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rogal eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The ants can eat up everything – the people, animals, crops, and natural vegetation – in Leiningen’s ranch in a very short time. They are a threat to the lives of all the things that live on Leiningen’s ranch. According to the Brazilian government official, the ants can eat up a buffalo in less than “three human spits.” Leiningen personally observes that it takes them about six minutes to completely eat up a pampas stag. Also, the ants are a dangerous foe because they are very intelligent insects with “excellent adaptation skills, high sense of discipline and organization.”

In spite of the great threat presented by the “twenty square miles” of ants, Leiningen is prepared to “fight the elemental with the elemental.” He has ready a horseshoe-shaped trench around three boundaries of the ranch that is to be filled by the waters from the dam on the river. The trench is one of his defense strategies against the army of ants. All the women, children, and cattle have been moved to safe grounds across the river. He has also built a second ditch around the main buildings of the ranch. This ditch is to be filled with petrol from three big tanks. The petrol-filled trenches are to be used as a final defense against the ants should they manage to get past the water-filled trench.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The ants pose the greatest of threats to Leiningen, for they threaten to destroy his entire coffee plantation, and kill the peons who work for him as well as himself. These army ants are not small, and they come in biblical numbers.

...thousands of millions of voracious jaws bearing down upon him and only a suddenly insignificant, narrow ditch lay between him and his men and being gnawed to the bones "before you can spit three times."

Not only is there a massive physical army of the ants, but these insects are capable of communicating with one another and, literally, thinking. For instance, they build bridges to cross the ditches that Leiningen has had built around his plantation. If they get across they will literally devour the leaves of every coffee plant.