Horrifying close-up photo of an ant is the stuff of nightmares

Close-up photo of an ant's face.
The haunting demon terrifying the internet is actually … an ant. (Image credit: Eugenijus Kavaliauskas)

Creepy-crawlies with a menacing bite that can trigger an insatiable itch, ants are the stuff of nightmares for many people. A close-up image of one of these pint-size terrors from Nikon's Small World Photomicrography Competition 2022 (opens in new tab) is eliciting a horrified response that has spread across the internet like venom through the lymphatic system. 

Eugenijus Kavaliauskas, a Lithuanian photographer, captured the horrific sight, which earned him an "Images of Distinction" nod from the judges. Appropriately titled "Ant (Camponotus)," the image was captured by magnifying the ant's alien-like face five times under a stereo 10x microscope. Kavaliauskas called it an example of "God's designs and the many interesting, beautiful, unknown miracles under people's feet," according to The Washington Post (opens in new tab).

So, what makes this zoomed-in image so frightening? Perhaps it's the insect's antennae, which look eerily similar to a demon's piercing red eyes. Or maybe it's the insect's razor-sharp teeth built to pierce its victim's flesh with a single bite.

Related: Trap-jaw ants' lightning-fast bite should rip their heads apart. Here's why it doesn't.

The creepy image isn't the only scary thing about ants. Entomologists have documented ants morphing into zombies after coming into contact with mind-controlling parasites, vomiting into each other’s mouths to form social bonds and queens willingly sacrificing themselves as a way to retain the throne.

The ant image wasn't the only one that caught the judges' attention. Other spooky snaps that earned awards included a tiger beetle devouring a fly, a hulking blob of slime and a psychedelic image of a stained dinosaur bone.

Jennifer Nalewicki
Live Science contributor

Jennifer Nalewicki is a Salt Lake City-based journalist whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics and more. She covers several science topics from planet Earth to paleontology and archaeology to health and culture. Prior to freelancing, Jennifer was a reporter at Interior Design Magazine, and before that she held an Editor role at Time Inc. Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin.