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Ants

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Ant Life
Ants Breeding
Ants communication
Ants attack
Ants Nest Construction
Ants Navigation
Ants cooperation and competition
Ants Relationships with other species
Humans and ants
Ant oddities
Ant eating
Ants as pests
Bullet ant
Carpenter ants
Gliding Ants
Leaf-cutter ants
Lemon ants
Pseudomyrmex-ant
Weaver ants
Ant Lion
   

   
Ants are social insects that belong to the same order as the wasps and bees. They are of particular interest because of their highly organized colonies or nests which sometimes consist of millions of individuals. Individuals are divided into infertile female workers and fertile males (drones) and females (queens).
Colonies can occupy and use a wide area of land to support them. Ant colonies are sometimes described as super organisms because the colony appears to operate as a single entity.
Ants have colonized almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ant species are Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, and the Hawaiian Islands. They can constitute up to 15-25% of the total animal biomass. Up to a third (33%) of the terrestrial animal biomass has been estimated to be made up of ants and termites.
There are about 11,880 known ant species, most of which are tropical.
Termites, sometimes called white ants, though similar in social structure are not even closely related to ants. They comprise the more primitive order Isoptera and are more closely related to cockroaches. Velvet ants, although resembling large ants, are wingless female wasps.
 
 
Ants are distinguished from other insects by the following traits: elbowed antennae; a strongly constricted second abdominal segment forming a distinct node-like petiole; the petiole can be formed by one or two "parts" or segments (only the second, or the second and third abdominal segments can form it). Ants have a wingless worker caste; the presence of a metapleural gland is also distinctive.
Ant bodies, like other insects, have an exoskeleton, meaning their bodies are externally covered in a protective casing, as opposed to the internal skeletal framework of humans and other vertebrates. Ants do not have lungs. Oxygen passes through tiny pores, the spiracles, in their exoskeleton - the same holes through which carbon dioxide leaves their body. Nor do they have a heart; a colorless blood, the hemolymph, runs from their head to rear and back again along a long tube. Their nervous system is much like a human spinal cord in that it is a continuous cord, the ventral nerve cord, from head to rear with branches into each extremity.
The three main divisions of the ant body are the head, mesosoma and metasoma.
The head of an ant has many important parts. Ant eyes are compound eyes, similar to fly eyes: they have many smaller eyes attached together which enables them to see movement very well. Most ants have poor to mediocre eyesight; some are blind altogether. A few have exceptional vision though, such as Australia's bulldog ant. Also attached to the head of an ant are two feelers. The feelers are special smelling organs that help ants communicate. Ants release pheromones (chemicals that have different smells) to communicate with each other and the feelers pick these smells as signals. The head also has two strong pinchers, the mandibles, which are used to carry food, to dig, and to defend. There is also a small pocket inside the mouth where ants can store food and give to others in need.
The thorax of the ant is where all six legs are attached. At the end of each leg is a sharp claw that helps ants climb and hang onto things. Most queens and male ants have wings, which they drop after the nuptial flight; however wingless queens (ergatoids) and males can occur.
The metasoma of the ant houses many of the important internal organs. Some species of ants have stingers used for subduing prey and defending their nests.

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Ant Life

The life of an ant starts with an egg. If the egg is fertilized, the ant will be female; if not, it will be male. Ants are holometabolous, and develop by complete metamorphosis, passing through larval and pupal stages (with the pupae being exarate) before they become adults. The larval stage is particularly helpless – for instance it lacks legs entirely – and cannot care for itself. The difference between queens and workers (which are both female), and between different castes of workers when they exist, is determined by the feeding in the larval stage. Food is given to the larvae by a process called trophallaxis in which an ant regurgitates food previously held in its crop for communal storage. This is also how adults distribute food amongst themselves. Larvae and pupae need to be kept at fairly constant temperatures to ensure proper development, and so are often moved around various brood chambers within the colony.

A new worker spends the first few days of its adult life caring for the queen and young. After that it graduates to digging and other nest work, and then to foraging and defense of the nest. These changes are fairly abrupt and define what are called temporal castes. One theory of why this occurs is because foraging has a high death rate, so ants only participate in it when they are older and closer to death anyway. In a few ants there are also physical castes – workers come in a spectrum of sizes, called minor, median, and major workers, the latter beginning foraging sooner. Often the larger ants will have disproportionately larger heads, and so stronger mandibles. Such individuals are sometimes called "soldier" ants because their stronger mandibles make them more effective in fighting other creatures, although they are still in fact worker ants and their "duties" typically do not vary greatly from the minor or median workers. In a few species the median workers have disappeared, creating a sharp divide and clear physical difference between the minors and majors..

