4
$\begingroup$

Inspired by this question, I want to know: what would be the best real weapons in a fight against ants?

All ants on Earth decide to exterminate all humans. Humans do not need to exterminate all ants, they just need to keep ant attacks suppressed enough for human civilization to operate.

I'm looking for real weapons that actually exist today. I am assuming most regular firearms are a bad fit for this (but feel free to argue otherwise).

Assume the ants are extremely well coordinated -- almost like the ants are an enemy faction in a videogame being controlled by a smart opponent. But they are still just ants, and they are not actually omniscient. They simply have a unified command structure that operates effectively.

Assume also that every species of ant is united in this war. Among other things, this means that varieties of ant will work together that normally would fight each other.

Please do take into account:

  • the physics of how the weapon works
  • biological facts about humans and ants
  • humans' desire to not also kill other humans or non-belligerent animals
  • real supply levels (e.g. we must plausibly be able to field the necessary number of weapons to defeat the ants)
  • how these weapons fit into a strategy to defeat the ants
$\endgroup$
8
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ why everyday insecticide is not enough? it's harmless enough that anyone can buy in local convenience store (I'm guessing that with such adversary, there will be pressure to produce more of them or even government incentivizing or subsidizing its purchase to the point that it becomes like what mask is in post covid society) $\endgroup$
    – Kristian
    Apr 1, 2023 at 6:03
  • $\begingroup$ How do you measure effectiveness? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Apr 1, 2023 at 7:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Kristian Well, I suppose if they're intelligent they won't be so easy to bait. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Apr 1, 2023 at 8:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Kristian Insecticides will kill bees, too, along with all other insects that are pollinators. Use of insecticides at the scale the ant attack requires will deliver a death blow to agriculture. $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2023 at 10:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Are these intelligent ants, or just "coordinated" ants? $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Apr 2, 2023 at 11:37

7 Answers 7

4
$\begingroup$

I would prioritize heat and fire, and pheromones.

Ants are small and thus fragile. Even a flash exposure to fire will more or less incapacitate them, and even lowish heat -- 50°C / 120°F -- can easily damage them. The ant does not have protection against heat basically at all. Their incredibly thin legs will stop working when the proteins in muscles coagulate, and it's basically game over for the little thing. Their antennas are vulnerable, too.

I would avoid insecticides as much as possible because they kill other insects, too, and agriculture depends so much on pollinators. However, very very limited use of insecticides where fire will not do should remain an option.

Then the pheromones: ants communicate via specific chemicals. Producing them in large quantities and spreading them in places where ants are definitely not wanted will confuse them and render many attacks completely ineffective.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ Pheremones was my first idea too. But I am not sure what the rules are if the ants are both controlled by a person like a RTS and also controlled by pheromones. Maybe we can have both. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Apr 2, 2023 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Daron I think pheromones is the primary way to control the ants even if it was a person doing it. $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2023 at 19:13
3
$\begingroup$

All ants on Earth decide to exterminate all humans. Humans do not need to exterminate all ants, they just need to keep ant attacks suppressed enough for human civilization to operate.

It sounds like you just described covid-19 virus. I think human faction will handle it exactly the same way we handle covid-19. We do not think to exterminate all covid-19 virus after all. Our objective is just to keep covid-19 suppressed enough for human civilization to operate.

  • Insecticide will fulfill the role of mask. There will be a lot of pressure to make them cheaper (mass produced), harmless enough to be handled by kids, ease of use (smaller/lighter). It likely won't be one stop solution, but it will be the first aid/first line of defense. I imagine one push insecticide https://www.google.com/search?q=one+push+insecticide will be mandated by law or by social pressure to be carried by everyone.
  • Fumigation/fogging will be done more often, like how antiseptic spray was often sprayed on public places on covid-19 pandemic times.
  • If all else fails, we can just pour water over them: no matter how intelligent they are, it's like a flood for them. It's natural disaster level that you can do nothing about.

Assume the ants are extremely well coordinated -- almost like the ants are an enemy faction in a videogame being controlled by a smart opponent. But they are still just ants, and they are not actually omniscient. They simply have a unified command structure that operates effectively.

But if the ants are under one leadership and have instantaneous communication and sense sharing (implied by above statement), then we have bigger problem. If I'm on ants side's leadership, I'll definitely avoid any hostility with humans, staying under detection, and instead focus on increasing ants population as much as possible, then bet it all on one single attack at same time to overwhelm human side's ability to react with saturation attack https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturation_attack .

If it comes to this, no matter what weapon we have it's useless since we do not predict them beforehand to prepare for it. Ants side would especially bred flying ants to prevent water countermeasure and maximize mobility.

