All About Ants

All You Need to Know About Ants, the Little Giants

The following article is an attempt to sum up all about ants in short. The information presented in the article covers different aspects of the morphology, life cycle, and social behavior of these amazing industrious creatures.
Ants are social insects having more than 12,000 different species. These insects which belong to the order Hymenoptera had evolved some 110-130 million years ago from wasp-like ancestors. They are known to be very organized and they live in colonies. A typical colony has three types of ants, i.e., queen, workers (female), and drones (fertile males). Each type has a specific function to carry out - the queen lays eggs, drones mate with the queen, while workers carry out tasks such as gathering food, building colonies, etc. The female workers also have a sub-group called soldiers which protect their fellow ants. Important facts about ants including the morphology, eating habits, etc., are presented in the following paragraphs.

Habits and Habitat
Ants are found all over the earth. However, those found in the Hawaiian islands, Iceland, Greenland, and some parts of Polynesia are not native species. Common colors found in ants are red, black, and green (in rare cases).

Anatomy and Body Systems
The body of ants is broadly divided into three parts which are the head, mesosoma, and metasoma. The body part which connects metasoma and mesosoma is known as petiole. The head consists of three parts which are the eyes, antenna, and jaws. Owing to the number of lenses which form eyes, they can catch movements easily. These eyes however, don't provide them with a high resolution. Some ants from the subterranean region cannot see at all; most of the species don't have a well-developed eyesight. They have 6 legs and all of these are attached to their trunk. Internal systems of the body are covered in a protective covering called an exoskeleton. They do not possess lungs; spiracles, the valves present on exoskeleton act as entry points for oxygen. Carbon dioxide and other gases are expelled out of the body through the same spiracles.

Feeding Habits
If you are wondering about what ants eat, then you need to know that young and older ants feed on different types of food. The larvae are however, fed with a liquid substance by the elder workers. Worker ants travel in search of food and directly eat what is available to them. The food which they bring back is processed (broken down) into a liquid state by smaller ants. It is interesting to note that few adult ants don't eat at all after attaining full growth. The specialty of ants is that they act as herbivores, predators and also carry out the work of scavengers.

Here is some information which covers almost all about ants regarding aspects besides those related to their feeding habits:
  • The worker ants are categorized in three groups based on their size which are major, median, and minor.
  • The mounds built from sand and clay particles act as homes for the colonies. These mounds protect the ants from rains and other harsh climatic conditions.
  • Not all ants build their house with dirt/sand. Some of them dig into wood, just like termites.
  • The queens lay eggs for their whole life.
  • The development and growth of a colony is dependent on the survival of the queen.
  • Ants possess two pairs of jaws; one of these pairs is used for chewing while the other to carry food.
  • Leafcutter is one of the types which are found in South and Central America and are known for their special abilities to cut leaves.
  • The army ants continuously search for prey and are therefore, aggressive in nature.
  • The life cycle of the ants is divided into four stages which are eggs, larvae, pupa, and adult.
  • An ant can carry a load that is 20 times its own weight.
  • Unlike the common ants which possess a mediocre vision, the Australian bulldog ants have developed eyesight.
  • Ants resort to fighting in rare cases, however, it has been observed that if they get into fighting, the act (in most cases) ends with death.
  • Ants don't have ears. These insects can feel the vibrations of approaching objects or living beings and act accordingly.
Flying Ants
Flying ants are often confused with termites because both these creatures are quite similar in appearance and most importantly possess wings. Ants with wings are same as regular ones with the head, mesosoma, and metasoma.

The article presents points that have all the information about ants ranging from anatomy, feeding habits to distribution. There is a lot to be known about these amazing creatures that are so small yet so highly evolved.
Two ants feeding off crumbs and spills left behind by people
Ant close-up