facts-about-ants

94 Fascinating Facts About Ants

The ant world is marvellous. Ants are intelligent, dangerous, and sometimes even delicious! Here, you’ll find out everything you’ll ever need to know about ants. 

1. The Queen Ant Lives to Lay Eggs

Queen ants live to create a new colony. Once they have done that and the larvae have grown old enough to look after them, they lay eggs. But how many?

2. Queen Ants Can Have Over 1 Million Babies

Oh, so many eggs! Some queens lay over 1 million eggs during their lifetime.

queen-ant-in-nest

3. Ants Are Earless, But They Can Still Hear!

Ants don’t hear using ears; they don’t have any! Ants hear sound through vibrations in the ground. Effectively, their feet are their ears!

4. Ants Breathe, But Not With Lungs

Instead of lungs, ants have minute holes. These let oxygen in and carbon dioxide out – just like lungs! 

5. There Are Over 10,000 Ant Species

In fact, there are a total of 12,400 ant species in the world! Ants outnumber humans 1 million to 1. 

6. There are 3 Ant Types in a Colony

There are three types (or “castes”) of ants in a colony: the queen, the males, and the female worker ants.

7. There are Designated Soldier Ants

Some colonies have soldier ants. They protect the queen and their territory, attack enemies, and hunt for food and suitable nesting areas.

8. There are 4 Stages to the Ant Life Cycle

An ant starts off as an egg, then develops into a larva. Its larval structures will then break down and form adult anatomy like wings. This is the pupal stage. Finally, a pupa develops into an adult. 

9. Ants Belong to the Same Family as Bees and Wasps

Ants are members of the Hymenoptera family, along with bees, wasps, and sawflies. 

10. A Group of Ants is Called a Swarm

The collective noun for a bunch of ants is a swarm! Quite apt, really, considering the family they belong to!

11. Ants Are the Professional Weightlifters of the Insect World

The average ant can lift 20 times its body weight. Leafcutter ants are even stronger, having the ability to lift 50 times their body weight in their jaws!

leafcutter-ant

12. Some Ants Sting

Unfortunately, ants sting. In fact, most ant species can sting or bite. But there aren’t many ants that can cause significant harm to humans. Phew!

13. Ants Leave a Chemical Trail for Themselves

Ants leave themselves a pheromone trail so they can identify where they’ve been. They’re like the insect version of Hansel and Gretel! 

14. They Can Stay Alive For a Day Underwater

Ants can survive 24 hours underwater because of their unique “lungs,” which aren’t really lungs at all!

15. Ants Fight to the Death

When ants fight, the losing side dies. And when they go to war, they can keep at it for weeks!

16. When the Queen Ant Dies, So Does the Colony

Queen ants aren’t usually replaced. Typically, the colony dies within a few months of the queen ant. 

17. Queen Ants Are Born with Wings

Queen ants are born with wings, but they fall off after mating. Typically, males don’t have wings, but female worker ants do.

18. Bullet Ants Pack a Powerful Punch

The bullet ant sting is supposedly the most painful sting in the world. It resembles the feeling of being shot (hence the name) or sticking your finger into a 240v plug socket!

This level of pain shocks the recipient and compels them to flee. 

bullet-ant

19. Bullet Ants Can Paralyse Tarantulas

If the bullet ant sting feels like a bullet to humans, what must it feel like to a tarantula? Well, it’s enough to paralyse them! 

20. Fire Ants Cost the US Up to $9.9 Billion

The red imported fire ant causes catastrophic damage to rural and urban land in the US. These ants destroy mowing and harvesting equipment and ruin crop yields. 

Airport landing areas and traffic light sites may even be taken over by this notorious ant species!

It’s estimated that red imported fire ants cost $387 – $989 million a year in damages in California alone! Lucky for us, these ants don’t live in the UK.

fire-ants

21. Ants Live Everywhere Other Than Antarctica

Ants are seemingly taking over the world. They have now taken residence in every continent other than Antarctica. And who can blame them, brrrrr!

22. Ants Live Longer Than Any Other Insect Species

The western harvester queen ant lives for 3 decades; this is longer than any other insect species! 

23. Ants Can Move at 140mph

Unfortunately, ants can’t run at 140mph, as incredible as that would be. The trap-jaw ant can, however, move its jaw at that speed! This swift movement makes it near impossible for prey to get away. 

24. There Are Eye-Less Ants

Some ants, like the driver ant, don’t have eyes. They use their antennae and pheromones to communicate instead, so they’re still highly capable of getting around.  

