Ants can outwit, outplay, and outlast humans. They have complex, cooperative societies that enable them to survive and thrive in conditions that would challenge us. Stewart Termite & Pest Control outlines some interested facts about ants.
Good & Bad Facts about Ants
1. Ants can carry objects that are 50 times heavier than their own body weight with their mouths. Their muscles are thicker than those of larger animals or even humans relative to their size. If our muscles were that large we would be able to lift a small car over our head!
2. Soldier ants use their heads to block entrances to the nest to keep intruders out. Their heads match the opening to the nest and act like a cork. When other ants come back, they touch the soldier ant’s head to let him know they’re one of them.
3. The total biomass of all ants on the Earth is roughly equal to the total biomass of people on the Earth. Scientists estimate that there are at least 1.5 million ants on the planet for every human being! There are over 12,000 species of ants known in existence.
4. Some ants will sometimes herd or tend to insects of other species. Ants will make every effort to get the sugary secretions of sap-sucking insects, called honeydew. Keeping it close means they will sometimes herd aphids, carrying them from plant to plant.
5. Some ant species will defend plants in exchange for food and shelter. Some plants will receive protection from herbivorous mammals and insects in exchange for the hollow thorns and stems that the ants can live in while feeding on sugary plant secretions.
6. Some ant species will enslave other ants and take captives from other ant species and force them to do work for their own colony. These workers will also help raise the young.
7. Ants lived alongside the dinosaurs. Ants evolved some 130 million years ago. The oldest known fossil dates back to 92 million years and has a clear lineage to present day. This suggests that there is an evolutionary line going back further than first thought.
8. Ants have been farming long before us. 50 million years before humans, ants were raising their own crops and farming fungus. Very sophisticated methods were used. They secreted chemicals with antibiotics propertied to inhibit mold growth, and came up with fertilization method using manure.
9. Ants have been known to form “supercolonies” that can stretch for thousands of miles! Each ant colony has a distinctive chemical profile that is unique and allows members of the group to recognize one another and will alert to the presence of strangers.
10. Ants will follow scent trails laid by scout ants to gather food. Pheromone trails are created by ants in the colony and foraging ants can then gather and store food very efficiently. The first ant, or the scout ant, will go out and searching for food. When it discovers something, it will eat it and go right back to the nest in a direct, straight line. Ants can observe and recall visual cues that allow them to navigate quickly back to the nest. On the way back, the ants will leave pheromones to guide the rest of the colony to the food. Workers will continue back and forth till the food is gone. Scout ants can travel up to 100 yards from their nest to find food.