Do you pump iron? Unless you’re an athlete in high school, you probably don’t spend a lot of time lifting weights. It’s important to stay in shape, of course, but younger children can get all the exercise they need by running and playing.

Building strong muscles as you get older can help you stay healthy and in shape. You don’t need to have huge muscles like Popeye to be strong, though. In fact, would you believe that the strongest human beings can’t match the strength of the strongest insects?

Sure, you might be able to lift more weight than the average ant. But what about in comparison to your size? After all, you are a lot bigger than an ant. For their size, ants — and several other insects — are incredibly strong.

For example, the humble dung beetle, whose scientific name is Onthophagus Taurus, was recently named the world’s strongest insect by a group of scientists. How strong is it? You might be amazed.

The strongest dung beetle can pull weight up to 1,141 times its own body weight. That’s like a human being lifting over 180,000 pounds! Think you can lift 90 tons?

Ants are not nearly as strong as dung beetles, but they can also do some impressive work. If you’ve ever seen an ant colony at work, you know that ants can carry leaves, rocks and other materials much bigger than themselves. Ants have been known to carry objects up to 50 times their own body weight.

So why are ants and other insects so strong? It’s actually because of their small size. When you lift something, your muscles must also lift parts of your own body, like your arms and your legs. The bigger you are, the more these body parts weigh. The more these body parts weigh, the less overall weight you’re able to lift.

Tiny ants and other insects have to lift very little of their own body weight, because they’re so small. As a result, they’re able to lift objects much bigger than themselves. In other words, most of their strength goes to lifting an object, rather than their own body parts.

This can be seen in the work of leafcutter ants. These ants will attack leaves, flowers and grasses, cutting down and carrying off large pieces many times their body size. Although these ants are tiny, their powerful jaws can cut, lift and carry pieces of vegetation weighing 50 times their own body weight. That’s like you lifting a truck with your teeth!

81 Join the Discussion

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  1. Hey, I’m from Mrs. Hess’ class and Wonderopolis has been awesome. I thought this would be boring, but it is really fun. My prediction was if bugs ate stuff with iron in it. :) I also haven’t watched the video yet so I’m pretty curious about what the video is like. :) I’ll be watching the video in about 30 minutes once I get to school.

    From Andrew

    • Hi there, Wonder Friend Andrew, thanks for sharing your comment! We are glad you enjoy your time at Wonderopolis- we have lots of fun with great Wonder Friends like you! We hope you enjoy our Wonder video today… thanks for starting the day with us! :)

  2. We were very surprised that the smallest insects could lift so much weight. We were slightly embarassed because we thought we could lift heavier things compared to our body size.

    Predictions: dictionary, movie “A Thousand Words”, spelling bee, foreign language, spelling, Celtic, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

    • We are very impressed with these insects’ weight lifting skills, too, Mrs. Hess! We sure did learn a lot with you today! :-)

      We’re glad you shared all your SUPER guesses for tomorrow’s wordy Wonder! Thank you! :)

    • We sure did learn something new about ants, too! Thanks for joining the fun today, Ms. Bayko’s Class! We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder will be… but we like your guess! :)

  3. Dear Wonderopolis,

    Wow! We never realized that insects could be so strong! If insects can lift so much because they are small, does that mean a very small person can lift a lot too?

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a library because it is full of books and words, scrabble, or even a picture because we heard that a picture can be worth a thousand words.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Tillman’s 4th graders

    • WOHOO, our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Tillman’s 4th grade class are here! We like your thought process… we bet people who are smaller can lift a lot, but not compared to ants. The bones in our bodies, which protect our organs, are heavy compared to the stick-like legs of an insect. What a great Wonder!

      We LOVE the library, and love all your guesses for the next Wonder of the Day®! We hope you are enjoying this Wonder Wednesday! See you soon! :)

  4. Wow! We LOVED the video. It made us laugh a lot. We knew a lot about ants from our insect unit. So, we were glad the Wonder of the Day was about them. Ants are AWESOME!

    We predict tomorrow’s wonder will be: We think there will be lots of talking, dictionaries,singing, a very hyper person or sign language

    • That’s great news– thanks for WONDERing with us, Miss Holden’s 2nd Grade Class! We are glad you are smiling after today’s Wonder, too! We agree: ants are AWESOME! :)

      We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s wordy Wonder will be… so many great guesses! Thanks for sharing! :)

    • HOORAY, our Wonder Friends in Ms. Murphy’s Class are WONDERing with us today! Isn’t it incredible to imagine the strength of a dung beetle! WOWZA! Have a great day, Wonder Friends! :)

  5. The video was magnificent! It was fun learning about the dung beetle and the leafcutter ant.

    It was nice to learn that insects can carry so much more than us.

