Ants often conjure up images of cartoon classics where picnic baskets are marched off into the distance away from an unsuspecting host. This idea isn’t too far from the truth. Ants can carry as much as twenty times their body weight and the length of line you may see marching to and from a nest may be relative to the size of the colony. There are currently 12,000 known types of known ants. These include many ants we see almost everyday including Argentine ants, fire ants and army ants.
The ant colony hierarchy includes three levels: queen, worker and soldier ants. Each ant has a vital role to play within its community. Colonies have just one queen heading the ranks. She is the source of life for the group and the responsibility for her colony’s longevity rests with her alone. It is the queen who lays all of the eggs in the group, rearing generation after generation of ant. Beneath the queen are millions of male and female worker ants. This group is responsible for caring for the queen as well as the eggs and larvae she produces. The third group in this kingdom is the soldier ant, whose responsibility it is to protect the colony, the hive and ultimately the queen. In addition to protection detail, soldiers will gather food for the colony.
Did you know these tiny creatures don’t have ears or lungs? They rely solely on the vibrations that they sense through tiny holes in their skin to find their way. Ants are also fierce fighters, and soldier ants will commonly fight to the death if required. When the queen eventually dies, the rest of the ants die shortly after. The queen ant can support a colony for many years in her lifetime.
Ants are found all across the world and vastly outnumber the human population. Ants are typically found in close proximity to their food source but have been known to travel up to 700 feet to locate food – quite a distance given their tiny size. Ants use an internal pedometer to keep track of their miles and can also evaluate distance by calculating the movement of objects in their peripheral vision. Current research projects indicate that certain ants may also use magnetic fields and sunlight to track their paths.
Ants that reside in arid climates can often starve or dehydrate to death. These small insects care very little where they live and build their nests according to their ability to locate food. They can build their nests in most terrains and will travel long distances in search of food.
Most ants thrive near flowers, leaves and other foliage. They are also known to eat human food and favor sweets as well as protein-based foods. Honey, jam or sugar and water can usually lure ants to a bait and peanut butter or bacon can do the same for ants in search of protein food sources.
Life Cycle of Ants
The queen ant is the only ant in a colony that has the ability to reproduce. Newer worker ants cater to the queen’s every whim and provide food, water, nectar and food for her potential young. As worker ants become more experienced, they are promoted through the ranks to carry out more vital tasks within the colony.
Ants Eating Earth Worm
Ants begin life within an egg, pearl-colored and oval. Though small, eggs are detectable with the naked eye. This egg is fertilized and passes through several larval stages, known as metamorphosis. The pupal stage is the third and final stage before the insect finally becomes a fully fledged ant. Larvae are also looked after by worker ants. When these insects hatch into larvae, they have no eyes or legs. Larvae eat a phenomenal amount of food and rely heavily on the workers during this time. Due to their fast rates of growth, molting (shedding) is essential and each one will molt up to six times before maturity. It can take several months for an ant to reach maturity.
Ants and Humans
These adaptable insects help aid in the aeration of soil. Ants are also used in South Africa to harvest seeds which are used to make herbal tea. In some cultures, ants hold a place on the menu. In Thailand, they are a regional delicacy. In Africa, Army ants are used as medical aids to help reduce wound recovery times.
Ants are complex little beings that have evolved for millions of years – well before humans came into existence. There are currently 12,000 known species of ant, and scientists are working toward the discovery of the remaining 22,000 species of ants believed to exist around the world.
During the 50’s and 70’s, ant farms were a popular educational toy in America. Ant farms gave children an up-close and personal experience in cultivating and exploring the life cycle of ants.
Ants are one of the hardest pest to control. Due to their adaptive nature, and their ability to produce offspring at a alarming rate. Please visit our Ant Control page for a step by step way to manage these pests. If you are having a problem in your garden consider reading our Ants in the garden article.
Ants Scientific Family Name: Formicidae
Ants belong to the Animalia kingdom, falling under the Arthropoda phylum. These busy creatures are classified as Insecta and belong to the suborder of Apocrita.
Ants are believed to be around 110 to 130 million years old, having been traced back to wasp-like creatures existing in the early Cretaceous period. With the introduction of flowers in the biological time-line, ants flourished in abundance.
Ant populations are the subject of much scientific research around the globe. Scientists have classified 12,500 ant species but believe that some 22,000 species may exist, awaiting discovery. New Guinea claims the most diverse group of ants with a total of 790 species.