Ants are the furthest things from most peoples’ minds, unless they are crawling around on kitchen counter tops or trying to invade a summer picnic. Domestic intrusions aside, ants tend to remain a mystery to most. Entomologists, curious young children and anteaters all view ants in a different light.
“Ants kill roughly 40% of newly hatched plant-feeding bugs and 30% of flies, making ants more effective than some pesticides,” said Lucy K. Bradley, Extension Agent of Urban Horticulture, University of Arizona. Ants also pollinate while feeding on nectar, and their tunnels permit air flow in the earth which is beneficial to soil and plant roots. There are five amazing facts about ants that should certainly raise a few eyebrows:
1- On The Wings of Love
The smaller-winged male and the larger-winged queen will mate. This typically involves mating while in-flight. After a day or two the male will die. The queen will usually continue mating with several more males.
The queen’s sole function is to ensure the survival of the colony. This is accomplished by laying her eggs and carefully safeguarding them by burying herself with the eggs which entails never seeing the light of day again. The queen will remain immersed in total darkness with her eggs until death.
2- Until Death Do Us Part:
The queen will find a place to nest, using her middle and hind legs to detach her wings, as she will no longer need them. If the queen doesn’t, they will either fall off or will be eaten by a worker ant. The queen will then dig a hole in order to lay her eggs.
The queen must bury herself in order to lay her eggs. The queen is responsible for safeguarding the future of the colony and will die in the process.
3- Only The Good Die Young:
Ants have various enemies such as spiders, birds, other insects, mammals, including man. Microscopic mites live on some ants, stealing food from them while it is passed to other ants. The lifespan of an ant usually ranges from 45 to 60 days.
Invading flies will sometimes trick worker ants with chemical scents that enable entry in order to lay eggs on the queen. The newborn flies will kill the queen and will then be cared for by the worker ants.
4- Better Than GPS
Most ants forage close to home. Multi-faceted eyes allow ants to see landmarks or the position of the sun for navigational guidance.
Ants maintain regular, consistent foraging paths that they keep obstruction-free and return to places where they have previously found food. It is estimated that ants can haul 10 to 50 times their weight. When an ant happens upon food too heavy to move, it will return to the nest to summon additional help.
5- Ants Can Decide to Retreat
Ants have been known to fight to the death. But won’t continue to fight if it means having their colony wiped out. If in the midst of a battle, things aren’t going well, ants will alert the rest of the colony to move camp to safer environs.
When attacked, a pheromone is released alerting other ants to assist in the defense of the colony. The ants surround the threat, sting it with a protein-digesting venom, then squirt formic acid to paralyze it. Then the ants bite the immobilized threat with powerful jaws.
Perhaps what should most amaze is the vast amount of work that ants accomplish in such a short lifespan.
Do you know any other amazing ant facts? Share below in the comments!
Learn how to prevent or get rid of carpenter ants here.