    • Well thanks so much, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Beatty’s 4th Grade! We sure are glad your WONDERing about strong ants with us today! Thanks for sharing your comment with us! :)

    • Great question, Aniyah! :) We WONDERed about the strength of insects today– check out the excerpt below to learn more about their strength:

      “Sure, you might be able to lift more weight than the average ant. But what about in comparison to your size? After all, you are a lot bigger than an ant. For their size, ants — and several other insects — are incredibly strong.
      For example, the humble dung beetle, whose scientific name is Onthophagus Taurus, was recently named the world’s strongest insect by a group of scientists. How strong is it? You might be amazed.

      The strongest dung beetle can pull weight up to 1,141 times its own body weight. That’s like a human being lifting over 180,000 pounds! Think you can lift 90 tons?” :)

  6. Hello wonderbuddies I had no idea ants were so strong I once found out my feet weigh 23 pounds each! By the way I am a 11-12 year old boy! :-)

    • WOWZA, thanks for sharing that cool information with us, Hunter! Who knew our feet weighed so very much?! No Wonder we can’t lift weight like those insects! :)

  7. Dear Friends at Wonderopolis,

    We are wondering what is the heaviest thing an ant can carry? Can you tell us? We learned that a colony is a group of ants.

    We love your website!

    Makenzie, Scott and Austin

    • Hi there, Mrs. Nolan’s 5th grade friends! Thanks for stopping by to Wonder with us today! We Wonder if you can do some more research about ants and the objects they can carry– we’d love to learn more! :)

  8. Woah! It was amazing to learn how much an ant can carry! We loved the video! Alyssa wants to know why ants get squished when we step on them if they are so strong!?!

    Our prediction for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is how many words the fastest auctioneer can say in one minute.

    • We’re so glad you enjoyed today’s Wonder, Mrs. Vass’ Third Grade! We are very proud of you for WONDERing on your own, too! Alyssa, what a SUPER question! While ants are strong, humans are MUCH larger in size, and in mass. Therefore, the best option an ant has is to RUN as fast as possible to prevent being squished! :)

      Thanks for sharing your awesome fast-talking guess! We’ve got a Wonder right up your alley: Wonder #770– Who Talks the Fastest? :-)

  9. So interesting that I have to take notes and learn more I am highly impressed by your info? How did you find out all of this information please write back and also how do you send back replies does a computer do all your typing or an actual human reads them? Sorry if I have bored you with my questions. :)

    • Hi there, Jan! We’re so glad you’re WONDERing with us today! We LOVE researching and WONDERing… it takes a lot of time to develop a Wonder, and we are glad when our Friends (just like you) comment! Every comment receives a special, personalized response by one of our Wonder Friends here at Wonderopolis! No robots here! Thanks for visiting us– we’ll see you soon! :-)

  10. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We enjoyed the video today. We really didn’t know that ants could carry so much, like dog food.

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about a long train, the longest word, or dictionaries.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th graders

    • We’re glad to hear that you liked WONDERing about those strong insects today, Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th grade class! They are incredible insects, if we do say so ourselves! :-)

      Hooray for long-winded Wonders, we can’t wait for tomorrow! See you then! :)

    • An ant farm might be an ant’s version of a gym! :-) We’re glad you liked WONDERing about strong insects today, Merle! Have a SUPER day! :)

    • No stepping on ants allowed, Wonder Friend! We hope you have a great time WONDERing on your own– those insects are strong! :)

  11. Dear wonderopolis,
    I can’t believe how strong an ant is. Do you think the dog will get mad that the ant is carrying his food away? I think it was mean when the person picked at the ant. We made dung beetles out of clay last year in art. The video was neat, but I wish it was longer.

    • WOHOO, we’re glad our Wonder Friends from Mrs. Stemmet’s Class are here today! We liked today’s video, but we hope that ant made it home with that dog food! The ant colony must have been VERY happy about it! :) We hope you’ll be back for more WONDERing soon! :)

  12. So first of all I really don’t pump iron but I do work out!!

    It’s so cool that insects do work out. I didn’t know ants where that strong and the humble dung beetle was amazing!! The video was awesome!!

    I usually don’t like insects because they used to just be gross to me but now they are kind of COOL!!!!

    I’m not going to forget this it was AWESOME how an ant could lift all those things with its teeth and when you said it was like us lifting a truck that was AWESOME!!!

