Ants, those tiny creatures that scurry around our gardens and picnic spots, are truly fascinating creatures. In this article, we will explore eleven mind-blowing facts about ants that will leave you in awe of their incredible abilities and complex social structures. No matter that most people consider ants as pests, ants are incredibly useful in the natural world, as well as for people.
Amazing Facts About Ants
1. The incredible strength of ants
When it comes to strength, ants punch well above their weight. Despite their small size, ants are capable of lifting and carrying objects up to 100 times their own weight, like the Asian Weever Ants. This has categorized the ant as one of the strongest living creatures on Earth.
This is due to their incredible muscle power, which allows them to lift and transport food, building materials, and even their colony members. Do not get fooled by some articles claiming that ants can lift up to 5,000 times their own body weight. This is not supported by scientific evidence and is likely an overstatement. To put this in perspective, the equivalent of a 100kg (220lbs) person lifting a 10,000kg (220,000lbs) object. Imagine an adult lifting a garbage truck!
2. Facts About Bullet Ants
Among the many species of ants, one that stands out for its impressive strength is the bullet ant. These ants are huge, the workers are almost the size of the queen ant reaching 30mm.
They have the distinction of delivering the most painful sting in the world of insects.
The Paraponera Clavata sting is said to be as painful as being shot by a bullet, hence the name. This tiny creature packs a powerful punch and is not to be taken lightly. What I learned, from keeping them for almost a year, is that these ants are not aggressive and will never attack and sting you unless you provoke them to do so. You have to squish them in between your fingers to death to make them sting you. I did try this with a pair of thick nitrile gloves, not like the Mawé Warriors who have to wear gloves full of bullet ants to be recognized as a graduated warrior in their tribe.
3. The Remarkable Behaviour Of Army Ants
Which animals form an army and eat every creature in their path? Army ants, which live in the Americas. They march on a million feet across the jungle floor. Cockroaches, scorpions, tarantulas, crickets - all run for their lives. When an army ant finds its prey, it releases a chemical that calls out to its comrades. In seconds, hundreds of ants arrive to sting the victim, dismember its body and carry it straight to the nest. Army ants are known for their fascinating behaviour of forming massive colonies and undertaking impressive predatory marches. These ants move in large numbers, forming a "living carpet" as they traverse the forest floor. They are relentless hunters, capturing and devouring anything that comes in their path. Their ability to work together as a unified force is truly remarkable. An army ant colony, just 2 years old, can eat a cow in 24 hours!
4. The Dangerous Nature of Fire Ants
While ants may seem harmless, some species can pose a real threat to humans. How many times can a fire ant sting? If you don't remove them from your skin a fire ant can sting up to 10 times at once. They are not aggressive with their sting so must provoke them to sting you.
If you disturb their nest in the wild though, you will realise why they are known for their aggressive behaviour and painful stings. Their stings can cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals. It's best to keep a safe distance if you encounter a fire ant colony. In case you got stung by fire ants a pustule may form at the site of the fire ant bite. You must resist the temptation to pop it. Popping fire ant bites could result in infection. If you leave the pustules alone, they usually dry up in about three to hour days.
5. The Impressive Farming Skills of Leafcutter Ants
Leaf-cutter ants are not your average farmers. These industrious creatures have developed an intricate farming system that involves cutting and transporting leaves back to their nests.
But here's the fascinating part - they don't eat the leaves themselves. Instead, they use them as a substrate for cultivating a special fungus, which serves as their primary food source. It's a remarkable example of symbiotic farming in the insect world. They are not aggressive if left alone. They are monogyne, there is only one queen and she is the largest ant in the colony. She can lay up to 30,000 eggs every day in nature but in captivity, egg laying can be reduced with the formicarium size. The smaller the given nest, the fewer eggs the queen ant will lay daily.
6. Trap Jaw Ants are the Second Quickest-Moving Insects on Record.
Did you know that trap-jaw ants have the second-fastest moving predatory appendages within the whole animal kingdom, after the Mystrium Camillae aka Dracula ants? One study of Odontomachus Bauri recorded peak speeds up to 230 km/h (143 mph), with the jaws closing within just 130 microseconds on average.
7. So far, the largest ant colony discovered has a span of 6000 km.
It is not uncommon to come across a plethora of odd facts about ants. Did you know they inhabit dwellings known as formicaries in colonies? Recently, a colony in Argentina was discovered to be home to 33 Argentina Ant families, joining forces to become one enormous supercolony consisting of billions of ants. Quite a frightening thought, wouldn't you agree?
8. Whenever an ant queen passes away, it will result in the extermination of the entire colony.
One of the more peculiar and morbid facts about ants is that if the queen ant passes away, there will be no replacement. Because the workers cannot reproduce, the entire colony will perish a couple of months following the queen's death. It's an intriguing, albeit depressing, reality about ants. If you decide to go ahead and look after your own ant colony, please read our article: Ant Farm Kits Everything You Need to Know Before Making a Purchase.
9. Aphids are Farmed by Ants
We must add the fact about the ants' fascinating partnership with some Homopterans species. In exchange for protection against predators and bad weather, the aphids give the ants sugary nectar from which they eat.
This relationship is not as cooperative as it may seem - there is evidence that ants are capable of "drugging" the aphids to make them a more efficient source of food.
