Some Fascinating Facts About Ants
Ants are often a pest but they and their habits are always interesting.
- You Think You’ve Got Problems with Ants? - An enormous Argentine ant super-colony stretches over 6,000 km along the Southern European Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts. It contains many billions of worker ants in millions of co-operating nests.
- Farming Ants - Many ant species including pest species in New Zealand ‘farm’ sap-sucking insects such as aphids, scale insects and mealybugs (see the image above of ants tending their 'herd' of mealy bugs). They protect the sap-sucking insects from predators and are rewarded by feeding on the sweet sugary honeydew the sap-sucking insects produce.
- Agricultural Ants - Some ants, including leafcutter ants grow fungus on collected leaves. They secrete anti-biotics to stop other fungi and bacteria.
- Muscle Ants - Ants can carry up to 50 times their own body weight. This is the equivalent of a man carrying an elephant.
- Ant Colonies - Ant colonies, also known as formicaries, contain one or more egg-laying queens and many female “worker” ants who tend to the queen, build and maintain the nest, forage for food and care for the young. Male ants' only function is to mate with the queens.
- Total Mass - All the ants in the world (~10,000,000,000,000,000, ten quadrillions) weigh about as much as all the humans.
- Hymenoptera - Ants belong to the insect group Hymenoptera, which also includes sawflies, wasps and bees.
- Travel - Foraging workers may travel as far as 200 metres from their nest. This is the equivalent of us travelling 40 km.
- Males vs Females - Fertilised ant eggs develop as females. Unfertilised eggs develop as males; they have half the genetic material.
- Bury Me - When an ant dies, it releases a pheromone (smell) that tells the other ants to move it to the ant cemetery and bury it.