Fire Ant Art

Fire ants, porcelain, paper clay and acrylic. Artwork.

Insects, including ants, are often used as subjects for artistic and literary works, including drawings, paintings, sculptures, jewelry, computer graphics, poems and stories. Renderings are often stylistic and do not relate directly to ant species such as the red or black imported fire ants. However, ants have always fascinated man for their intelligence, resourcefulness, social structure, and nest-building activities. This module was developed to bring together examples of art and literature using ants.

Fire ants and acrylic on panel 24”x36” Big Bang by Trent Thigpen.  “Fire ants and acrylic on panel 24”x36” One of my earliest memories is the fiery pain of a fire ant attack on my feet and legs when I was about 5 years old. It was an acute awakening of awareness for me. This image represents a burst of subatomic particles, emergent complexity of life, information and the evolution of consciousness.”  Exhibited at The 2016 Rising Eyes of Texas Exhibit, Rockport Center for the Arts, Rockport, TX
Fire ants, porcelain, paper clay and acrylic. In honor or the 100,000,000,000 humans to have lived and died. Retablo: The Dreams in Which We’re Dying by Trent Thigpen. “Fire ants, porcelain, paper clay and acrylic. In honor or the 100,000,000,000 humans to have lived and died.” 
ant sculpture in 2014 exhibit at creekwood botanical garden From a 2014 Exhibit at Creekwood Botanical Gardens, Nashville, TN
large metal ants on rock, 2014 Extreme Bugs Exhibit, Houston Zoo From the 2014 Houston Zoo Extreme Bugs Exhibit
A quilt of IFA conference t-shirts years are 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Debbie Nester’s quilt of t-shirt designs from IFA conference years 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013
photo of a large red ant sculpture at an art festival in Hawaii Xtreme Ants in Hawaii included an exhibit of fire ant art. Photo courtesy of Carol Russell.


Xtreme Ants in Hawaii included an exhibit of fire ant art. Xtreme Ants in Hawaii included an exhibit of fire ant art. Photo courtesy of Carol Russell.


A fire ant necklace by jewelry artist Michael Ellison.
A commemorative pin from the 2010 Imported Fire Ant Conference. Photo by Kathy Flanders.
A brooch depicting a fire ant. Photo by Kathy Flanders.


One of the best known renderings of ants was made by the Dutch artist M.C. Escher in his lithograph of a mobius strip.
A rendering of a fire ant by entomologist, artist and musician Bastiaan “Bart: Drees.
Line art is also a popular form of fire ant art. 1996 IFA Conference logo by Bart Drees. Caricatures of imported fire ants have adorned the coversof Proceedings of Imported Fire Ant Research Conference covers and t-shirts based on these illustrations.
Colombian artist Rafael Gomezbarros’ 2008 work “Casa Tomada” depicted giant ants crawling over the face of the National Congress building in Bogota. View the PDF of this exhibit.
Fire ants are artists as well as engineers. A fire ant nest consists of intricately connected tunnels that extend from the top of the mound down into the soil. This wax mound cast illustrates the beauty of these tunnels. Photo courtesy of Kelly Loftin, University of Arkansas.


In literature, one of the best known and often illustrated ant stories for children is The Ant and the Grasshopper, a fable by Aesop, retold and illustrated by Amy Lowry Poole, a Holiday House Book, Ages 4 – 8, New York, 2000. 29 pp.:

The Ant and the Grasshopper

A long time ago, in the old Summer Palace at the edge of the Emperor’s courtyard, there lived a grasshopper and a family of ants. The ants awoke every day before dawn and began their endless tasks of rebuilding their house of sand, which had been washed down by the evening rains, and searching for food, which they would store beneath the ground. They carried their loads grain by grain, back and forth, all day long.

The grasshopper liked to sleep late into the morning, rising as the sun stretched toward noon. “Silly ants,” he would say. “You work too hard. Come follow me into the courtyard, where I will sing and dance for the great Emperor.” The ants kept working.

“Silly ants,” the grasshopper would say. “See the new moon. Feel the summer breeze. Let us go together and watch the Empress and her ladies as they prepare for midsummer’s eve.” But the ants ignored the grasshopper and kept working.

Soon the days grew shorter and the wind brought cooler air from the north. The ants, mindful of the winter to come, worked even harder to secure their home against the impending cold and snow. They foraged for food and brought it back to their nest, saving it for those cold winter months.

“Silly ants,” said the grasshopper. “Don’t you ever rest? Today is the harvest festival. The Emperor will feast on mooncakes and sweet greens from the fields. I will play my music for him until the moon disappears into the smooth lake water. Come and dance with me.”

“You will do well to do as we do,” said one of the ants. “Winter is coming soon and food will be hard to find. Snow will cover your house and you will freeze without shelter.” But the grasshopper ignored the ant’s advice and continued to play and dance until the small hours of the morning.

Winter arrived a week later and brought whirls of snow and ice. The Emperor and his court left the Summer Palace for their winter home in the great Forbidden City. The ants closed their door against the ice and snow, safe and warm, resting at last after their long days of preparation. And the grasshopper huddled beneath the palace eaves and rubbed his hands together in a mournful chirp, wishing he had heeded the ant’s advice.

Links to more fire ant art inspiration:

  • Fire Ant Festival in Ashburn, GA
  • Fire Ant Drawing on TeacherTube
  • Marshall Fire Ant Festival in Texas
  • Texas Fire Ant Awareness Week was declared to occur during the second week in September by The State of Texas House of Representatives’ House Concurrent Resolution, H. C. R. No. 259. This Resolution was authored by Representative Tom Ramsay and signed by Governor George W. Bush on May 29, 1999.

Freddy the Fire Ant, mascot of Marshall Fire Ant Festival with B. Drees.

Freddy the Fire Ant, mascot of Marshall Fire Ant Festival with B. Drees.

To add more ant art and literature citations, links or images to this module, contact Bart M. Drees or Kathy Flanders.