ant (Formicidae) it has been living on Earth for more than 100 million years. They can be found almost anywhere on the planet. In 2006, there were some 11.880 known species of ants recorded, most of which reside in hot climates.

Ants are members of the family of the social insects, which means that they live in organized colonies. The family of ants is known as the Formicidae of the order Hymenoptera (an order of highly specialized insects with complete metamorphosis that includes bees, wasps and ants that are often associated in large colonies with complex social organization).

An ant on a leaf,

A lonely ant.

Most important species

We are going to name the most important species of the ant and briefly their characteristics:

Argentine ant

Its Latin name is Linepithema humile. 1.6mm long workers. Light to dark brown in color, they do not form colonies and do not sting.

Ochetellus Glaber

Better known as Ochetellus, they reside mainly in South-East Asia and South Africa. They are black and shiny. They are 2.5 to 3mm long.

Bulldog ant or Australian giant ant

In Latin Myrmecia, they are a very aggressive and large species, 18 to 20mm long, which makes it the largest ant in the world.

Carpenter ant

In latin, Camponotus pennsylvanicus, nests in live and dead trees, rotten logs or stumps in wooded areas.

Red fire ant

By its Latin name Solenopsis invicta It has a copper-brown head and body, with a darker abdomen. It has a very distinctive two-segment antenna, which is most visible in the front view of the female reproductive ant.

Features

There is great diversity between the ant and its behavior. The size of the ant varies from 2 to about 25 millimeters. Their color can vary, most are red or black, but other colors can also be seen, including some tropical groups with a metallic sheen.

Ants are one of the most successful groups of insects in the animal kingdom. They are of particular interest because they are a social insect and form highly organized colonies or nests that sometimes consist of millions of individuals. Colonies of invasive ant species sometimes work together and form super-colonies, spanning a very wide area of ​​land. Ant colonies are sometimes described as superorganisms because they appear to operate as a single entity.

Ants have colonized almost every land mass on Earth. They can constitute up to 15% of the total animal biomass of a tropical forest; in the Amazon the combined weight of ants is said to be four times that of tetrapods in the same area. The combined weight of all ants has also been estimated to exceed the weight of humanity.

Behavior

There are three types of ants in a colony: the queen, the workers, and the workers. The queen and males have wings, while the workers have no wings. The queen is the only ant that can lay eggs. The male ant's job is to mate with future queens and they don't live long afterward. Once the queen reaches adulthood, she spends the rest of her life laying eggs. Depending on the species, a colony can have one or more queens.

Ant colonies also have soldier ants that protect the queen, defend the colony, collect or kill food, and attack enemy colonies in search of food and space to nest. If they defeat another ant colony, they take the eggs of the defeated ant colony. When the eggs hatch, the new ants become the "slave" ants of the colony. Some colony jobs include taking care of the eggs and babies, gathering food for the colony, and building the anthills or mounds.

Communication

Communication between ants is achieved mainly through natural chemicals called pheromones. Because most ants spend their time in direct contact with the ground, these chemical messages are more developed than in other Hymenopterans. So, for example, when a seeker finds food, she leaves a trail of pheromones on the ground on the way home. The home is typically located through the use of remembered landmarks and the position of the sun as detected with compound eyes and also by means of special fibers that detect the polarization of the sky within the eyes.

Habitat

Ant colonies are usually found in humid environments, near a food source. These colonies can grow to monumental size, sometimes covering entire habitats, such as an entire garden or your entire backyard.

Ant nests

The ant is a neat and clean insect. Some worker ants are given the job of taking garbage out of the nest and putting it outside in a special trash can. Each ant colony has its own characteristic smell. In this way, intruders can be recognized immediately. Many ants like the common red species use the sting of their bite to defend their nest.

Some species of ants are known to attack and take over the colonies of other species of ants. Others are less expansionary but just as aggressive; they attack colonies to steal eggs or larvae, which they eat or raise as workers. Some ants, such as Amazon ants, are unable to feed on their own, but must rely on captured worker ants for care.

Anthill

An anthill, in its simplest form, is a pile of dirt, sand, pine needles, or clay or a composite of these and other materials that accumulate at the entrances to underground dwellings of ant colonies as they develop. . A colony is built and maintained by legions of worker ants, who carry small pieces of soil and vegetation in their jaws and deposit them near the exit of the colony.

The ants normally deposit dirt or vegetation on top of the hill to prevent it from slipping back into the colony.

However, in some species they actively sculpt materials into specific shapes and can create nest chambers within the mound.

An ant colony is an underground den where ants live. Colonies consist of a series of underground chambers, connected to each other and to the earth's surface by small tunnels. There are rooms for nurseries, food storage and mating.

Food

Many kinds of ants eat a sweet liquid called honeydew, excreted by aphids. Some species maintain and protect aphids, sometimes even in their own nests. The ant transports aphids from plant to plant and carries the eggs back to their colony during the winter. They also defend aphids from insect predators, such as female beetles, attacking them in large numbers.

The ant will eat almost anything including meat, eggs, oils, and fats. Also, when looking for food, Argentine ants leave pheromone trails everywhere, instead of just going from the nest to the food source. This habit ensures that they don't waste time visiting the same area twice. While in other ant species, the worker ant is the main responsible for gathering food, the Argentine queens also help in the search for food.

