Thursday, April 28, 2011

Today's Trivia - Ants

Ants are one of the most fascinating creatures on earth. They have survived and thrived for millions of years, and exhibit many of the characteristics and behaviours that we associate with intelligence and civilization. Below are some facts about these amazing insects.


- Scientists have estimated that ants have been living on the earth for more than 100 million years.

- Army ants are capable of carrying objects 50 times their own body weight with their mandibles.

- When a worker ant finds a source of food, it leaves a trail of scent to attract other ants in the colony to it.

- Some ants form "super colonies", massive communities of ants that can stretch for thousands of miles.

- Ants lived alongside the dinosaurs.

- Ants started farming long before humans.

- The Slave-Maker ant (Polyergus Rufescens) is so named because it raids the nest of other ants and steals their pupae. Once the pupae hatch, they are made to work as slaves within the colony.

- Ants sometimes herd or tend to insects of other species, like aphids or leafhoppers.

- The total biomass of all the ants on Earth is roughly equal to the total biomass of all the people on Earth.


- Certain ant species defend plants in exchange for food and shelter.

- Soldier ants use their heads to plug the entrances to their nests and keep intruders from gaining access.

- Male ants often have only one role; mating with the queen. After they have performed this function, they may die.

- Ants look very much like termites, and the two are often confused by homeowners.

- Ants are social insects that typically live in structured nest communities located underground, in ground-level mounds, or in trees.

- Carpenter ants nest in wood and can be destructive to buildings.

- Ants are the main insects in tropical forests, living in colonies of anything from 20 to millions.

- Ant colonies are all female. Most species have one or several queens which lay the eggs. Hundreds of soldier ants guard the queen, while smaller workers build the nest and care for the young.

- Wood ants squirt acid from their abdomen to kill enemies.

- Army ants march in huge swarms, eating most small creatures they meet.


- Groups of army ants cut any large prey they catch into pieces which they carry back to the nest.

- Over 10000 known species of ants exist in the world.

- The average life span of an ant is 45 to 60 days.

- The ant has very strong legs which help it to run very quickly.

- Ants appear in shades of green, red, brown, yellow, blue or purple.

- An ant uses its antenna for touch as well as smell.

- Ants normally range from 2 to 7 mm in length. The carpenter ant is an exception to the rule, as it can stretch to 2 cm, or even an inch.

- There is at least one queen in each ant colony.

- An ant has two stomachs, in one stomach it stores food for itself and in the other it stores food that is to be shared with other ants.

- An ant has the largest brain amongst insects. It is said that the processing power in an ant's brain and a Macintosh II computer might be similar.


- Some ants are able to sleep seven hours a day.

- Ants are mostly omnivorous, that is, they eat other insects, seeds, oils and bread.

- Queen ants are provided with wings at birth. They lose these wings after they fly off to start new colonies.

- Worker ants are given the responsibility of taking the rubbish from the nest and putting it into the rubbish dump.

- Ants are related to wasps and bees. They evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago.

- Ants form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organized colonies which may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals.

- Ants have colonized almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands.

- Ant societies have division of labour, communication between individuals, and an ability to solve complex problems.

- A new worker spends the first few days of its adult life caring for the queen and young. It then graduates to digging and other nest work, and later to defending the nest and foraging.

- Contrary to popular belief, some ant nests have multiple queens while others can exist without queens.


- The winged male ants, called drones, emerge from pupae along with the breeding females (although some species, like army ants, have wingless queens), and do nothing in life except eat and mate.

- Species that have multiple queens may have a queen leaving the nest along with some workers to found a colony at a new site; a process akin to swarming in honeybees.

- Ant colonies can be long-lived. The queens can live for up to 30 years, and workers live from 1 to 3 years. Males, however, are more transitory, and survive only a few weeks. Ant queens are estimated to live 100 times longer than solitary insects of a similar size.

- Ants are active all year long in the tropics but in cooler regions they survive the winter in a state of dormancy or inactivity.

- Ants attack and defend themselves by biting and, in many species, by stinging, often injecting or spraying chemicals like formic acid.

- Some worker ants maintain the hygiene of the colony and their activities include undertaking or necrophory, the disposal of dead nest-mates.

- Many animals can learn behaviours by imitation but ants may be the only group apart from mammals where interactive teaching occurs.

- Ants may form subterranean nests or build them on trees. These nests can be found in the ground, under stones or logs, inside logs, hollow stems or even acorns. The materials used for construction include soil and plant matter. Some ant species are nomadic and do not build permanent structures.

- Most ants are generalist predators, scavengers and indirect herbivores.

- Foraging ants travel distances of up to 200 meters (700 ft) from their nest and usually find their way back using scent trails. Some ants forage at night. Day foraging ants in hot and arid regions face death by desiccation, so the ability to find the shortest route back to the nest reduces that risk.


- Unlike their wasp ancestors, most ants travel by walking. Some species are capable of leaping.

- Ants identify kin and nest mates through their scent, which comes from hydrocarbon-laced secretions that coat their exoskeletons. Any ant that enters a colony without a matching scent will be attacked.

- Myrmecophilous (ant-loving) caterpillars of the family Lycaenidae are herded by the ants, led to feeding areas in the daytime, and brought inside the ants' nest at night. The caterpillars have a gland which secretes honeydew when the ants massage them.

- Ants perform many ecological roles that are beneficial to humans, including the suppression of pest populations and aeration of the soil.

- In some parts of the world (mainly Africa and South America), large ants, especially army ants, are used as surgical sutures.

- Although most ants survive attempts by humans to eradicate them, a few are highly endangered.

- It has been estimated by E.O. Wilson that the total number of individual ants alive in the world at any one time is between one and ten quadrillion.

- Ants classified as pests include the pavement ant, yellow crazy ant, sugar ants, the Pharaoh ant, carpenter ants, Argentine ant, odorous house ants, red imported fire ant and European fire ant.

- The tiny pharaoh ant is a major pest in hospitals and office blocks; it can make nests between sheets of paper.

- Anthropomorphized ants have often been used in fables and children's stories to represent industriousness and cooperative effort.

- In the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, ants are held up as a good example for humans for their hard work and cooperation. Aesop did the same in his fable The Ant and the Grasshopper.

- In parts of Africa, ants are considered to be the messengers of the gods.

No comments:

Post a Comment