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Ants are a group of insectoid monsters in NetHack represented by the overall symbol a. Due to their high intrinsic speed and somewhat powerful attacks, as well as appearing in small groups, they result in the deaths of many inexperienced players, leading to their proverbial nickname of Team Ant.

Aligned priests often summon insects such as ants and bees in combat. If the entire a monster class is genocided, angry priests and priestesses will summon snakes instead of insects.

Team Ant

Team Ant is comprised of giant ants, soldier ants, and fire ants. Whether killer bees, queen bees, and giant beetles are a member of Team Ant is a point of contention; while they share the a glyph, they aren't actually ants. Furthermore, killer bees appear in huge swarms and are at least as formidable as giant ants, who are usually seen in smaller groups outside of an anthole.

Since soldier ants are the third highest single cause of death on, it has become something of a cliche to say "Go team a!" or "Go Team Ant!" on NAO's IRC channel, #nethack on Libera, and other areas whenever Rodney announces a death by the hands of a soldier ant.

Giant ants

The giant ant, a, is the weakest of the ants, but still a frequent cause of early deaths due to its speed and tendency to appear in groups.

Soldier ant

The soldier ant, a, is very deadly and poisonous, and can deal severe damage even to characters with poison resistance, as they share the giant ant's intrinsic speed and tendency to appear in groups. As mentioned previously, they are one of the top causes of death on the NAO server.

Soldier ants are poisonous to eat.

Fire ant

The fire ant, a, is another member of Team Ant that causes the deaths of many an inexperienced player due to its high intrinsic speed and fire attacks; although not as immediately deadly as the soldier ant, the fire damage poses a threat to the player's inventory and armor as well.


There are several strategies for players who encounter ant swarms early in the game:

  • Ants are much faster than most low-level characters, so try to get into a corridor as soon as possible so you don't get surrounded.
    • Use a long-range weapon (such as a wand of magic missile) because it has a chance of killing more than one of the now lined-up monsters.
    • If you are skilled enough with a ranged weapon, firing multiple projectiles also has a chance of killing multiple lined-up ants.
  • Run to the stairway (hopefully, the stairway up) as soon as the ant is spotted.
    • If possible, disable the ant (perhaps with a wand of sleep) before fleeing.
    • Since ants are very fast, use any escape items or spells that will help you get to the stairs more quickly.
    • It's important to ensure that you are not burdened, to maximise your own speed.
    • A wand of slow monster is very effective, decreasing ants' speed to 12 (same as an unburdened player's speed), allowing a player to escape a trailing ant without it getting any attacks in.
    • Close doors to block the ants, if you are strong. Weak characters might not be able to close the door in time.
  • Another option is to engrave Elbereth. Ants are frightened by Elbereth.
    • A fleeing ant is less deadly than one attacking you.
    • With Elbereth, you can use the spare turns to attack the ant in melee, throw weapons, cast spells, or find an escape route.
  • If you must fight them, attack the ant with your best items or spells.
    • Now might be the time to use your offensive wands against the ant. (A wand of striking is likely to miss the ant; it is a poor choice.)
    • Zapping an unidentified wand at a monster can be risky, but might pay off if you can use it to attack or get away.
    • If you've exhausted all possible options, try reading an unknown scroll. It may be a scroll of teleportation or earth. This is even riskier. Cursed scrolls and spellbooks can sometimes cause teleportation, but cannot be relied upon to do so. Use this strategy only as a last resort.
  • If you get away, don't return to the area until you're confident you can survive the conflict.

Eating the corpses

Giant ant corpses are non-poisonous. Soldier ant corpses are poisonous and can grant poison resistance. Eating the corpse of a fire ant has a 20% chance of giving you the fire resistance intrinsic, and is a common source in the absence of red dragons and fire giants.


SLASH'EM adds the snow ant, the cold-based version of the fire ant.


The soldier ant is a nickname given to army ants in real life. Although it is possible that humans have been killed by army or driver ants, it is extremely unlikely, as they are little bigger than ordinary ants. They do, however, travel in very large groups.

Fire ants are real ants. They are many species of fire ants. They are usually red/reddish, very aggressive and their sting (from their abdomen) feels like a burn.

Encyclopedia entry

This giant variety of the ordinary ant will fight just as
fiercely as its small, distant cousin. Various varieties
exist, and they are known and feared for their relentless
persecution of their victims.

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