Ant's Food

   

   

   

 

Ant's Food

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Ants Breeding

Most of the common ant species breed in the same way. Only the queen and breeding females have the ability to mate. Contrary to popular belief, some ant nests have multiple queens. The male ants, called drones, along with the breeding females emerge from pupation with wings (although some species, like army ants, don't produce winged queens), and do nothing throughout their life except eat, until the time for mating comes. At this time, all breeding ants, excluding the queen, are carried outside where other colonies of similar species are doing the same. Then, all the winged breeding ants take flight. Mating occurs in flight and the males die shortly afterward. The females that survive land and seek a suitable place to begin a colony. There, they break off their own wings and begin to lay eggs, which they care for. Sperm obtained during their nuptial flight is stored and used to fertilize all future eggs produced. The first workers to hatch are weak and smaller than later workers, but they begin to serve the colony immediately. They enlarge the nest, forage for food and care for the other eggs. This is how most new colonies start. A few species that have multiple queens can start a new colony as a queen from the old nest takes a number of workers to a new site and founds a colony there.

Ant colonies can be long-lived. The queens themselves can live for up to 30 years, while workers live from 1 to 3 years. Males, however, are short lived and live for only a few weeks..

 

Ants Mating, Indonesian : Laron, Balinees : Dedaluh

 

Ants Mating

Antsnest

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Ants communication

Ant communication is accomplished primarily through 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 instance, when a forager finds food, she will leave a pheromone trail along the ground on her way home. In a short time other ants will follow this pheromone trail. Home is often located through the use of remembered landmarks and the position of the sun as detected with compound eyes and also by means of special sky polarization-detecting fibers within the eyes. Returning home, they reinforce this same trail which in turn attracts more ants until the food is exhausted, after which the trail is no longer reinforced and so slowly dissipates. This behavior helps ants adapt to changes in their environment. When an established path to a food source is blocked by a new obstacle, the foragers leave the path to explore new routes. If successful, the returning ant leaves a new trail marking the shortest route. Since each ant prefers to follow a path richer in pheromone rather than poorer, the resulting route is also the shortest available.

Ants make use of pheromones for other purposes as well. A crushed ant, for example, will emit an alarm pheromone which in high concentration sends nearby ants into an attack frenzy; and in lower concentration, merely attracts them. To confuse their enemies, several ant species even use what are termed propaganda pheromones.

Like other insects, ants smell with their antennae, which are long and thin. These are fairly mobile, having a distinct elbow joint after an elongated first segment; and since they come in pairs--rather like binocular vision or stereophonic sound equipment--they provide information about direction as well as intensity. Pheromones are also exchanged as compounds mixed with food and passed in trophallaxis, giving the ants information about one another's health and nutrition. Ants can also detect what task group (e.g. foraging or nest maintenance) to which other ants belong. Of special note, the queen produces a certain pheromone without which the workers would begin raising new queens.

Some ants also produce sounds by stridulation using the gaster segments and also using their mandibles. They may serve to communicate among colony members as well as in interactions with other species..

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Ants attack

and defend themselves by biting and in many species, stinging, often injecting chemicals like formic acid. Bullet Ants (Genus Paraponera), located in Central and South America, are considered to have the most painful sting among insects, although these are usually non-fatal. They are given the highest rating on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. Jack jumper ants, (Myrmecia pilosula) located in Australia have stings that cause fatality to a small number of people in the population, and cause hospitalizations each year.

Fire ants (Solenopsis spp.) are unique in having a poison sac containing piperidine alkaloids.
Some ants of the genus Odontomachus are equipped with mandibles called trap-jaws. This snap-jaw mechanism, or catapult mechanism, is possible because energy is stored in the large closing muscles. The blow is incredibly fast, about 0.5 ms in the genus Mystrium. Before the strike, the mandibles open wide and are locked in the open position by the labrum, which functions as a latch. The attack is triggered by stimulation of sensory hairs at the side of the mandibles. The mandibles are also able to function as a tool for more finely adjusted tasks. Two similar groups are Odontomachus and Dacetini - examples of convergent evolution.
Learning
While many types of animals can learn behaviors by imitating other animals, ants may be the only group of animals besides primates and some other mammals in which interactive teaching behavior has been observed. Knowledgeable forager ants of the species Temnothorax albipennis directly lead naïve nest-mates to newly discovered food sources by the excruciatingly slow (and time-costly) process of tandem running. The follower thereby obtains knowledge that it would not have, had it not been tutored, and this is at the expense of its nest-mate teacher. Both leader and follower are acutely sensitive to the progress of their partner. For example, the leader slows down when the follower lags too far behind, and speeds up when the follower gets too close, while the follower does the opposite..

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Ants Nest Construction

While some ants form complex nests and galleries, other species are nomadic and do not build permanent structures. Some species form subterranean nests, while others build nests on trees. The materials used for construction include soil and plant matter.
Some of the more advanced ants are the army ants and driver ants, from South America and Africa respectively. Unlike most species which have permanent nests, army and driver ants do not form permanent nests, but instead alternate between nomadic stages and stages where the workers form a temporary nest (bivouac) out of their own bodies. Colonies reproduce either through nuptial flights as described above, or by fission, where a group of workers simply dig a new hole and raise new queens. Colony members are distinguished by smell, and other intruders are usually attacked.

