The Ant

The Ants are a social species, each usually having a (winged) male, (deciduously winged or wingless) female, and (wingless, neuter-female) worker castes.

There are perhaps 10,000 species known, valid species of the world already in collections; approximately a tenth of these occur in Australia.

The female castes are the female proper, or queen, and the worker. The worker caste may be subdivided into soldier, media, minor, etc. phases. The worker lacks wings and has a greatly reduced thoracic structure. The worker head is also smaller than the queen, has smaller compound eyes and ocelli reduced or absent. Mouthparts and antennae are usually the same, and function similarly, in both worker and queen.

Like all insects, ants have six legs. The legs of the ant are very strong so they can run very quickly. If a man could run as fast for his size as an ant can, he could run as fast as a racehorse. Ants can lift 20 times their own body weight. An ant brain has about 250 000 brain cells. A human brain has 10,000 million so a colony of 40,000 ants has collectively the same size brain as a human.

Ants have four distinct growing stages, the egg, larva, pupa and the adult.

The job of the queen is to lay eggs which the worker ants look after. Worker ants are sterile, they look for food, look after the young, and defend the nest from unwanted visitors. Ants are clean and tidy insects. Each colony of ants has its own smell. In this way, intruders can be recognized immediately.

At night the worker ants move the eggs and larvae deep into the nest to protect them from the cold. During the daytime, the worker ants move the eggs and larvae of the colony to the top of the nest so that they can be warmer. Army Ants are nomadic and they are always moving. They carry their larvae and their eggs with them in a long column.

Foraging in ants often involves trail-following, in which foraging is induced and directed by a chemical trail laid by food-laden workers returning to the nest.

Ants have social stomachs. They store liquid food in an expandable pouch called a crop. Food is often regurgitated from the crop and shared with nestmates. A worker can induce a nest mate to provide liquid food by touching the other ant’s head using its foreleg.

Ants make high-pitched sounds by rubbing a thin scraper on their waist against ridges on heir abdomen. This type of communication is called stridulation, and it is barely audible to humans.

The common house ant often prevalent in Queensland gardens and homes is used as a representative of the average ant.

More information is revealved by information boxes dispersed throughout the exploration.


Further Information:

Glossary of Ant Anatomy:

Ant Cam:

Ant Diagram:

Ants - Stranger than fiction:

Ants in and Around the Home:

Ants as Pests in Australia:


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