    So thanks for teaching me about how strong insects are!!! :) :) :) :)

    • We’re glad you’re staying healthy, Cate! WOHOO! Insects are amazing creatures– it was fun to Wonder together today! :)

      We’re so happy that you are here today, and you’ve even WONDERed about insects! Thanks for sharing your comment! :)

  13. The video is so cool an ant can lift a big thing of dog food! I have no idea what the next wonder is. Cody from Mrs. Donalds class

  14. Dear Wonderopolis
    I thought ants can’t move anything, well I was wrong thank you but remember the next WONDER make sure it’s longer because it took 30 something seconds and no minutes NO MINUTES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • WOOHOO, we’re glad you learned something new today, Gina! We hope you’ll come back tomorrow to Wonder with us again– or visit any of our 800 Wonders! :-)

  15. Thank you now I have the last fact for the ant squad I wish it was a movie it will take more than a hour thank you so much.
    Have a great day

    • Hi there, Ky Duyen Quang! We’re glad to know you learned something new with us! Muscles weigh a lot, that’s why we get heavier as we get stronger! :)

  16. I was amazed of how strong ants are and I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day might be like a picture is worth a thousand words or language or the dictionary.

  17. The video was kind of disgusting at first but it turned that I learned something from it.

    I still can’t get a prediction right on wonderopolis oh well. I’m happy that I joined.

    • We’re THRILLED to hear that you learned something new with us, Pedro! Thanks for using your imagination to guess the next Wonder of the Day®– we are proud of you! :)

  18. We just read about weaver ants because we wanted to know more about strong insects and if they work together. I’m really interested in these ants and haven’t been very interested in any insects before we read this Wonder! My mom said we could read more about strong beetles tomorrow.

    • Hi there, Gavin, we’re glad you’re back! We are so glad that you and your Mom have been WONDERing about other insects on your own– way to go! Have a SUPER time WONDERing! :)

    • Hi there, Isabella! We know you’re a fantastic WONDERer with a SUPER creative brain! While dung beetles may be very strong, you’ve got great things going for you! Keep up the WONDERing! :)

  19. I am so interested that humans are not the only strong ones. Did you kong one kind of beetle can carry more or the same as the dung beetle but I can’t put my finger on which one. Wonder has many exiting thing. P.S. can’t wait to see the next one.

    • Joseph, great work WONDERing about strong insects! :) They are very impressive, especially since they are so small! We Wonder if you can continue to Wonder on your own about beetles and their strength… perhaps you can visit the library for more help?! :)

    • We’ve been WONDERing the same thing, Hannah! While ants are tiny, they don’t have heavy bones or extra body weight to carry around like we do, so they can lift things that are much heavier than they are! :)

  20. Eric Scaefer

    7. Feb, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    The most interesting thing to me in the article was that the Dung Beetle could lift more than 1,100 pounds than what they weigh. That is impressive. I weigh 80 pounds and I could not lift 80,000 pounds no matter what. That would be a lot of cars. I also thought it was amazing how the leafcutter ant is able to lift 50 times its own tiny weight with just its teeth. Insects do not have to work out because they are so tiny. They don’t have to lift heavy arms like I do. Some of the strongest insects, the article says, are the Dung Beetle and the Leafcutter Ant. The Dung Beetle is the strongest of all. This article sure taught me a lot about how little insects like those can lift so much weight and why they can. I love how it had so many interesting insect facts. They really surprised me. The video of the ant carrying a piece of dog food was cool, too. I wish the article talked about spiders, too. Are they as strong?
    =Eric Schaefer

    • Hey Colton! That is an interesting question! Where do you think you could research a question like that? It could be a fun project! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do insects work out?
  • What are some of the strongest insects?
  • How much weight can a leafcutter ant carry?

Wonder Gallery

Insects WorkoutVimeo Video

Try It Out

Would you like to be as strong as an ant? If so, you’d better start working out! Those muscles aren’t going to grow big by themselves.

Grab a friend or family member and do some simple tests around the house to measure your current level of strength. Start with a 5-pound bag of flour or sugar. Can you lift it easily? What about two bags? How about a 20-pound bag of dog food?

If you have free weights at home, you can try lifting these, too. Be sure you have an adult with you, though. It’s always important to make sure you’re being careful when you’re lifting weights or doing any type of exercise.

You don’t need special equipment to lift weights, though. Why? Your body has weight! You can do many exercises, from push-ups to sit-ups to pull-ups, using only your body’s own weight as the force you’re lifting (or pushing or pulling).

Even though you’ll probably never be able to lift something 50 times your own body weight, exercising and building up your muscles can still benefit you. Being a healthier, stronger person will help you enjoy life as much as possible!

Still Wondering

In ReadWriteThink’s Internet Quest: Ants! student interactive, children use the Internet to research and record information about ants.

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If you remember to visit tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day, it could be worth a thousand words!

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