Ants live in complex societies with division of labour, communication between individuals, and the ability to solve complex problems. These parallels with human societies have long been an inspiration and subject of study.
Amazing Facts About the Ants
Ants may be tiny, but, what they lose in size, they certainly make up for in strength! These mighty insects are able to carry up to 50 times their own body weight, and they work together to get jobs done. Here are our favourite, fascinating ant facts – what are yours?
What do ants look like?
They are insects, so they have three body parts – head, thorax and abdomen – two antennae and six legs in three pairs. The majority of species are black in colour, but they can also be shades of brown, yellow/orange and red. Some may even appear translucent. They range in size from just 2-3 mm up to a whopping 3-4 cm!
How many species are there?
Lots! There are over 12,000 known species of ant, and many more that we are yet to discover! Recent estimates suggest that there are over 20 quadrillion ants on Earth – that’s 2.5 million for every human – and that their total biomass is greater than that of mammals and birds – read what the scientists have to say here.
Where do they live?
You don’t have to go far to find an ant – they are worldwide on every continent except Antarctica. Their distribution is not even though – ants love hot climates and are particularly common in moist tropical areas.
What does an ant eat?
What ants feed on will depend on the species. Generally, ants are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they eat a mix of foods and tend to go for what is available at the time.
Some favourite foods include sugary treats, including nectar from plants, seeds and leaves, insects and the flesh of dead animals – read more on ant diets on Science ABC.
Ants are social creatures, but how do they communicate?
Ants live in social societies, and they are well known for working together. But, to achieve this, they must be able to talk to each other. And they do this in a few ways.
Perhaps most well-known is their use of chemicals – ever wondered how they walk so well in lines? It’s all about pheromones. When they find something interesting, like food, they leave a trail of pheromones behind them as they walk so other ants can follow their scent.
More recently, scientists have discovered that some ant species communicate using noise, too. Ants can make sounds by rubbing parts of their abdomen together. They often do this to provide a warning to other ants or possibly to tell them where the best food is
For more information on ant communication: www.bbc.co.uk, www.science.org and Current Biology.
Humans often see ants as pests, but how do they help us?
While many people associate ants with huge colonies and home invasions, they actually have a positive impact on the environment and work hard for us by keeping insect populations at bay and aerating soils, so plants have everything they need to grow.
Page updated May 2023 by OneKind Editor, Jane Warley
Find more animals like this
- Type: Insect
- Diet: Omnivore
- Life span: Several weeks to several years
- Size: 2 - 40 mm
- Weight: 5-10 mg
- Habitat: Everywhere
- Range: All continents except Antarctica