Weaver ants (Oecophylla) build nests in trees by attaching leaves together, first pulling them together with bridges of workers and then sewing them together by pressing silk-producing larvae against them in alternation..Food cultivation

Leafcutter ants (Atta and Acromyrmex) feed exclusively on a special fungus that lives only within their colonies. They continually collect leaves which they cut into tiny pieces for the fungus to grow on. These ants have several differently sized castes especially for cutting up the pieces they are supplied with into even smaller pieces. Leaf cutter ants are sensitive enough to adapt to the fungi's reaction to different plant material, apparently detecting chemical signals from the fungus. If a particular type of leaf is toxic to the fungus the colony will no longer collect it. The ants grow the fungus because it produces special structures called gongylidia which are fed on by the ants. They create antibiotics on their exterior surfaces with the aid of symbiotic bacteria, and subsist entirely on this farming of the fungus.

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Ants Navigation

Desert ants Cataglyphis fortis make use of visual landmarks in combination with other cues to navigate.

In the absence of visual landmarks, Sahara desert ants have been shown to navigate by keeping track of direction as well as distance travelled, like an internal pedometer that keeps tracks of how many steps they take, and use this information to find the shortest routes back to their nests.
In the absence of visual landmarks, Sahara desert ants have been shown to navigate by keeping track of direction as well as distance travelled, like an internal pedometer that keeps tracks of how many steps they take, and use this information to find the shortest routes back to their nests.
Locomotion
Ants usually lose, or never develop, their wings. Therefore, unlike their wasp ancestors, most ants travel by walking.
The more cooperative species of ants sometimes form chains to bridge gaps, whether that be over water, underground, or through spaces in arboreal paths.
Among their reproductive members, most species of ant do not retain wings beyond their mating flight; most females remove their own wings when returning to the ground to lay eggs, while the males almost invariably die after that maiden flight.
Some ants are even capable of leaping. A particularly notable species is Jerdon's Jumping ant (Harpegnathos saltator). This is achieved by synchronized action of the mid and hind pair of legs.
Polyrhachis sokolova, a species of ant found in Australian mangrove swamps, can swim and lives in nests that are submerged underwater. They make use of trapped pockets of air in the submerged nests.
There are several species of gliding ant including Cephalotes atratus. In fact this may be a common trait among most arboreal ants. Ants with this ability are able to direct the direction of their descent while falling..

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Ants cooperation and competition

   

   

Meat eater ants feeding on honey - social ants cooperate and collectively gather food

Not all ants have the same kind of societies. The Australian bulldog ants are among the biggest and most primitive of ants. The individual hunts alone, using its large eyes instead of its chemical senses to find prey. Like all ants they are social, but their social behavior is poorly developed compared to more advanced species. The Australian bulldog ant Myrmecia pilosula has only a single pair of chromosomes and males have just one chromosome as they are haploid.

Some species of ants are known for attacking and taking over the colonies of other ant species. Others are less expansionist but nonetheless just as aggressive; they attack colonies to steal eggs or larvae, which they either eat or raise as workers/slaves. Some ants, such as the Amazon Ants, are incapable of feeding themselves, but must rely on captured worker ants to care for them. In some cases ant colonies may have other species of ants or termites within the same nest.

The Pavement ant is famous for its urge to increase its territory. In early spring, colonies attempt to conquer new areas and often attack the nearest enemy colony. These result in huge sidewalk battles, sometimes leaving thousands of ants dead. Because of their aggressive nature, they often invade and colonize seemingly impenetrable areas.

Ants identify kin and nestmates through their scents, a hydrocarbon-laced secretion that coats their exoskeletons. If an ant is separated from its original colony, it will eventually lose the colony scent. Any ant that enters a colony with a different scent than that of the colony will be attacked..

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Ants Relationships with other species

Ants are associated with other species in a wide variety of ways. These associations include mutualistic and parasitic relationships as well as interactions with more than one species which are not fully understood. Well known relationships are between other insects, especially those that secrete honeydew and those with plants and fungi.
Aphids secrete a sweet liquid called honeydew. The sugars provide a high-energy food source, which many ant species use. Normally this is allowed to fall to the ground, but around ants it is kept for them to collect. The ants in turn keep predators away and will move the aphids around to better feeding locations. Upon migrating to a new area, many colonies will take new aphids with them, to ensure that they have a supply of honeydew in the new area. Ants also tend mealybugs to harvest their honeydew. Mealybugs can become a serious pest of pineapple if ants are present to protect mealybugs from natural enemies.
Myrmecophilous (ant-loving) caterpillars of the family Lycaenidae (e.g., blues, coppers, or hairstreaks) are herded by the ants, led to feeding areas in the daytime, and brought inside the ants' nest at night. The caterpillars have a gland which secretes honeydew when the ants massage them. Some caterpillars are known to produce vibrations and sounds that are sensed by the ants.Some caterpillars have evolved from being ant-loving to ant-eating and these myrmecophagous caterpillars secrete a pheromone which makes the ants think that the caterpillar's larva is one of their own. The larva will then be taken into the ants' nest where it can feed on the ant larvae.
Fungus-growing ants that make up the tribe attini, including Leafcutter ants, actively cultivate certain species of fungus in the Leucoagaricus or Leucocoprinus genera of the Agaricaceae family. In this ant-fungus mutualism, both species depend on each other for survival. Allomerus decemarticulatus has evolved a tripartite association with their host plant Hirtella physophora (Chrysobalanaceae), and a fungus in order to ambush and obtain protein nutrition from prey insects.

