Trap Jaw Ants

© Gerardine Vargas

An introduction to trap jaw ants

Trap jaw ants are well known for their large mandibles that can lock back at 180 degrees. The mandibles can snap shut on prey or objects when sensory hairs found on the inside of their mandibles are touched, in a similar process to a venus fly trap.

Trap jaw ant ‘Odontomachus bauri’ owns the record for the fastest movement within the animal kingdom. Its mandibles can exert forces 300 times its own weight, at maximum speeds of 230 km/h or 140 mph. They can be used to kill or damage prey and in times of danger it can push its head to the ground to literally fling itself away (see videos below). For extended information on these fascinating ants see UCMPs research.

Scientific names

Odontomachus Sp, Anochetus Sp, Stumigenys Sp, Orectognathus Sp.


Trap jaw ants can be found in the tropics and sub-tropics throughout the world. Particularly South Asia, America and Madagascar.


Trap jaw ants can normally be found under dead wood or forest floors.


Trap jaw ants mostly eat other insects, but also sweet substances.

Colony size

Trap jaw ants have small colonies, with less than 200 individuals.


Trap jaw queen ants can be around 13mm, slim build, blacks and dark browns. They are monogyn (normally one queen per colony). Trap jaw queens tend to have a similar appearance to that of their workers.


12mm, slim build, blacks and dark browns.

Pest info

Strong jaws allow for a painful bite, it also has a strong stinger.

Pet info

Risk declarations must be completed if this trap jaw ants are housed outside of their country of origin.

Most Odontomachus sp require a dead wood, turf and moss style ant habitat. A lamp and heater is also recommended.

Trap Jaw Ant Videos

External links 

Trap jaw ant images