The Mighty Ant

Leafcutter Ants. Image credit: Mark Moffett / Minden Pictures

Check out these intriguing facts about ants from the Science Channel:

“Ants [each 10-01 ] move an estimated 50 tons [99,790 or 10+04 pounds] of soil per year in one square mile!”

“Ant queens only need to have sex once in their entire lifespan.  The sperm received stays in them for as long as ten years [10+01] and they can use it to lay millions [10+06] of eggs.”

“Although ants normally eat a bland, repetitive diet, they will go to great lengths to obtain special foods they crave. This not only includes raiding your pantry for sugary snacks, but also ‘milking’ insects that secrete tasty fluids the ants enjoy (like aphids, beetles, even some caterpillars).”

Some ants “will bite and then squirt formic acid into the wound. Some can spray formic acid into the air (6″ – 24″) making it hard for you to breathe. Some have stingers on the tips of their abdomens like bees or wasps, and the attack of particularly venomous ants (like Australia’s Bulldog ant) can cause anaphylactic shock.”

Ants can “carry loads up to fifty times their own weight. They will frequently pick up another ant from their colony and give them a ride in their mandibles; an ant is an easy burden compared to some of the large caterpillars and other dead insects they have to bring home.”

“Ferocity Ants are famous for being dogged fighters who will keep on battling even as they are literally being torn limb from limb. It’s not uncommon to see an ant emerge from combat with the decapitated heads of enemy ants attached to her, jaws locked in a death grip. But this anecdote, from no less an historical figure than the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, tops them all. According to him, if you cut a living Bulldog ant in half, the two sections (one armed with mandibles, the other with a stinger) will fight against each other!”

Ants “are very important in keeping down the populations of other more destructive insects like termites, crop eating caterpillars and beetles, etc. Throughout the world, ants have been collected and encouraged to live in and protect orchards.  A single colony of Wood ants will destroy 50,000 – 100,000 [10+04 - 10+05] insects every day, so they have a large impact on the forests where they live.”

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