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Humans and ants

Ants are useful for clearing out insect pests and aerating the soil. On the other hand, they can become annoyances when they invade homes, yards, gardens and fields. Carpenter ants damage wood by hollowing it out for nesting.
In some parts of the world large ants, especially army ants, are said to be used as sutures by pressing the wound together and applying ants along it. The ant in defensive attitude seizes the edges in its mandibles and locks in place. The body is then cut off and the head and mandibles can remain in place, closing the wound.
Some species, called killer ants, have a tendency to attack much larger animals during foraging or in defending their nests. Human attacks are rare, but the stings and bites can be quite painful and in large enough numbers can be disabling.
The Masai of Africa had an abiding respect for the Siafu Ants, voracious predators that consume a large amount of insects and are welcomed for the benefit they bring to farmers, as they will eliminate all pests from a crop and quickly move on..

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Ant oddities

Ants are so successful and common
that many ant species specialize on eating other ants
.Big Bad Wolf---
Lacewing larvae prey primarily on aphids, but many aphids are protected by ants who enjoy the aphid's secretion of honeydew (a sugary, liquid waste product). To get by the ant "shepherds", the spiny, grublike larva coats itself in the discarded shells of aphids or in the fuzzy white "wool" that some aphids are coated with. The ants, who's primary senses are touch and smell, cannot tell the difference between the disguised lacewing and a live group of aphids.

Ant Slavers---
Ants of the genus Polyergus are fierce, powerful insects so geared towards fighting that they do not know how to feed themselves. They depend entirely on ants of the genus Formica, which Polyergus keep as slaves. Formica workers, stolen right from their own colonies, are forced to perform all non-combative duties in the Polyergus nest including excavation and rearing young. Without any slaves, an adult Polyergus can starve to death surrounded by food.

Foster Home---
One species of tropical caterpillar the Blue Butterfly lives in the nests of stinging ants. The caterpillar secretes sweet, delicious honeydew that encourages the ants to keep it alive and healthy. When the caterpillar hatches from its pupa as a butterfly, the ants even escort it out of the nest and protect it until its first flight.

---The creepiest ants you have ever heard of---
Discovered in 2000, Madagascan "Dracula Ants" feed on the blood of their own larva, scratching them open and drinking just enough to sustain themselves without killing the young. Larva themselves eat normal food brought by the workers, but have been observed running and hiding when an adult enters their chamber.

Walking Bombs---
Camponotus saundersi is a malaysian ant species with the incredible defensive behavior of self-destructing. Two oversized, poison-filled mandibular glands run the entire length of the ant's body. When combat takes a turn for the worse, the ant violently contracts its abdominal muscles to rupture its body and spray poison in all directions.

Parasitic Ants---
Solenopsis daguerrei is a species of ant that has taken on a parasitic lifestyle. It has no worker class or even a colony at all...the species exists only as reproductive males and females (in contrast, the thousands of workers and soldiers forming the bulk of a normal ant colony are entirely sterile females). Females actually attach themselves to the queens of black or red fire ants, disguising themselves with the scent of the host colony and taking full advantage of their resources. The fire ants will unknowingly maintain an entire brood of the parasite's young as their own.

Silent Takeover---
Another form of parasitic ant is Lasius umbratus. After mating, the queen lands outside an established ant colony and hunts for one of their workers, which she will kill to obtain the host colony's odor. She will enter the nest undetected, kill the queen, and take her place. The host colony will tend to this imposter queen and her eggs until every original worker and soldier has died naturally...leaving only a pure colony of Lasius

Like all insects, ants have six legs. Each leg has three joints. 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.

The average life expectancy of an ant is 45-60 days. Ants use their antenae not only for touch, but also for their sense of smell. The head of the ant has a pair of large, strong jaws. The jaws open and shut sideways like a pair of scissors. Adult ants cannot chew and swallow solid food. Instead they swallow the juice which they squeeze from pieces of food. They throw away the dry part that is left over. The ant has two eyes, each eye is made of many smaller eyes. They are called compound eyes.

The abdomen of the ant contains two stomachs. One stomach holds the food for itself and second stomach is for food to be shared with other ants. Like all insects, the outside of their body is covered with a hard armour this is called the exoskeleton. Ants have four distinct growing stages, the egg, larva, pupa and the adult. Biologists classify ants as a special group of wasps. (Hymenoptera Formicidae) There are over 10000 known species of ants. Each ant colony has at least one or more queens.

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. Some worker ants are given the job of taking the rubbish from the nest and putting it outside in a special rubbish dump! Each colony of ants has its own smell. In this way, intruders can be recognized immediately. Many ants such as the common Red species have a sting which they use to defend their nest.

The common Black Ants and Wood Ants have no sting, but they can squirt a spray of formic acid. Some birds put ants in their feathers because the ants squirt formic acid which gets rid of the parasites. The Slave-Maker Ant (Polyergus Rufescens) raids the nests of other ants and steals their pupae. When these new ants hatch, they work as slaves within the colony. The worker ants keep the eggs and larvae in different groups according to ages.

