Ants are one of the most widely spread creatures in the world. Though they are most prevalent in tropical forests, they can be found in almost every continent and geographical region of the world. Ants are insects with unique capabilities and there are more than 12,000 species of them. Ants may present as pests for human life especially with their interference and invasions in the house and environment. But in actual fact, they help the environment a great deal as they are major contributors to sustaining our ecosystem and are an integral part of replenishing soil integrity.
Ants are social insects because they commonly live in large colonies or armies. They usually live in very structured communities which may be found underground, on ground-level mounds, or in trees. Some colonies may reach up to millions of ants.
There are three kinds of ants in a colony and they include; the queen, the female workers, and males. The queen and the males have wings, while the workers don’t have wings.
The queen is the head of the community (or colony) and her only job all her life is to lay eggs that will ensure the survival of the colony. Some queens may lay as much as millions of eggs throughout their lifetime. Some ant species may have a colony with more than one queen. When the queen of the colony dies, the colony can only survive a few months. This is because queens are rarely replaced and the workers are not able to reproduce to repopulate the colony.
The workers are the ants that are typically seen by humans in the environment. They are wingless female ants that do not reproduce, but perform many duties such as food search, care for the queen’s offspring, work on the nest, building the anthills or mounds, etc. They also act as soldiers to protect the queen, defend the colony, gather or kill food, and attack enemy colonies in search for food and nesting space. If they defeat another ant colony, they take away eggs of the defeated ant colony to repopulate their colonies. When the ‘captured’ eggs hatch, the new ants will become the “slave” ants for the colony.
The only job of the male ant is to mate with the queen and future queen ants. Once their mating is done, they often die soon afterwards.
Ants communicate and cooperate by emitting chemicals that can alert their fellows to danger or lead them to a promising food source. Ants are omnivores and their sources of food vary widely and may include nectar, seeds, fungus, or insects. Some other ant species may feed on reptiles, birds, or even small mammals.
Ants do not have lungs to breathe but they get the oxygen they need through tiny holes that is found all over their body. These holes also allow for “expiration” of Carbon dioxide in the same manner
Fun facts about Ants
- The ant is one of the worlds’ strongest creature in relation to its size; An ant can lift more than three to twenty times its own body weight.
- Ants don’t have ears but they “hear” by feeling vibrations in the ground through their feet.
- Some ant species are asexual, they clone themselves and do not require any males
- All worker, soldier and queen ants are female.
- Ants typically move an estimated 50 tons of soil per year in one square mile.
- The total weight of all the ants in the world almost equal or more than that of all humans.
- Some ants can support about 100 times their own weight by being upside down on glass.
- Ants are the longest living of all insects, living for up to 30 years.