How Many Ants Would it Take to Carry a Human?

August 19, 2023
David Sunnyside

Ants are incredibly strong insects that can lift more than 20 times their own weight. Their strength comes from a combination of factors: they have powerful pincers called mandibles, their muscles are more dense than those of larger animals and can generate more force pound-for-pound, and they can work together to carry items that would be too heavy for them individually. But can ants really out-lift humans?

The answer is yes, according to a new study. Researchers specializing in ants (myrmecologists) have determined that there are around twenty quadrillion ants on Earth. That's a number that is so large it's hard to wrap your head around.

To determine this figure, the research team consulted 489 scientific studies covering every continent and habitat to estimate how many ants there are. They used a method known as mark and release, which involves capturing an ant or other insect, marking it (usually with a dab of paint) and then returning to the same spot to count the marked and unmarked insects.

The team found that the average ant weighs about 60 milligrams. Based on this, they figured that it would take about 4 million ants to carry a person of average height and weight. This isn't a perfect number because some of the ants could drop off along the way, but it's a good approximation. However, it's important to note that humans outweigh ants by a large margin – the average person can lift around half of their body weight, so a single ant would struggle to pick up even this amount of weight.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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