Ants are more of an annoyance than a pest, although some ants can pack a nasty bite.
There are more than 10,000 known ant species found worldwide, and ants have been the subject of many films and television shows.
These six-legged insects are really fascinating creatures, capable of many incredible abilities us humans can only dream of possessing!
Don’t believe me? Here are 10 incredible facts about ants that will convince you otherwise!
1. Ants have exceptional strength!
Ants have the ability to carry between 10 and 50 times their own body weight! The amount they can carry depends on the species. The Asian weaver ant – for example – can lift 100 times its own mass.
Why are ants strong?
Believe it or not, their remarkable strength is a result of their small size. The Arizona State University reports that because of their small size, ants’ muscles have a greater cross-sectional area relative to their body size, compared to larger animals. This means they can produce more force.
2. Ants don’t have lungs
Due to their small size, ants don’t have the room to accommodate a complex respiratory system such as ours. Instead, they have their own way transporting oxygen around their bodies.
How do ants breathe?
Spiracles (a series of openings located around the sides of ants’ bodies) enable them to breathe in oxygen. These spiracles are connected through a network of tubes that assist in transporting oxygen to virtually every cell in their bodies.
Their movement helps the oxygen to circulate through the tubes, with released carbon dioxide exiting through said tubes as well.
3. Ants don’t have ears
Yes, you have heard correctly (see what I did there?) Even though ants don’t have ears, they are equipped with other means of hearing.
How do ants hear?
These insects make use of vibrations when scavenging for food, or as an alarm signal. They use the vibrations in the ground to hear by picking them up in the subgenual organ which is located below the knee.
4. There are tons of ants in existence
“Tons of ants” is an understatement when describing the amount of ants in the world. To put things in perspective, it is estimated that there are around 1 million ants for every one human in the world!
These creatures have pretty much dominated the entire globe. With the exception of Antarctica, the Arctic, and a few islands, there is at least one native species found on every continent.
Entomologist Ted Schultz says that the presence of ants across the world is “arguably the greatest success story in the history of terrestrial metazoa“.
5. Some species can reproduce via cloning
Rather than following the traditional route of procreation, some Amazonian ants have taken to reproduce via cloning, which is reported to be a rare occurrence in ants.
Research done by Dr Anna Himler found that the queens copy themselves to genetically produce daughters, resulting in a colony with no males. According to Dr Himler, an advantage of this is the reduction in energy exerted when reproducing males, and doubling the chances of procreative females in the caste.
6. Ants are farmers
You may be thinking “what?!” But it’s true; besides humans, ants are the only creatures which will farm other creatures.
Just like we raise cows, sheep, pigs, chicken and fish in order to obtain a food source, ants will do the same with other insects. The most common occurrence of this is with aphids.
They will protect aphids from predators, and shelter them in their nests from heavy rain showers in order to gain a continuous supply of honeydew.
7. Ants have two stomachs
That’s right; these fascinating creatures have two stomachs, and it’s not because they’re greedy. One of their stomachs is for holding food for their own consumption, whilst the second one is to hold food to be shared with others in the colony.
This process is known as trophallaxis and allows a colony to work tremendously efficiently. It allows for the ants that forage for foodstuff to feed those that stay behind and tend to the responsibilities of the colony.
8. Certain species of ants can swim
Depending on the species, some ants are able to swim. They haven’t yet mastered the butterfly, but they can survive in water by using their own version of the doggy paddle, and can also float for long periods of time.
To put it simply, ants are incredible survivors. Not only can they hold their breath underwater for long time periods, but they will also build lifeboats to survive floods! See how they do it in the video below:
9. Ants are slave-makers
This may sound strange, but hear me out. Some species, such as the Polyergus Lucidus are known as slave-making ants. They invade neighbouring ant colonies, seizing its inhabitants and forcing them to work. This practice is known as ‘slave raiding’.
Slave-making ants parasite a single species or a group of related species which are often close relatives to them. Those captured will work as if they were in their own colony, while the slave-making workers will only focus on replenishing their workforce.
There are two types of slave-making ants: permanent social parasites and facultative slave-makers. Permanent social parasites rely on the enslaved ants throughout their lifetime whilst facultative slave-makers do not.
10. Ants have been around since prehistoric times
A study from Harvard and Florida State Universities discovered that ants first rose during the Cretaceous period around 130 million years ago! They have survived the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K/T extinction) which killed the dinosaurs as well as the ice age.
Do you have any more ant facts? Send us a tweet to @Rentokil.