Mosquito laser as said by other answer would be rendered completely ineffective with this tactic. If human have 10 mosquito laser each capable of killing 10 ant in 1 second, then ant side will just need to bring 101 ants per second.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

If a single ant could pose a risk and you do not want to cover the world in insecticide, then lasers may be an answer for small regions where people are. See Mosquito laser

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ From my experience as a nasty child with too much time and a magnifying glass to torture insects with, ants explode somewhat. With a whole colony, it'd be like cooking popcorn on the ground (with a smell of formic acid to boot). $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2023 at 9:42
2
$\begingroup$

FlameThrowers.

Okay, there are some other options, but for practically, a Flamethrower has both the Coolness factor (Pun intended) and is going to be the most effective, non-destructive (I'll get to that in a mo) option.

Effective because it's Fire - ants are small and so the energy required to burn them to a crisp isn't alot.

Secondly - Most people have a good understanding of how Fire works, most people have used water squirt guns, and so a Flamethrower is going to be simple to operate for the everyday populace, simple to maintain - all the infrastructure needed for it's ammunition is readily available (no need for exotic Napalm type fuels that stick and burn - this isn't a long range weapon).

Now - when I said non-destructive - Pesticides are quite nasty, even to Humans. Using them en-masse has two issues: It poisons our environment and pesticide resistance is a thing. Fire doesn't have this issue. In addition, if we made changes to our how buildings are made (moving away from things like Wood to more non-flammable materials) - a short burst with a flame thrower would kill or scorch an Ant attack, but is unlikely to set the house on fire.

Plus it has multiple uses - when a Colony is found, just stick it in the entrance, pull the trigger and fry them! if they attack in masses, you can adjust the flame to be an Area of Effect weapon.

Even the risk of Friendly Fire (heh - the puns write themselves) is small - whilst getting burned isn't fun, a human is going to survive a glancing blow (albeit with injuries).

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

If these are intelligent ants - on a par with human intelligence - then humanity is doomed. We have enough trouble keeping regular ants under control. Ants still get everywhere.

There are 20 quadrillion ants on Earth. If they're all intelligent and hostile to humans, they represent a vastly greater economic force than human civilization. Because, mostly, the economic value of a person is their mind, not their muscles, and 20 quadrillion intelligent ants represents a lot more minds than 7 billion humans.

The ants will get everywhere and steal the secrets to all our technology. It wouldn't be long before there are major ant industrial centers everywhere on Earth. The ants will unleash engineered plagues on humanity. They will poison our water supply. They will roll out tanks and planes. They will nuke our cities.

Humanity's best hope of killing all the ants would be a bio-engineered ant plague of our own. But it's still not plausible we could wipe out all the ants this way - the ants are intelligent and have technology, they will quarantine their sick and find cures. There are all different species of ants, and we couldn't expect one plague to work well on all of them. And the ants would have millions of researchers for every one of ours.

$\endgroup$
2
  • $\begingroup$ It might depend how unrealistic the story is. Apparently, some things don't scale, for instance a fire needs to be a certain size (that, for ants, would be gigantic) to make it hot enough to work metal, you can't make a small-but-equally-hot fire in a thimble. Though poison etc. might still be possible. $\endgroup$
    – A. B.
    Apr 5, 2023 at 13:44
  • $\begingroup$ @A.B. The ants could always capture and enslave humans to do heavy lifting for them. Or purchase heavy lifting hydraulic equipment from humans, or steal it, where it's rigged up for touchpad control an ant could manage. Or use ropes and pulleys to maneuver big things. Intelligent minds will find a way. $\endgroup$
    – causative
    Apr 5, 2023 at 14:39
1
$\begingroup$

If intelligent ants decide to wage war on humanity then we have already lost. Not because any technology ants may possess, but because globaly-coordinated ants can easily destroy wast majority of our food production. They can destroy seeds before they can grow, crops before the harvest, they can kill every pollinator, they could kill farm animals (we cannot protect even every human from ants, let alone every farm animal),... So ants don't need to kill a single human if they want to exterminate us. And it would be more or less impossible to protect our food infrastructure.

Not that it would be hard to kill people for them directly. There probably isn't a single land animal that can survive attack from the mass of ants. It is hard to breathe if you have lungs full of ants...

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Bribery & Food Poisoning

Give them food in exchange for them not attacking you. In case they scam you, put poison inside the food.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ It seems like if they're intelligent ants they'd have a few ants try the food first. $\endgroup$
    – A. B.
    Apr 5, 2023 at 13:40

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .