new, separate nests.
Are Driver Ants Dangerous?
Driver ants can be dangerous, but not to the extent of how they’re portrayed in pop culture. In movies, driver ants are deadly creatures that brutally devour their victims. They can swarm and eat even us humans in mere seconds. Suffice to say, that’s not the case in real life.
In reality, driver ants are usually only dangerous to small animals. They’re simply too slow to chase down and swarm humans.
That said, they can most definitely harm us. They have powerful mandibles and painful bites. They’re also particularly dangerous to infants and the inebriated.
See this article to learn more about dangerous ants.
Benefits of Driver Ants
While they can be scary, driver ants aren’t all bad. They provide a number of benefits and are important members of the ecosystem. These benefits are as follows:
Driver ants are natural predators of different types of pests. In fact, some communities use them for pest control. The Maasai people, for example, use driver ants to control crop pests from insects to rats. 
Driver ants aren’t the only ones doing the eating. They serve as a nutritious food source for many animals. These animals include other insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
Driver ants help aerate the ground as they move through the soil and improve soil quality. This leads to improved plant growth and nutrient availability.
As scavengers, driver ants help to break down organic matter in the soil. This helps recycle nutrients and improve soil fertility.
Why Are They Called Driver Ants?
They’re called driver ants because their raids drive away other animals.
Can Driver Ants Sting?
Yes, driver ants can sting. However, they barely use them and they prefer to rely on their mandibles instead.
Summary: What Are Driver Ants?
Driver ants are a type of ant species found in Africa and parts of Asia. They are known for their underground bivouacs and their aggressive behavior. They’re voracious predators and feed on a variety of small animals.
Driver ants are important members of the ecosystem. They play a role in soil aeration, nutrient cycling, and population control. Overall, they help maintain the balance of their environments.