Predators

Ants are near the bottom of the food chain and near the outside of the food web, so there are many animals that like to eat them.

In tropical regions of the world, some mammals specialize in eating ants. Many of these animals are called anteaters, and they have long, thin tongues with which the ants lift their mouths.

Many frogs, arachnids, or 8-legged predators, feather predators, snakes, and other reptiles also like to eat ants. And any ant that falls into a stream, river, or pond is likely to be eaten by a fish.

Some people even eat ants. One type of ant that lives in the Amazon rainforest tastes like a lemon drop, and the children who live there eat as many of these ants as they can get.

Reproduction

Ant reproduction is a complex phenomenon that involves successfully finding, selecting, and fertilizing females to ensure that the laid eggs can survive and molt through the successive stages of the ant's life cycle (Larvae, pupae, and adults).

Life cycle of ants

A brief description of the respective stages within the ant's life cycle may be helpful in describing how ants reproduce. The eggs They are small, cream-colored and cared for by the workers.

The larvae of ants have no legs and are similar to worms. The beans they look the same as ants workers adults and are initially cream-colored, but darken before becoming adult ants.

The adult stages are the older ants that we typically see foraging for food or protecting the colony from intruders, while the nurse ants Adults are younger workers who tend to the needs of the queen and the eggs, larvae and pupae. The queen ants of the colony are almost always larger than other members of their colony.

Swarm

Each colony of ants begins and focuses on the queen, whose sole purpose is to reproduce. This reproductive behavior begins with winged males and virgin winged queens leaving the existing nest and swarming in search of a mate from another colony.

The males and females within the swarm are called alates, and their wings allow them to disperse far from the 'mother' colony, so the likelihood of no inbreeding with their relatives is greater.

Starting a new colony

Once mated, the queen does not mate again. Instead of repetitive mating, it stores the man's sperm in a specialized bag until it opens the bag and allows the sperm to fertilize the eggs it produces.

After mating, queen ants and males lose their wings. The queen runs off in search of a place to start her new nest. If it survives, it digs a nest, lays eggs and, single-handedly, raises its first young, which consists entirely of workers. After mating, the male generally lives a short life in isolation.

The nest queen controls the gender and function of her offspring as her fertilized eggs develop into wingless worker females or virgin queens capable of reproduction.

The unfertilized eggs develop into winged males that do nothing more than fertilize a virgin queen. The queen produces myriads of workers by secreting a chemical that retards wing growth and ovary development in female larvae. Virgin queens are produced only when there are enough workers to allow the colony to expand.

Worker ants

The workers enlarge the nest, excavate elaborate tunnel systems, and transport the new eggs to special incubation chambers. The larvae of the hatchlings are fed and cleaned, and the pupated larvae in cocoons are protected until the young adults emerge to become workers. At this point the workers of the colony are directed mainly to the expansion of the colony and the care of the queen.

Depending on the species of the ant, it can take one to several years for a colony to be large enough for the queen to begin producing virgin queens and males that will leave the colony, swarm, mate, and start a new colony. somewhere else. This process and behavior is typical of most ant colonies.

Multiple Queens

However, some species of ants reproduce and develop new colonies with several queens working together. Sometimes groups of workers swarm from the nest with a young queen to help her establish her new nest.

In colonies with several already fertile queens, an entire group of ants will separate along with their individual queens to establish individual colonies. In single-queen colonies, such as those of some fire ants, the death of the queen means the death of the colony, as it leaves no successors.

Budding colony

Colonies with multiple queens can also reproduce by a process called colony budding. Ants that reproduce by sprouting do not have mating swarms. Outbreak occurs when one or more fertile queens and a group of workers leave an established nest and move to a new nest site.

The respective roles of the queen and the workers remain the same in the budding colony, as the workers assist in the establishment and care of the new budding colony. Pharaoh ants, some fire ants, ghost ants, and Argentine ants, some of the most difficult species of ants to control, spread by sprouting.

Interestingly, pharaoh ant workers by themselves can form a successful shoot colony by developing and caring for the queens that are produced by the baby ants they brought with them.

State of conservation

The conservation status of certain species of ants is an important factor in their study. Red List ants that are Critically Endangered or Endangered must not be captured, killed or disturbed in any way. They are in danger of extinction. The same care must be taken with vulnerable ant species as well.

Ants are an important taxon for inclusion in conservation policies and strategies. One approach is to identify the endangered ants. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the world's best-known conservation status classification and listing system. The system divides threatened species into three categories: Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) and Vulnerable (VU).

Relationship with humans

The ant is useful in eliminating insect pests and aerating the soil. On the other hand, they can become pests when they invade houses, yards, gardens, and fields. Carpenter ants damage wood by hollowing it out for nesting. Nests can be destroyed by tracing the ant tracks back to the nest, and then pouring boiling water to kill the queen.

Common chalk can be used to keep ants at bay; drawing a line or circle around the protected area can prevent them from entering.

In some parts of the world, large ants have been used as sutures (stitches) pressing the wound and applying ants along it. The defensive ant grabs the edges of its jaws and locks into place. The body is then cut and the jaws can remain in place for up to three days, closing the wound.

Some species, called killer ants, have a tendency to attack much larger animals while searching for food or defending their nests. Human attacks are rare, but stings and bites can be quite painful and in large enough quantities can be disabling.

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