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. If a worker ant has found a good source for food, it leaves a trail of scent so that the other ants in the colony can find the food. Army Ants are nomadic and they are always moving. They carry their larvae and their eggs with them in a long column.

The Army Ant (Ecitron Burchelli) of South America, can have as many as 700,000 members in its colony. The Leaf Cutter Ants are farmers. They cut out pieces of leaves which they take back to their nests. They chew them into a pulp and a special fungus grows it. Ants cannot digest leaves because they cannot digest cellulose. Many people think ants are a pest but I like them. To stop them coming into my kitchen I put some sugar outside. They they have so much to eat that they are not interested in coming into my kitchen.

The Parasol ants grow a kind of mushroom from which they feed. Sometimes the size of the mushrooms chambers can be as big as a watermelon. The ants collect pieces of leaves and flowers for nourishing the soil in which the fungus grows.

Ants keep their nests very clean. They usually have special chambers for waste materials and dead ants. Some ant species have small scavenger insects living inside the nest. These insects eat the waste and help to keep the nest clean.

Some species of ants have soldiers with a plug-shaped head. The soldiers function is to use their heads like stoppers to close the entrance to the nest. This prevents other ants or insects getting into the nest. To enter the hole the workers of the colony must identify themselves by tapping the soldier's head with the antennae.

The queen ant may live up to 18 years. She produces a chemical called 'queen substance' that the workers lick from her body. This substance tells the workers that the queen is well and healthy.

The Rove-beetle is an ant parasite that lives inside the nest. It succeeds in fooling the workers by imitating their behavior. The beetle then feeds on the ant eggs. It even clings to the queen’s abdomen eating the eggs as she lays them!

The larvae excrete liquid waste material from their anus, every time a worker touches their hind body. This liquid waste is very similar to urine. The worker then licks it up and carries it away in her mouth. ant with larvae

The exploding ant is one of the most curious ones. When the ant is threatened its abdomen explodes.

Harvester ants collect and store seeds. This ants crack open the grains and eat their inside. Their ant hills have many chambers filled with seeds which are robed by the Yellow Thieves. The Yellow Thief ant builds its nest near the Harvester's nest. These ants make small tunnels to the Harvester's seed storages and steal their grains. Because these tunnels are very small the larger Harvester ants can not follow.

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Ant eating


Ants and their larvae are eaten in different parts of the world. In Mexico, larvae of cookie crisp ants, known locally as ants that eat are considered a great delicacy. In the Colombian department of Santander Hormigas Culodnas (lit. : "fatass ants") Atta laevigata are toasted alive and eaten. This tradition has come down from the native Guanes. In parts of Thailand, ants are prepared and eaten in various ways. Khorat ant eggs and diced flying ants are eaten as an appetizer. Weaver Ant Eggs and Larva as well as the ants themselves maybe used in a Thai Salad, Yum (ยำ), in a dish called Yum Khai Mod Daeng or Red Ant Egg Salad, a dish that comes from the Issan or North-Eastern region of Thailand. In South Africa, ants are used to help in Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) cultivation: They collect the plant's seeds which can then be easily harvested by planters.

In parts of India, and throughout Burma and Siam, a paste of the green weaver ant (Oecophylla smaragdina) is served as a condiment with curry. Saville Kent, in the Naturalist in The Green Ant: Their attractive, almost sweetmeat-like translucency possibly invited the first essays at their consumption by the human species.” Mashed up in water, after the manner of lemon squash, “these ants form a pleasant acid drink which is held in high favor by the natives of North Queensland, and is even appreciated by many European palates.”

The Digger Indians of California ate the tickly acid gasters of the large jet-black carpenter ants. The Mexican Indians eat the replete workers, or living honey-pots, of the honey ant (Myrmecocystus).

Ant eggs in Thailand

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Ants as pests

Modern society considers the ant a pest, and due to the adaptive nature of ant colonies, eliminating one is near impossible. Pest control with regard to ants is more a matter of controlling local populations than eliminating an entire colony. Attempts to control ant populations of any kind are temporary solutions.

Typical ants that are classified as pests include Pavement Ants (otherwise known as the sugar ant), Pharaoh Ants, Carpenter Ants, Argentine Ants, and the Red Imported Fire Ant. Control of species populations are usually done with bait insecticides, which are either in the form of small granules, or as a sticky liquid that is gathered by the ants as food and then brought back to the nest where the poison is inadvertently spread to other members of the brood — a system that can severely reduce the numbers in a colony if used properly. Boric acid and borax are often used as insecticides that are relatively safe for humans. With the recent insurgence of the Red Imported Fire Ant, a tactic called broadcast baiting has been employed, by which the substance (usually a granule bait designed specifically for Fire Ants) is spread across a large area, such as a lawn, in order to control populations. Nests may be destroyed by tracing the ants' trails back to the nest, then pouring boiling water into it to kill the queen. (Killing individual ants is less than effective due to the secretion of pheromones mentioned above).

