Ants are arguably the greatest success story in the history of the animal kingdom.
For every human there are about one million ants. In tropical regions; where ants are very common, their weight can exceed that of ground living 'vertebrates' (animals with backbones) by up to four times! (PNAS) (The Ants)
For detailed info on this amazing ant fact see the antweb answer.
A giant colony of invasiveArgentinian ants stretching 6000 Km or 3750 miles has been discovered in Europe posing a major threat to local animals and crops. Although they exist in their usual smaller group size in their homeland, the colonies have merged to create one massive super colony. (BBC)
The jaws or 'mandibles' of trap jaw antOdontomachus bauri have been recorded to shut at speeds of 230 km/h or 140 mph. This system can exert forces 300 times its own weight, it can be used to kill or damage prey and in times of danger it can push its head to the ground to fling itself away. Check out the slow motion video below.
The ant database ‘antbase’ provides access to all the recorded ant species in the world. As of 03 Mar 2010 it has logged 12,565 different species of ants. New species are continually being discovered. It is estimated that there could be around 22,000 different species at this moment in time.
Carebara atoma are believed to be one of the worlds smallest ant species. Minor workers are around one millimeter long. It has been said that dozens of colonies of the worlds smallest ant could live comfortably inside the brain case of the world’s largest ant, Camponontus gigas, whose head can reach 7mm wide. (see pages 143-155 Adventures among Ants)
The FDA estimates that more than $5 billion is spent annually on medical treatment, damage, and control of invasive RIFA (red imported fire ant) infested areas. Furthermore, the ants cause approximately $750 million in damage to agricultural assets, including vet bills and livestock loss as well as crop loss. We currently use bio-control methods to keep these pest ants from further invasion.
Nearly all the ants you see in the wild are female. Males ants, or drones, don't do any work in the colony, they dont look like ants, and only live for a few months during the nuptial flight seasons. Their one job is to fertilize a princess, after which they die.
Sometimes you may see ants ‘kissing’ they are actually feeding each other from their social stomachs or crops. This process is called trophallaxis. It enables some ants to stay and look after the nest whilst others forage for food.
Slave-making occurs in two ways. A queen may go to a nest of a similar ant species and kill the resident queen. She takes over the nest and uses the workers to bring up her own eggs. The original species of ant will eventually die out without their queen to reproduce for them.
The other way in which the slave-making occurs is that workers from a slave-making ant colony will steal other nests of their larvae and pupae and raise them as slave workers.
Ants are very tough and have learnt how to survive in the most extreme environments. However it seems that antARCtica is a bit too cold. Check out the regional ant species to see ants from all around the world.
Ants don’t have lungs, they breath through small holes found around their bodies, 'spiracles'. When an ant is drowned in a flood, it may appear to be dead. However, if the water can evaporate and there is enough oxygen flowing through these holes, the ant can miraculously comes back to life.
Most ants have very poor eyesight. Some species have developed such advanced communication through use of their antennae, that they have no need for eyes at all. This major worker from the Driver ant species is a prime example of a 'blind' ant.
Some species of wingless ants that live in tropical rain forest canopies use a controlled glide to return to their home tree trunk when they fall from branches. This helps them avoid the dangers of the forest floor and avoid becoming lost. (Canopy ants)
Although it is commonly thought that ants always work and never sleep, research on fire ant sleeping patterns proves otherwise. It has been uncovered that workers had an average of 253 ‘sleep episodes’ a day, that lasted an average of 1.1 minutes, for a total of approximately 4.8 hours of sleep overall. Whereas fire ant queens only experienced 92 sleep episodes, but each lasted an average of 6 minutes, for a total of 9.4 hours of sleep overall. (BBC)
Some ants are more active during the day 'diurnal', some at night 'nocturnal'. Also during hibernation, some ants may sleep for around four months!
The pupae of some species of ants are the basis for the Mexican dish called ‘escamoles’. They are considered a form of insect caviar and can sell for as much as $40/lb In areas of India. Throughout Burma and Thailand, green weaver ant is used as a condiment with curry and an addition to a salad called ‘yum’. The natives of North Queensland Australia enjoy ants that are mashed up in water to make a pleasant acidic drink similar to lemon squash. In Mexico and Australia, honey pot ant ‘repletes’ are dug out of the ground and sweet nutritional juices are sucked out of their crops.
Ants from different colonies, even within the same species, treat each other as enemies. Ants use their jaws 'mandibles' to hold the legs or antennae of an enemy ant while nest mates tear the victim apart. The winners may invade the defeated colony and carry off their young for food or for making slaves.