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How Fast Are Ants? (Compared to Humans & Cheethas)

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Ants walk around a lot, so you’d think they’re fast in order to cover more ground during the day. For some ants, this is the case. For others, it’s not.

There are over 12.000 different types of ant species that exist today. Many of them travel at the same speed, while some are faster or slower.

It all depends on their natural habitats, predators, and how they’ve evolved.

This article will provide some insights into these aspects of ants as well as comparisons of the speed of an average ant to other animals such as humans, cheetahs, or Usain Bolt.

How Fast Are Ants?

Ants are pretty fast. In fact, they’re faster than us (respective to their size). 

The average ant speed is 10-20 body lengths per second. If an ant is 5 mm, that’d be:

  • 10 cm/second
  • 0.36 km/h 
  • 0.2237 miles/h
green tree ant

Usain Bolt’s top speed has been recorded as 28 miles per hour or 45 kilometers per hour. This is equal to about 6 body lengths per second. A cheetah, on the other hand, runs at 70 mph or 110 kph (16 body lengths per second).

How Fast Are Fire Ants?

Fire ants can travel at a speed of about 10 body lengths per second. Now, if the fire ant was human size, they would run pretty fast at a speed of 30 miles per hour – but since they’re tiny, they’re only traveling at speeds around 0.1 – 0.25 miles per hour. 

They use their antennae and mandibles as sensory organs while running at such high speeds.

fire ants crawling on the tree

How Fast Are Bullet Ants?

According to research done by scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology, bullet ants aren’t very fast. They move at just about the same speed as fire ants, perhaps a bit faster, since they are bigger.

Bullet ants are 1.5 inches. If they travel around 8 body lengths per second, they are traveling:

  • 12 inches/second
  • 0.68 mph
bullet ant

How Fast Are Black Ants?

Black ants are on the quicker side of the scale, clocking in at an average speed of around 0.08 m/s. The black ant travels at 15-20 body lengths per second.

Saharan Silver Ant: The fastest on the planet

The Saharan silver ant is the fastest on the planet [1]. It’s been recorded reaching up to speeds of 85.5 cm/s, equal to a mind-blowing 108 body lengths per second. If it was a human, that’d be 200 meters per second.

That’s equivalent to Usain Bolt running 800 mph, or a cheetah running 466 mph.

ants on sand

Fastest Ant Species and Their Adaptability

While speed is not usually how ants are described, some ant species can actually move really fast. The Saharan silver ant (Cataglyphis) of North Africa has been observed to run at a top speed of 85 centimeters per second in order to escape the hot desert sand.

They’ve adapted to their habitat, and since the desert sand is extremely hot, they need to be able to move across quickly. Another key to surviving a trip across the sand is how fast the ants move their feet. They don’t touch the ground for more than a few milliseconds and a time.

Also read: How far do ants travel?

How Fast Are Ants Compared to Humans?

Ants are very fast relative to their size. The bigger the ant, generally speaking, the slower it will be relative to its size. This is something we see in almost all species, apart from the extreme outliers.

An elephant moves relatively slower than a mouse – but the elephant will still outrun the mouse in a head-on race.

For a comparison between ants and humans, we will use relative and absolute speeds:

  • An ant is relatively faster than a human, since ants travel at speed around 10-20 body lengths/second, while humans travel about 3-5 body lengths/second. The fastest ant hit 108, while the fastest human hit 6.
  • An ant is absolutely slower than a human. Ants only travel about 0.15-0.3 mph, while humans can run between 15-25 mph.

How Fast Are Ants Compared to a Cheetah?

Ants are incredibly fast. In fact, several species of ants can easily beat a cheetah in a race – if they were as big as a cheetah.

Here’s a comparison of the two:

  • Ants are relatively faster than cheetahs, hitting  upwards of 108 body lengths per second, where the cheetah only hits about 16.
  • Ants are of course absolutely slower than cheetahs. Cheetahs hit 70 mph, which is a lot more than the ant.

The average black garden ant runs around 47 centimeters per second or 17 body lengths per second – which is still much faster than your typical cheetah. 

But what is the reason for their incredible speed? 

Let’s take the Saharan silver ant as an example. They have tiny muscles, and generally don’t weigh a lot. However, these particular ants are able to compensate for their small muscles by using the claws on their legs as shovels to propel them forward quickly across hot desert sand.

How Fast Are Ants Compared to Usain Bolt?

The fastest human ever recorded was Usain Bolt who ran 100 meters at 37.58 km/h, whilst reaching a top speed of 44.72km/h. 

While the Saharan silver ant has been clocked running about 4.8 km/h, they cover more ground relative to size. If they were as big as Usain bolt, they’d hit 800 mph, which would make them faster than any person or animal on this planet. That’s how fast Saharan silver ants really are.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.

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