Ants that tend other insects can indirectly cause pest infestations. Many homopteran insects that are considered as horticultural pests are controlled by the use of grease rings on the trunks of the trees. These rings cut off the routes for ants and make the pest species vulnerable to parasites and predators.

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Leaf-cutter ants

Leaf-cutter ants have powerful jaws which vibrate a thousand times a second to slice off pieces of leaf. Size for size, their bodies are amazingly powerful, able to carry pieces of leaf that weigh at least 20 times their own body weight - that's the same as a human carrying a one ton load. Like bees, their colonies contain different sorts of workers. Soldier leaf-cutters have huge jaws, strong enough to cut through leather and gardener leaf-cutters work beneath ground and process the pieces of the leaf that the harvesters bring back. The nest also contains a queen and she lays all the eggs needed to keep the colony supplied with new workers.

Lifestyle: Leaf-cutting ants cannot eat leaves. Instead, they carry the cut pieces back to the nest and use it as compost to cultivate the fungus. The fungus cannot survive outside the nest or reproduce without the ants help. Amazingly, if the ants collect plant material that is toxic to the fungus, the fungus seems to release a chemical signal which stops the ants collecting that particularly plant material.

Family & friends: There can be three to eight million ants in a single colony, which can measure 15 m across and 5 m deep.

Keeping in touch: The ants forage for leaves some distance from their nest. They find their way home by producing and laying down pheromone (scent) trails as they move away from the nest. These pheromones are so powerful that each ant produces only one billionth of a gram. One gram of this pheromone would easily be enough to make an ant trail all around the world.
Leaf-cutting ants harvest more greenery in South American forests than any other animal. In fact, within the rain forest, leaf-cutter ants consume almost 20% of the annual vegetation growth! In its lifetime, a colony of these ants may move over 20 tons of soil.

 
   

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Carpenter ants

 are large (¼ in–1 in) ants indigenous to many parts of the world. They prefer dead, damp wood in which to build nests. Sometimes carpenter ants will hollow out sections of trees. The most likely species to be infesting a house in the United States is the Black carpenter ant, Camponotus pennsylvanicus. However, there are over a thousand other species in the genus Camponotus.
What They Eat
Carpenter ants feed on sources of protein and sugar. Outdoors, carpenter ants feed on living and dead insects. They are also very attracted to honeydew, a sweet liquid produced by aphids and scale insects. Aphids and scales feed on trees, shrubs, and other plants. Indoors, carpenter ants feed on meats, as well as syrup, honey, sugar, jelly, and other sweets. Carpenter ants DO NOT eat wood. They remove wood as they create galleries and tunnels. Most foraging is done at night between sunset and midnight during spring and summer months. Sometimes workers travel up to 100 yards from a nest in search of food.
Where They Live
Carpenter ants nest in moist wood including rotting trees, tree roots, tree stumps, and logs or boards lying on or buried in the ground. They can also nest in moist or decayed wood inside buildings. Wood decay may be caused by exposure to leaks, condensation, or poor air circulation. Nests have been found behind bathroom tiles; around tubs, sinks, showers, and dishwashers; under roofing, in attic beams, and under subfloor insulation; and in hollow spaces such as doors, curtain rods, and wall voids. Carpenter ants may also nest in foam insulation.
A parent carpenter ant colony sometimes establishes one or more satellite nests in nearby indoor or outdoor sites. Satellite nests are composed of workers, pupae, and mature larvae. A satellite nest does not require moisture because the workers do not tend eggs (the eggs would dry out without sufficient humidity). For this reason, satellite nests can be found in relatively dry locations, such as insulation, hollow doors, and sound wood. The workers of satellite colonies move readily between their nest and the parent colony. In late summer, winged reproductives (i.e. queens and males) may emerge from pupae transported into satellite colonies. They may appear in structures in late winter and early spring as they swarm from a satellite nest.
Damage
Carpenter ants damage wood by excavating and creating galleries and tunnels. These areas are clean, i.e. they do not contain sawdust or other debris, and are smooth, with a well sanded appearance
The damage to wood structures is variable. The longer a colony is present in a structure, the greater the damage that can be done. If structural wood is weakened, carpenter ant damage can be severe.

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Lemon Ants

Make Devil's gardens by killing all surrounding plants besides lemon ant trees. Many trees have extrafloral nectaries that provide food for ants and the ants in turn protect the plant from herbivorous insects. Some species like the bullhorn acacia (Acacia cornigera) in Central America have hollow thorns that serve to house colonies of stinging ants (Pseudomyrmex ferruginea) that defend the tree against insects, browsing mammals, and epiphytic vines. In return, the ants obtain food from protein-lipid Beltian bodies. Another example of this type of ectosymbiosis comes from the Macaranga tree which have stems adapted to house colonies of Crematogaster ants. Many tropical tree species have seeds that are dispersed by ants.
Calliphoridae in the Old World genus Bengalia are kleptoparasites and predators on ants and often snatch prey or brood from the adult ants. A Malaysian phorid fly Vestigipoda myrmolarvoidea has females that are wingless and legless and they live in the nests of ants of the genus Aenictus, being fed and cared for by the ants.
Many species of birds show a peculiar behaviour called anting that is as yet not fully understood. Here birds may rest on ant nests or pick and drop ants onto their wings and feathers, presumably to rid themselves of ectoparasites.
The fungi known as Cordyceps has been known to infect ants, causing them to behave erratically. When other ants from the colony recognize the behaviour, they move the infected ant far away from the nest to avoid further spread of the parasite...