25. A 3,700 Mile-Wide Ant Nest Was Discovered

This 3,700-mile wide nest comprised 33 ant populations and spanned areas of Italy, France, and Spain!

26. Asexuality Isn’t Uncommon in Ants

Various Amazonian ant species reproduce through the process of cloning. When a queen clones herself, she produces daughters. These colonies don’t have any need for male ants!

27. Ants Swim

Some ants use a doggy paddle-esque motion to swim across water. They can float for extended times too!

ants-floating-in-water

28. Ants Farm, Too

Although they don’t drive tractors, ants farm other insects, particularly aphids. They keep them safe from predators and provide shelter for them. They do this because they love the honeydew aphids produce!

Leafcutter ants also grow mushrooms. They cultivate them using fresh leaves and protect them from the intrusion of mould and pests. 

29. Some Ants Turn Their Neighbours into Slaves

Polyergus lucidus and other ant species raid nearby colonies and seize the worker ants. They’ll then force them to work as if they’re in their own colony.

30. Ants Date Back 130 Million Years

Ants date as far back as the Cretaceous period, some 130 million years ago! To put this into perspective, humans have only existed for around 300,000 years

31. Termites Are Often Mistaken For Ants

Termites are ant look-alikes. Many people mistake termites for ants. But there are some critical differences in their anatomy – ants have a thin waist area, which termites lack. 

Ants also possess more sizeable heads, and their antennae are elbowed; termites have straight antennae.

32. Some Ant Species Are Homeless

Not all ants make nests – some are homeless. That’s the way of army ants, who constantly move around. Instead of straying from their nest to hunt for food, they go during migration.  

33. Male Ants Die After Mating

Male ants are only needed for reproduction – they serve no other purpose. Once they’ve mated with the queen, there’s no further need for them!

34. Ants Talk Using Chemicals

Ants use chemicals called pheromones to communicate. They tell each other where the best food sources are and signal the presence of predators. 

35. Dead Ants Release Chemicals

Ants communicate using chemicals when they die, too. They release oleic acid, which tells the colony that the ant has died and must be transported to the burial area. 

36. Ants Eat Plants and Animals

Ants will mainly feed on nectar, fungus, and seeds, but they’re partial to insects, too. And some ant species eat animals!

ants-eating-insect

37. Army Ants Have An Unusual Diet

Army ants aren’t like other ant species. They prey upon and eat birds and reptiles. They’ll even eat small mammals if they get the chance!

38. Amazonian Ants Set Booby Traps

Amazonian ants are crafty. They use plant fibres to set traps for insects. Hundreds of ants will sit inside a hole with the plant fibres laid over the top. They’ll wait until unlucky insects step on the fibres and then they’ll pounce. 

39. Ants Are Forming Supercolonies

Another weird and wonderful ant species are the yellow crazy ants. Colonies combine to form supercolonies run by more than one queen ant. 

These supercolonies are displacing other native species, such as the red crab.

40. Ants Have Unusual Homes

Housing varies depending on the ant species. You can find ant nests overground, underground, or under rocks. And don’t forget to check tree trunks and plant stems, as some ant species live there too. 

Ant nests may be built with gravel, sand, small twigs, leaves, and even larvae-secreted silk! 

41. Ants Nest in Houses

As horrifying as this is, sadly, it’s true. Pharaoh ants make themselves at home in buildings, including domestic dwellings. Carpenter ants love nesting in wood, so keep an eye on your wooden beams!

carpenter-ants-damaged-window-header-board

42. Ants Are Destructive

Now we’re back to those menacing army ants. Army ants endemic to tropical America will form columns while they travel. They’ll eat anything that stands in their way. 

43. Some Ants Mate in the Air

Ants are highly skilled. When mating season arrives, winged queen and male ants take flight and choose their mate. 

44. Humans Study Ants’ Social Behaviour

I’m sure you’ve already noticed that ant behaviour is highly complex. Different species perform various behaviours to ensure their survival, including the enslaving methods spoken about previously. 

This makes ants a fascinating subject to study.

45. One Ant Species Only Has Females

Those colonies where the queen ant reproduces asexually only have female ants. The colony will be made up of the queen and many female worker ants. 

46. There Are Zombie Ants

There is an insect-pathogenic fungus called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. This fungus releases spores. If one of these spores lands on an ant, it’ll infect it.

The fungus takes over the ant’s body and floods its brain with chemicals, effectively drugging it. It forces the ant to move towards an area where the light and humidity are optimal. 

The fungus forces the ant to perform a death bite. Once the fungus has grown for three weeks, it’ll release more spores, infecting more ants. 

