Ant facts proves I'm a freak for insects. Love em. But ants have a special place with me. No other insect species is as unbelievable... as sophisticated, and as... well, as powerful as ants. They have remained in an un-evolved state of perfection for six million years, because they got it right. And if you got it right, why mess with it? This list is only a tiny fraction of all the amazing facts about ants. Think about these ant facts before the next time you step on them for fun.
Check out my other bug lists: 10 Incredible Insect & Spider Battles, 10 Amazing Insects and Spiders You Will Never See
They Are Smarter Than You Think
The animal with the largest brain in proportion to its size is the ant. They are known to be the smartest species of insects with about 250,000 brain cells.
Separate species, or hostile factions of the same species, may be seen massed in combat, which can be continued for hours, days or weeks. Some of the most extensive battles observed have been fought between Pavement Ants, but there have been massive battles between Argentinian supercolonies that have left millions of ants dead in days. And not just head-to-head battles are fought either, psychological warfare between species has been witnessed as well. Amazon ants (also known for taking slaves) have been observed surrounding an enemy nest and simply sitting and waiting while their victims became more and more frenzied by the camped-out menace. As the observer noted, after two entire days, the Amazons attacked, easily defeating their enemies who had been unable to forage and were disorganized and panicked from the siege.
By combining force of numbers with organized aggression, ants have become the greatest insect killers on Earth – even of their own kind.
Invasive Argentine ants (these are the little black ants we in LA often see in our bathrooms and around the kitchen sink – they come in for water) form large supercolonies in the American Southwest that stretch for hundreds of miles and include millions of nests. These particular ants are so successful, they have managed to spread to every continent except Antarctica. Interestingly, researchers have found that ants from different nests of the same colony rarely show aggression toward each other. In fact, Argentines from different parts of the world have been introduced to each other and welcomed in as one of the colony. The largest supercolony in southern California extends some 600 miles and borders three smaller colonies. These are one of the most invasive, pervasive ant species on earth -- moving in on other ants' territories and either wiping them out or out-competing with them for resources until the native colonies die off.
The earliest evidence suggests ants started using agriculture as early as 70 million years ago in the early Tertiary period, millions of years before humans were even around. Even more amazing, these ants use sophisticated horticultural techniques to enhance their crop yields. They secrete chemicals with antibiotic properties to inhibit mold growth and devised fertilization protocols using manure. Leafcutter Ants grow mushrooms to feed their colony, a notoriously difficult thing to grow... requiring an enormously sophisticated system of vents and tunnels to control the humidity and temperature.
Ants make up 1/10 of the total world animal tissue. The total biomass of all the ants on Earth is roughly equal to the total biomass of all the people on Earth.
Workers only live for about 45-60 days, but a colony's queen can live up to 20 years. And when she dies, the colony can only survive a few months after that at best. Queens are only rarely replaced.
In Africa and tropical parts of Asia, there are ants that are capable of killing and consuming anything in their massed path. Sometimes called driver ants, safari ants, or siafu, these ants are powerful hunters that can number over 20 million to a colony, and they use those numbers to their advantage.
When Driver Ants are on the march, nothing in their path is safe. They've been known to kill tethered horses, human babies, and have even been used to execute criminals. Soldier ants stand guard over the marching column. The river of ants divides, spreading out over the forest floor. Few victims escape once the ants get a grip. Millions act like a fearsome super-organism emerging from its lair, sending out long tentacles of marching workers to engulf its prey. Soldiers form living archways over the columns and hold back twigs and leaves. It's a genuine team effort. The ants return home, carrying their spoils underground, where millions of developing grubs are waiting to be fed. Driver ants kills almost everything within range of their nests (up to 100,000 animals in a day), and relocate from time to time to find enough food. Most of their prey are arthropods such as insects and spiders, but army ants can also kill larger animals such as lizards, snakes, chickens, and small mammals. They also climb trees and attack birds in nests.
During flood season in parts of Asia, these massive (sometimes 1/4 mile long) columns will combine themselves into a water-tight ball, connecting together with all their strength. The column floats, safely, on the surging waves until the ball of ants finds dry land again. Pity whatever living things live near its landing spot once that big ball of killer ants unravels.
Ants farm, gather, hunt, and raise animals. Aphids, specifically. These are ranching ants.
Honey ants feed off the sweet "honey" that aphids secrete. The ants milk them like cows. Aphid-herding ants make sure their "cattle" stay well-fed and safe. They choose a plant where the Aphids can feed in peace and they guard it religiously to protect their stock. When the host plant is depleted of nutrients, the ants carry their aphids to a new food source. If predatory insects or parasites attempt to harm their wards, the ants will defend them aggressively. Some honey ants even go so far as to destroy the eggs of known aphid predators like ladybugs.