Facts About Ants That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Considered pests, ants are interesting insects that benefit the environment and humans very much. Needless to say, there are A LOT of ants in the world - about 100 trillion to be precise. While small and not that exciting at first glance, these tiny creatures are actually quite fascinating. In this article, we are going to cover some interesting facts about them, including how they live, reproduce, and other curious details.
Ready to learn some amazing facts about ants? Then keep on reading!
Amazing facts about ants
Here are 10 amazing facts about ants. Among them, we cover facts about ants’ strength and less popular info. Let’s begin with…
1. Fire ants’ damage costs over £3 billion each year
In North America, there is an imported fire ant species. No matter how tiny these ants are, they have a hefty and very painful bite, which causes a skin burning sensation, hence the name of the insect. This tiny critter costs US citizens billions of dollars each year in medical and veterinary bills.
2. Trap jaw ants hold the record for the insects with the speediest moving abilities
Among other fun facts about ants is that trap-jaw ants can close their “mouths” at a speed of 140mph. This happens when the insect kills its prey or harms predators, making it the fastest=moving insect that you can find.
3. The biggest ant colony found so far is 3,700 miles in width
The weird facts about ants are countless. You probably know that ants live in colonies in “houses” that are called formicaries? Some time ago a king-size ant colony was found in Argentina that housed 33 ant families. All of these insects merged into one enormous supercolony, which facilitated billions of ant workers. Sounds pretty scary, right?
4. The bullet ant is the insect with the most painful sting in the world
The bullet ant that can be found in more humid jungles, like the one in the Amazon, is the insect with one of the most painful stings in the world. It is the largest ant species and can be seen preying on its victims in the Panama jungle. This “critter” can reach up to 1.6 inches in size. The effect of the venom-filled sting can last up to 24 hours and can be compared to taking a bullet or placing your finger in a 240 volts socket.
5. The passing of an ant queen is followed by the death of the whole colony
Here are another one of the many curious facts about ants - once the queen ant dies, she won’t be replaced by a new one. Since the workers can’t reproduce, the entire colony will die too. This happens a few months after the queen’s death. This is one of the more morbid, yet still interesting facts about ants.
6. Titanomyrma lubei - the biggest prehistoric ant
Titanomyrma lubei is a prehistoric giant ant species. It was first described in 2011 when a 49.5-million-year-old winged queen ant was found fossilized in Wyoming. For comparison, Titanomyrma lubei is similar in size to a hummingbird.
7. Ants can farm aphids
Number 7 on our list of 10 facts about ants is the interesting relationship the insects have with some Homopterans species. The aphids supply the ants with sweet nectar from their own food in return for protection against predators and the elements. This relationship is not as symbiotic as one may think - there is evidence that shows that ants can actually “drug” the aphids in order to make them more effective in supplying food.
8. Ants are some of the strongest insects in relation to their size
Another one of the countless amazing facts about ants, one that you might already be familiar with, is their strength. An ant can carry an object that weighs more than 50 times its weight. Imagine a 250-pound person lifting a 12,500-pound object - ants practically can do the same thing. Uniting their strength collectively, ants working in groups are a superpower.
9. There is an ant species that are exclusively female
The M. smithii is an ant species without males - so far as the queen ant reproduces asexually. This means that all offspring of the colony are the queen’s clones. The M. smithii ants reside in a few countries in Central America and most countries in South America.
10. Ants help the environment
A little known fact is that ants are very important for the environment. Despite some of them being considered pests, others are actually biological-control agents. They help the ecosystem by dispersing seeds, improving the soil quality, and pollinating plants.
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Interesting facts about ants
There is always more to learn about these fascinating insects. Here are 10 interesting facts about ants:
1. Are ants blind?
Ants have two fairly large compound eyes and can detect movement pretty well. Several ant species, such as army ants, spend the majority of their life underground and are completely blind.
Ants with smaller eyes have a smaller visual field, while species with compound eyes, especially larger ones, have an expanded and better vision. Normally, ants have 3 eyes on top of their heads, which have navigational functions - they don’t form images but rather tell the time of the day.
2. Some queens can live for decades
Another one of the weird facts about ants is the differences in their lifespans. After the queen establishes the colony, she has years of egg-laying work. For example, L. niger queens can live up to 30 years. Workers, on the other hand, live for about a year. Males have the shortest lifespan - they can survive for about a week.
Check also: Queen Ants: What You Want to Know
3. Ants can become zombies
Yes, it may sound completely crazy to you, but there is a type of fungus that can infect ants and zombify them. When the fungus enters an ant’s system, it starts to move around under its exoskeleton, consuming its soft tissue. Once this happens, the fungus “makes” the ant flee the colony and shortly after - die in agony. The worst part of the whole thing is that one infected ant can destroy an entire colony. Fortunately, some types of ant species can recognize an infected member of the family and “remove” them from the nest before the fungus spreads.
Check also: Horrifying Zombie Ants - It's a Real Thing
4. Ants don't’ have ears
Yes, ants have no auditory canal and feel the vibrations in the ground instead. The special sensors on their legs help them understand the signals coming from their environment. Additionally, the ants’ hairs and antennae are invaluable tools for seeking out food.
5. Some types of ants are good swimmers
Some ants can float, hold their breath underwater for long, and have their version of a doggy paddle. Overall, ants are great survivors and can even build lifeboats to rescue themselves from floods.
6. Ants are as old as dinosaurs
A study discovered that around 130 million years ago, in the Cretaceous period, the first ants appeared. They have survived the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction, which destroyed the dinosaurs, and also the ice age.
7. Ants have two stomachs
Ants have two stomachs - not out of greediness, but to help the colony work more efficiently. One of the stomachs holds their own food to consume and the other one is for the food they share with other ants. This process, called trophallaxis, lets ants that forage for food feed the ants with other duties.
8. Mycocepurus smithii - an exclusively female ant species
The queens of M. smithii reproduce by cloning themselves, as there are no males of this ant species. All their offspring are the queens’ clones.
9. Ants don’t have lungs
Ants have bodies that don’t have enough space for a complex respiratory system which includes lungs. The crawling insects have their specific way of breathing - they are covered in a series of holes, which are located on each side of their tiny bodies. These little spiracles help distribute oxygen throughout their system.
10. There are MANY ants in the world
And this is no understatement - for every human on this planet, there are approximately 1 million ants. You do the math.
Fun facts about ants
Here are some other amusing facts about these tiny creatures that prove that there is always more to learn about ants:
- You probably know many facts about ants working together, but do you know that these creatures can be enslavers? Ants “kidnap” ants from other colonies and force them to become their workers. Furthermore, soldier ants “steal” eggs from the other colonies. After the eggs hatch, the newborn ants become slaves in their colony.
- The main role of male ants in a colony is to help the family grow.
- Who do you think lives longer - dogs or ants? A black garden ant’s lifespan is longer than a dog's, which is 15 years on average.
- More facts about ants reveal that some species stink - for example, house ants smell of rotten coconuts.
- Strangely enough, a group of ants can form superbrains. By gathering in massive groups, they use their collective intellect to perform certain tasks.
- Some more freaky facts - ant eggs are a delicacy in Mexico. The dish ‘escamoles’ is very expensive.
- Ants are tidy animals - workers take the waste out of the nest and relocate it to a dumping point.
- Ants are incredible survivors and can even swim;
- There are asexual ant species;
- Ants are beneficial for the environment and humans;
- They don’t have ears and a “traditional” respiratory system, but own 2 stomachs;
- These critters are super strong and can lift heavy objects up to 50 times heavier than their own weight.