In this post, I decided to share the most important facts about ants in Q and A format. Almost all of us are able to recognize ants. We see them in a wilderness, in our yard, and unfortunately even in our house. We can identify them easily, although we do not understand their life and characteristics fully. Here, I answered several of the frequently asked questions about ants. Hopefully, these answers will give you a wider understanding of these tiny creatures.
How are ants born?
Overall ants go through four developmental stages. First queen ant lays her eggs. Then, eggs hatch into worm-like larva. In this stage, ants do not have any legs or eyes. When larva gets big enough, they turn into a pupa. Pupa looks similar to an adult ant, but its legs folded and their body does not function fully. Ants start performing as real ants when they reach their adult stage.
How many ants are there in the world?
It is hard to know exactly how many ants are there in the world, but it is estimated to be over 100 trillion. There over 12,000 species of ants. Scientists believe the numbers will go up as new ant species are being discovered.
What do ants eat?
Food that ants eat varies depending on the ant species. Some ants, such as black carpenter ants, are omnivorous: they eat plants and animals. Some ant species, for instance, army ants, are carnivorous: they only eat animals and insects. Army ants are dangerous to any living creature because they can overwhelm and catch their prey by attacking as an army. You may read more about army ants in our previous post.
How many legs do ants have?
Ants have six legs. All six legs are attached to the middle part of the body called mesosoma or thorax. Those six long legs allow ants to move quickly. Each leg has hooked claws which enable ants to climb and walk upside down on things.
How much weight can an ant carry?
An ant can carry more than 100 times of its own weight. Latest research conducted at the Ohio Stated University demonstrated that an ant can withstand 5,000 times more than its weight. Although it does not mean an ant can lift that much weight over its head and walk away, their neck joint, as researchers discovered, allow them to withstand a huge amount of weight.
How much does an ant weigh?
Depending on the species, an ant weigh somewhere between 1 and 5 mg.
What does a queen ant look like?
Queen ants are usually larger in size comparing with other ants in a colony. Queen ants have wings. They use their wings to search for colonies to mate and start their new colonies. However, they shed their wings after sometime. Also, you can recognize a queen ant by looking at their thorax. Thorax is the middle part of a ant body. If an ant has a larger thorax, then more likely it is a queen ant.
This image shows what does a queen ant look like.
What is the lifespan of an ant?
An ant lifespan is estimated to be between 5 and 30 years in an established colony. Usually, queen ants live longer than worker ants. Kutter and Stumper (1969) indicated that queen ants live up to 30 years, but worker ants live only 7-8 years. For instance: German entomologist, Hermann Appel kept black garden ant in captivity for over 28 years.
What are carpenter ants?
Carpenter ants are one of the commonly found ants around the world. Their scientific name is camponotus. Carpenter ants have blackish, yellowish or reddish color, and they have a larger size which measures about 1/4-1/2 inch (6-13 mm). Carpenter ants like to dwell in a moist part of the woods. Although they do not eat woods, they can still cause significant damage by carving out woods for their nest. Carpenter ants are not venomous, and they do not have stingers. However, when their nest is disturbed, they can bite and cause some pain.
How do ants communicate?
Ants communicate with each other mainly by releasing chemicals called pheromones. Ants have lots of glands that produces different smells. Each smells indicate different signals, such as warning, danger, attack, etc….Ants detect released pheromones through their antennae. For instance, if ant finds a candy laying on top of your kitchen counter, it will leave pheromone trail to the candy so other ants may find it.
Which ants have wings?
Reproductive male and queen ants have wings. If you have seen ants with wings, probably you are looking at ants which are ready to breed. People sometimes mistake flying ants with termites. Termites are not ants. You can easily differentiate termite from winged ants by simply observing their physical appearance. Termites have straight antennae, but antennae on winged ants are elbow shaped. Flying ants have larger wings. Termite wings are thinner, but twice longer than their body.
Below image shows the difference between a termite and a flying ant.
How many ants are in a colony?
Number of ants dwelling in a colony depends on the species of ants and the age of the colony. There are small ant colonies which includes only 500 worker ants, while there supercolonies which have over 306 million worker ants. Supercolony forms when a large group of ant colonies unite together. As result, supercolonies build underground megastructures. In 2004, scientists discovered supercolony beneath the Melbourne Australia, which measures approximately 62 miles (100km) wide.
What is the importance of ants?
Ants are important for our environment. Plant and tree roots breath oxygen and get water through tunnels dug by ants. Ants help to spread growth of various plants by carrying seed from one point to the other. Ants also play role in cleaning our environment by eating dead animals and insects, and also quickening the decomposition process.
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