47. Ants Are More Muscular than Humans

Ants don’t have more muscle mass than humans because, of course, they’re tiny. But they have a larger muscle to body ratio!

48. Ants and Humans have the Same Combined Mass

If you took all of the ants in the world and placed them on some weighing scales, their overall mass would be identical to that of all the people.

49. One Ant Species Takes its Name from Harrison Ford

An ant was named after Harrison Ford due to his contributions to conservation. Its name? Pheidole harrisonfordi. 

50. Female Worker Ants are Sterile

Female worker ants are born from fertilised eggs. They are born sterile, as it’s only the queen’s responsibility to have lay eggs.

female-worker-ants

51. Bullet Ants are the Biggest Ants

Measuring a mighty 1.6 inches, the bullet ant from the Panama jungle is the largest ant species in the world.  

52. Ants Beat the Dinosaurs

Ants survived what the dinosaurs didn’t: the ice age. They also lived through the Cretaceous-Tertiary period, where many dinosaur species went extinct. 

53. The Biggest Ant to Live Had a Wingspan of 6 Inches

The Titanomymra giganteum prehistoric ant was found to have a wingspan of 6 inches! 

54. Ants Are Taking Over

As we know, ants inhabit all continents other than Antarctica. And they’re taking over! Ants cover 25% of the total animal biomass in tropical climates!

55. Black Garden Ants Live Longer than Dogs

Black garden ants can outlive dogs, with an average lifespan of 15 years! One Lasius niger queen ant lived to the ripe old age of 29!

56. Ants Come Together to Form a Superbrain

Ants are small, so on their own, they have tiny brains. But when they’re put together, they can form a superbrain. They can work together and combine their intellect to make crucial decisions. 

ants-superbrain

57. Australian Green Ants’ Bums Taste Like Lime

According to many brave explorers, the bum of an Australian green ant tastes like lime. And their larvae, a popular snack among Aboriginal people, taste like lemon

58. Ant Nests Have Been Found 2ft Below the Ground

Ants are the ultimate digging machines. They can create nests deep below the ground’s surface – up to 2ft deep!

59. Ants Are Killers

Steer clear of bulldog ants. They have a fatal bite that can kill a human in just 15 minutes. At least 3 people have died since 1936. 

60. Ants Can Build Rafts

A nest flood isn’t enough to stop fire ants. They just link their legs together, and ta-dah! They form a raft. They can keep this structure for weeks if need be.  

61. Worker Ants Die Sooner Because of Their Genes

On average, queen ants live 10 times longer than worker ants and 500 times longer than male ants. And according to research, this is all about gene expression! 

Queen ants invest their bodily resources in DNA and protein repair, enabling them to live longer. 

62. Ants Appear in Rituals

Certain Native American tribes perform rituals with ants. The Sateré-Mawé tribe hunts bullet ants and encourages them to bite them.  

Each tribe member subjects themselves to as many as 120 bullet ant stings twenty times during their lifetime! They believe this immunises them from disease and initiates them into the tribe. 

63. Some Ants Smell Like Rotten Coconuts

Odorous house ants release a scent when they’ve been stepped on or crushed. This smell resembles rotten coconuts, so they’re sometimes called “coconut ants.”

64. Foraging Ants Can Travel Long Distances

Foraging female worker ants can travel up to 200 metres from their nests to hunt for food. They may forage right up until dark. 

65. 40,000 Ants Have the Same Intelligence as 1 Human

As we know, ants can form superbrains. When 40,000 ants combine their intelligence, they’re as clever as a human!

66. Ants Have Not One, But Two Stomachs!

Ants need two stomachs. They hold their own food with one stomach and store food for others with their second stomach.

garden-ants-stomach

67. Australian Green Ants Travel Across Tree Canopies

Australian green ants, also known as weaver ants, create their nests high up in the trees. They form bridges between the trees’ leaves and branches. This, of course, doesn’t last forever, but it’s a temporary solution to their transportation problems. 

68. Queens Coat Their Eggs in Saliva

When a queen desert ant lays her eggs, she coats them in her saliva. This contains antibiotics that deter fungus!

69. Some Ants Are Jobless

Some worker ants don’t work at all; they’re jobless! These lazy worker ants are produced as a reserve in case the productive worker ants die. 

70. Ants Are Smart

Ants are the most intelligent living insects, possessing around 250,000 brain cells

71. Ant Blood Isn’t Red

Human blood gets its red colour from haemoglobin, a component that carries oxygen. Ants don’t transport oxygen in their blood as we humans do, so their blood isn’t red. 