Eating Lemon Ants in the Rainforest


By Christopher Minster
You’re hiking through the thick, steamy jungle of Ecuador’s rainforest. The hot sun overhead is softened by the dense canopy of trees, vines and other lush, green plant life. Far off, a parrot shrieks, and hairy spiders scamper over the muddy trail in front of your feet. Suddenly, there is a break in the impenetrable wall of green: you’ve stumbled into an open space, a dry patch of ground dominated by a lone tree. Nothing else grows within about twenty feet of it.
According to local belief, the strange open space in the middle of the dense jungle is the home of a malignant forest spirit. In the local language, it’s called a “devil’s garden” and they are fairly common in parts of the Ecuadorian and Peruvian rainforests. If you’re with a local guide, however, he or she will not avoid the spot: instead, he or she may break a twig off the tree, split it open to reveal dozens of tiny brown ants … and invite you to eat them!
The ants are, in fact, edible. They are called “lemon ants” because of their vague tangy, lemony taste. Feel free to have a try: it won’t hurt you and is likely to become one of your most memorable experiences in the rainforest. But the ants are more than a tasty jungle treat: together with the lone tree in the middle of the clearing they make up one of the most remarkable symbiotic relationships in nature.
The ants (myrmelachista schumanni) and tree (duroia hirsuta) work together to survive and thrive in the competitive forest. The ants get the benefit of a home, and it’s a good deal—some ant colonies are thought to have survived for more than 800 years. The trees gain the advantage of room to grow—the ants are the only known insect species to produce their own herbicide, a toxin that poisons other plants in the area, allowing their home tree to get the sunlight it needs. The ants bite into the leaves of any other plant species that tries to take root in the area, injecting formic acid which slowly kills it.
Don’t plan on making a meal of lemon ants; they’re very tiny and you’d probably have to eat the whole colony before you felt full. But the next time you find yourself in the devil’s garden, stop for a moment and enjoy the rainforest’s version of dessert!

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Pseudomyrmex-ant

Pseudomyrmex-ant-collecting-protein-rich-Beltian-bodies-from-a-bullhorn-acacia

This is one of the most famous mutualisms of all, the relationship between Pseudomyrmex ants and Acacia trees. The ants defend these small trees against herbivorous insects and vertebrates. The ants also chew away and sting any encroaching plants, clearing an area that may be up to 4 yd (4 m) in radius. In return, the plants give the ants food, such as the yellow Beltian bodies seen here, and nectar from extra-floral nectaries. The Beltian bodies contain proteins and lipids and are produced on the youngest and most delicate leaves. The plants also produce thorns that the ants hollow out for nests.

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Bullet Ant

Ever wonder what insect causes the most painful bite on earth?
Well, It’s from this fella below:

This insect is called the Bullet Ant.
Its sting is said to be the most painful on earth.
It’s called the bullet ant because the sensation of its sting has been likened with that of being shot by a bullet.
This bad boys dwells in the rain forests of Atlantic coastal lowland from Nicaragua southward to the Amazon basin.
The bullet ants populates on trees and if it falls on you, it has the habit to shriek before biting you in the ass. Seriously.
One of the first descriptions ever of a bullet ant’s sting on a human was made in the 1920’s by Belgian natural historian Joseph Charles Bequaert (1886-1982). Such a sting is extremely painful and often compared with the pain caused by a bullet shot – hence the name bullet ant. For those who have not been shot but rather stung by a wasp, the pain caused by the sting of a bullet ant is 30 times worse…
Uhhm, did I mention it shrieks??!!

Now the best part:
Some indigenous people living in Nicaragua actually use the bullet ants as their initiation rites to manhood.
How?
The ants are first knocked out by drowning them in natural chloroform, and then hundreds of them are woven into sleeves made out of leaves, stinger facing inward. When the ants come to, boys slip the sleeve down onto their arm. The goal of this initiation rite is to keep the sleeve on for a full ten minutes without showing any signs of pain. When finished, the boys’ (now men) arms are temporarily paralyzed because of the venom, and they may shake uncontrollably for days.
And they have to do it 20 fucking times! Ahhhhh!!

