Ants come in many differens forms, from flying ants to fire ants, to the common variety of ants found in your home attacking crumbs. But we focus most of our time on killing ants or ant pest control solutions. So, this amazing insect doesn’t really get the credit it deserves. Read on to learn more about ants.
What prompted me to write a blog post about ants? Well, after being bitten numerous times in my garden in Thailand by Thai red fire ants, I was amazed by how well organised they were. For some reason they are a lot more organised than English ants I see when I am back in England. When I chopped a tree branch down recently I noticed that they attacked in formation. When I changed position by standing in a different place, they about-turned and followed me. I also found that they had round nests in the trees. Up to this point I didn’t know that certain species of ants made ant nests in trees that look like birds’ nests from a distance.
I also found out that these Thai red ants are not poisonous, so they do a clever, and not very beautiful act once they’ve bitten you . . . They then turn around and urinate in the bite wound. Not a great feeling, being urinated on by an ant but fascinating all the same.
Then I was stung by a dark red ‘Mot Da Nawy’ ant which really hurt. Swelling and redness in around a 3 inch diameter appeared after the sting. I say ‘sting’ because these ants are quite different, they sting you and inject their venom.
Then, after being urinated on by standard Thai red ants and stung by the dark red Thai ant, I was attacked by skydiving ants. Skydiving ants? Yes, it may be hard to believe, but I was sweeping up leaves when they started to drop out of the tree above me, biting my neck and going down my T. shirt. I abandoned the idea of sweeping up the leaves in the end and had a second shower that morning to make sure they were all off me. I wasn’t expecting them to use that tactic.
Even though I then had the entire garden sprayed with ant killing chemicals as they were on my case, I’ve got to give ants credit, as they are fearless, organised, clever and can communicate well with each other.
Anyway, here are some things I found out about ants. . .
Ants have an exoskeleton, their skeleton is on the outside, as opposed to our skeleton which is on the inside. In non-scientific terms we could maybe call this a skeletal shell, with their muscles attached to the shell. This exoskeleton also filters oxygen into the ant’s body as ants don’t have any lungs. They don’t have a heart as we’d recognise a heart. Instead they have a kind of dorsal tube that runs along the top of the length of the ant’s body that functions as a heart, called the ‘dorsal aorta’.
An ant’s vision isn’t great as most ants have low resolution vision. Their eyes have multiple lenses however and they even have three extra eyes on the top of their heads that can detect light levels. They have hooked claws at the end of their legs to enable them to climb.
Young worker ants spend the first part of their lives looking after the young and the queen, then when the ant is older and more expendable, it goes out foraging for food.
Queens can live for up to 30 years! And female worker ants can live from 1 – 3 years. The poor old male ants only live for a few weeks. The females have complete control over mating too. It’s a very female dominated ant society. They don’t have any suffragette movements going on in the ant world, no need.
Ants use pheromones to communicate, which is picked up by their sensitive antennas. An ant that finds a spilt orange juice drink on the floor can make its way back to the nest whilst leaving a pheromone trail on the ground for other ants to follow. This explains their almost regimental marching along a line type movements.
If you accidentally step on an ant, or just happen to accidentally burn one to a cinder with a magnifier glass, an alarm pheromone will be released sending nearby ants into a frenzied attack mode.
Central and South American bullet ants have a very painful sting. The pain is said to last for up to 24 hours and is meant to be one of the most painful stings in the world. These reddish coloured ants can be from 2 to 3 cms in length.
The Australian jack-jumper ant can be up to 4 cms in size and has superior vision when compared to other species.
Worker ants hunting for food can travel up to two hundred metres away from their nest. There are certain types of caterpillars that are carried away and massaged for the sweet secretions they produce upon being massaged, which the ants then eat. It must be like a free spa treatment for the lucky caterpillar.
It has been estimated that there are so many ants around that if you could weigh the whole human race and at the same time, all the ants in the world, the weights would be approximately the same.