10. Fun Facts About Ants for Kids
If you want to impress your kids with some cool Ant Facts, here are a few fun ones to share. These tiny creatures are capable of some extraordinary things, and here are a few fun facts that demonstrate just how much there is to learn about ants. These are just a few examples of the fascinating world of ants that kids can explore.
Did you know that ants have two stomachs? One for their food and another to share with other ants. Sharing food aka ant kiss is called trophallaxis.
They also have a keen sense of smell and can detect the tiniest traces of food. And here's a surprising fact - some Camponotus ants can even swim, Camponotus pennsylvanicus for instance.
You may be aware of ants working together, but did you know these creatures can enslave? Ants from other colonies are "abducted" and utilized as labour. In addition, soldier ants take eggs from other colonies and when the eggs hatch, the hatchlings become slaves in the colony.
The predominant role of male ants in a colony is to assist with its expansion. The males live up to 7 days only and are called flying sperm.
Do you ponder which creature lives longer - a house pet, a dog or cat or a queen ant? The lifespan of a black garden ant, Lasius Niger, is longer than that of a house pet, which is almost 30 years.
Uncovering other facts about ants, some species have an odour - for instance, house ants smell like rotten flower roots.
Surprisingly, ant colonies can create superbrains. By coming together in large numbers, they use their collective intelligence to execute certain tasks.
Some bizarre facts - a favourite dish in Mexico, China and Korea are ant eggs, which are quite expensive. Some ants are edible. The Asian Weaver ants are eaten alive in Asia (China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Congo, Cameroon, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka)
Ants are meticulous animals - workers take the garbage out of the nest and transfer it to a disposal point called a garbage site to avoid the nest's contamination and fungus appearance.
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11. Amazing Facts about Ants and their Social Structure
Ants are known for their complex social structures, with each individual having a specific role to play within the colony. From workers who gather food and build nests, to soldiers who defend the colony, and even the queen who lays eggs, ants have a highly organized society.
They communicate through chemical signals called pheromones and work together to ensure the survival and growth of their colony. It's a very interesting fact about the Polyrachis Dives ants is that when a colony member dies, his ant buddy will carry its dead body along the formicarium for days. That's how these ants grieve I suppose.
More Mind-Blowing Facts About Ants
Questions Your Kid Might Ask
Can ants see?
Ants possess two rather sizeable eyes composed of numerous facets, which allow them to detect movement quite well. Certain ant species, like army ants, live mainly underground and are sightless. On another note, the Harpegnathos Venator eyesight was so good that every time I went into the ant room to see how they were going or feed them, they spotted me when I was three meters away and kept staring all the time. It was the same situation with the Bull Ants, both have an exceptional vision.
Can ants breathe? Lungs are not present in ants
The small stature of ants prohibits them from having a complex respiratory system such as one with lungs. Instead, these crawling insects have a unique form of respiration; their bodies are covered with many minute holes, positioned on either side. These spiracles cater to the ants' oxygen needs by circulating the gas throughout their bodies.
Can ants hear? Ants do not possess ears
Ants lack an auditory canal, instead, they perceive ground vibrations via special sensors on their legs. Not only that, but their antennae and the hairs on their bodies are extremely useful for finding food. You must keep your Ant Farm away from daily household activities to avoid vibrations stressing your pet ants!
Can Ants Jump?
The Harpegnathos Venator are a famous species due to their aggressiveness and especially the fact that they can jump up to 10 centimetres due to evolved leg muscles! They jump while hunting prey only. Give your Venator ants a fruit fly and enjoy the show.
The age of ants is comparable to that of the dinosaurs
Research uncovered that the initial ants originated during the Cretaceous period, approximately 130 million years ago. These ants were able to survive through the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, and the ice age.
Scary facts about ants you might not know
While ants may seem harmless, there are some horrifying facts about these tiny creatures. Some ants also can produce powerful toxins, which they use for defence or to paralyze their prey. And if that's not enough to give you the creeps, imagine this - some ants can explode! The Colobopsis Sandercy ants explode in case of emergency while nest defence is needed in urge, to kill the predator and themselves in sacrifice. When threatened, they contract their abdominal muscles, causing their bodies to rupture and release toxic chemicals as a final act of defence.
Have you ever heard of zombie ants and why are they called zombies? Carpenter ants that have been infected with a parasitical fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which alters their behaviour are so-called zombie ants. The carpenter ant becomes a 'zombie' after the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus invades its body and takes control of the ant's brain. Nothing to worry about because this fungus can not invade a human's brain. Due to the higher temperature in our body, this fungus dies instantly.
You might also want to have a look at the following article to read about my personal experience keeping the most interesting or the most dangerous ant species: My Living Ant World.
The Environment Receives Aid from Ants
What is not well known is that ants are very crucial to the environment. Even though some are viewed as nuisances, many are beneficial organisms. They play a role in the ecosystem by spreading seeds, enhancing the quality of the soil, and pollinating plants.
Countless numbers of ants inhabit the Earth
It is not an exaggeration to say that there are two and a half million ants for every person on the earth. Calculate the ratio yourself.
Conclusion and why ants are truly marvels of nature
From their incredible strength and farming skills to their complex social structures and fascinating behaviours, ants have captivated scientists and nature enthusiasts for centuries. Whether you find them awe-inspiring or a bit creepy, there's no denying the remarkable abilities of these tiny creatures. So next time you spot an ant in nature, take a moment to appreciate the wonders of nature that lie within its tiny form.
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