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Weaver ants

 A queen lays her first clutch of eggs on a leaf and protects and feeds the larvae until they develop into mature workers. The workers then construct leaf nests and help rear new brood laid by the queen. As the number of workers increases, more nests are constructed and colony productivity and growth increase significantly. Workers perform tasks that are essential to colony survival, including foraging, nest construction, and colony defense. Because the tasks performed by workers are spatially and temporarily isolated, the integration and coordination of worker activities are important in colony organization. The emergence of an organized, complex social colony results from nonrandom repeated interactions between individuals that follow simple behavioral rules.The exchange of information and modulation of worker behaviour that occur during worker-worker interactions are facilitated by the use of chemical and tactile communication signals. These signals are used primarily in the contexts of foraging and colony defense. Successful foragers lay down pheromone trails that help recruit other workers to new food sources. Pheromone trails are also used by patrollers to recruit workers against territorial intruders. Along with chemical signals, workers also use tactile communication signals such as attenation and body shaking to stimulate activity in signal recipients. Multimodal communication in Oecophylla weaver ants importantly contribute to colony self-organization.Like many other ant species, Oecophylla workers exhibit social carrying behavior as part of the recruitment process, in which one worker will carry another worker in its mandibles and transport it to a location requiring attention.

The ants...one green as a leaf, and living upon trees, where it built a nest, in size between that of a man's head and his fist, by bending the leaves together, and gluing them with whitish paperish substances which held them firmly together. In doing this their management was most curious: they bend down four leaves broader than a man's hand, and place them in such a direction as they choose. This requires a much larger force than these animals seem capable of; many thousands indeed are employed in the joint work. I have seen as many as could stand by one another, holding down such a leaf, each drawing down with all his might, while others within were employed to fasten the glue. How they had bent it down I had not the opportunity of seeing, but it was held down by main strength, I easily proved by disturbing a part of them, on which the leaf bursting from the rest, returned to its natural situation, and I had an opportunity of trying with my finger the strength of these little animals must have used to get it down.

The weaver ant's ability to build capacious nests from living leaves has undeniably contributed to their ecological success. The first phase in nest construction involves workers surveying potential nesting leaves by pulling on the edges with their mandibles. When a few ants have successfully bent a leaf onto itself or drawn its edge toward another, other workers nearby join the effort. The probability of a worker joining the concerted effort is dependent on the size of the group, with workers showing a higher probability of joining when group size is large.When the span between two leaves is beyond the reach of a single ant, workers form chains with their bodies by grasping one another's petiole (waist). Multiple intricate chains working in unison are often used to ratchet together large leaves during nest construction. Once the edges of the leaves are drawn together, other workers retrieve larvae from existing nests using their mandibles. These workers hold and manipulate the larvae in such a way that causes them to excrete silk. They can only produce so much silk, so the larva will have to pupate without a cocoon. The workers then maneuver between the leaves in a highly coordinated fashion to bind them together. Weaver ant's nests are usually elliptical in shape and range in size from a single small leaf folded and bound onto itself to large nests consisting of many leaves and measure over half a meter in length. The time required to construct a nest varies depending on leaf type and eventual size, but often a large nest can be built in significantly less than 24 hours. Although weaver ant's nests are strong and impermeable to water, new nests are continually being built by workers in large colonies to replace old dying nests and those damaged by storms.

 

   

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 Gliding ants  Cephalotes atratus

For many species of insects, mimicry is one of the key to survival. However in a latest findings by an insect ecologist - mimicry caused by parasites can be life torturing for some insects such as ants.
This tropical ant of the species Cephalotes atratus is infected with a parasitic roundworm that makes its bulbous rear end, called a gaster, look like a juicy red berry. Researchers believe the parasites transform the gasters to trick foraging birds into eating the ants. Birds poop out parasite eggs, allowing the worms to spread to new ant colonies.
The Cephalotes atratus ants (gliding ants)  are common in the tropical forest canopy in Central and Latin America. If knocked off a branch, they can glide toward the tree trunk, grab hold, and climb back up.
Insect ecologist Steve Yanoviak says the finding is the first known example of fruit mimicry caused by a parasite in the world.
Such as an amazing discovery, isn’t it? Too bad for the ants, they enjoy feeding on birds’ feces which contain those worms that causes this strange life cycle to go on. Well, that’s nature!

photos by Steve Yanoviak and National Geographic

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 The Ant Lion  Myrmeleon

the larva excavates a conical pit in the sand by crawling backwards in circles, at the same time flipping out sand grains with its long jaws. As it moves round and round, the pit gradually gets deeper and deeper. Eventually the crater reaches 2inches across and almost as deep, with very steep walls. The slope of the funnel is adjusted to the critical angle of repose for sand, so that the sides readily give way under the feet of a would-be escapee. The larva waits quietly at the bottom of the pit, with its body off to one side and concealed by the steep wall. Only its sicklelike jaws protrude from the sand and often they are in a wide-opened position.

When crawling insects, such as ants, inadvertently fall into the pit it is virtually impossible for them to climb the loose sand on the steep walls. To make matters worse, the antlion quickly flips out more sand, thus deepening the pit and causing miniature landslides along the walls which knock the struggling ant to the bottom. If the ant or other insect is large enough it may escape, but usually its struggle is hopeless when it is seized by the powerful jaws of the antlion. Antlion larvae are capable of capturing and killing a variety of insects, and can even subdue small spiders. Often the struggling victim is pulled beneath the sand as its body fluids are gradually siphoned out. After consuming all the contents, the lifeless, dry carcass is flicked out of the pit, and the pit is readied for a new victim.

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