Ant blood is actually yellow, green, and sometimes colourless. 

72. Driver Ants Can Eat Infants and Horses

Don’t mess with the African driver ants. They will eat anything – even horses and infants!

73. Ants Learn Through Interaction

Ants have two-way interactions, which helps them to learn. Rock ants lead each other to food sites using “tandem running.” This is the first non-human animal to perform such teaching. 

74. Ants Use the Earth’s Magnetic Field to Get Around

The Earth’s magnetic field is an ant’s navigation system. Desert ants use the Earth’s magnetic field to find their way back to their nests after foraging. 

75. Fire Ants Sleep for 9 Hours

Queen fire ants love their sleep. They have 9-hour long periods of sleep every single day. The worker ants aren’t so lucky – they take many power naps and sleep half the amount. 

76. Male Ants Hatch from Unfertilised Eggs

An egg fertilised by the queen ant will develop into a female worker ant. An egg that remains unfertilised will form a male ant. 

77. Ants Have Excellent Vision

Ants can see movement exceptionally well because of the anatomy of their eyes – two large compound eyes and a set of simple eyes for seeing the light and shadows. 

78. Pharaoh Ants Are Tiny!

Pharaoh ants are the smallest ant species alive, growing to a minuscule 2mm long!

pharaoh-ants

79. Ants and Plants Have a Unique Relationship

Ants have been foraging on plants for millions of years. Over this time, ants and plants have formed a close relationship. Plants have evolved with ant-friendly traits to make ants more likely to pay them a visit. 

The relationship is so strong that scientists claim that flowering plants aided ant evolution!

80. Ants Use Their Antennae to Smell

Ants use their sense of smell to find food, their nest and identify their colony and rivals. It helps them find a mate, too! 

But ants don’t have noses like you and me. They use their antennae!

81. Army Ants Open Their Jaws Sideways

Army ants’ jaws are called mandibles. They open sideways, much like a pair of scissors. 

82. Birds Use Black Ants to Remove Parasites

Birds use black ants in a behaviour called anting –  rubbing ants on their feathers. This secretes formic acid, a natural bactericide, insecticide, fungicide and miticide.  

83. Female Worker Ants Protect Larvae from the Cold

 It’s the job of the worker ants to feed and protect the larvae. So when the weather is chilly, they’ll move the larvae, so they don’t spend too long out in the cold.

84. Carpenter Ants Can Commit Suicide

An Asian species of carpenter ant commits suicide to protect the nest. Their heads explode, and they cover the predator in a toxic liquid!

85. Vampire Ants Eat Their Own Larvae

We’ve had army ants, bullet ants and zombie ants. Now, we have vampire ants. This particular Madagascan species feeds on its own larvae and pupae. 

86. Ants Are Adept Miners

Ants have been known to mine minerals and even gemstones! It’s common for Arizonian ants to bring all kinds of jewels up to the ground’s surface. 

87. Ants are Called “Princess Ants” When They’re Waiting to Become Queen

Those larvae that get better food than others will develop into winged, fertile females. These will be called “princess ants” while another queen ant is in charge.

ants-larvae

88. Ants Can Save Lives, Too

We’ve heard all about how ants can kill or cause serious harm. But ants can save lives, too. Joan Murray, an American skydiver, was saved by over 200 fire ant bites when she plummeted 14,500 feet. 

If she hadn’t landed on a fire ant mound, she wouldn’t have survived. 

89. Ants are Used in Medicine

On the theme of ants saving lives, East African tribes use powerful driver ant bites to stitch up wounds. South African indigenous people use army ants for the same purpose!

90. Queens Choose Themselves Over the Colony

In some ant species, queens will fight to the death. If it’s a choice of the queen looking after herself or the colony, she’ll pick herself. 

91. Queen Ants Fast After Mating

Some queen ants go weeks without eating after mating. Niger ants bury deep into the soil once they’ve mated. They won’t surface for several weeks until their daughter ants are ready to start working. 

92. Ant Larvae Are Eaten by People in Mexico

Ant larvae is a Central Mexican delicacy. They call it “Escamoles” – it’s loved for its nutty flavour. 

93. Ant Colonies Have Different Smells

Each ant colony has a distinctive smell which enables the ants to identify whether nearby ants are friends or foe!

94. Ants Are Clean Creatures!

Some ants remove rubbish like uneaten food and ant corpses from their nests. This keeps it clean and tidy. 

Summary

Wherever you travel to, you’re bound to find ants. Ants are crafty creatures who come in many forms – from zombies to soldiers, bulldogs to drivers. Just watch out for those that bite and sting!

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