Whether they’ve visited your kitchen or you’ve shared a patch of grass with them, you’ve spent time with ants. Since most have crossed paths with them, it would make sense that we know more about them. However, separating fact from fiction isn’t always easy. We’ve put together statements to test your knowledge. Check them out and see how much you know about these picnic invaders.
Ants Don’t Sting
Fiction: All ants can bite, and some can sting too. Certain species of ants, like fire and harvester ants, have the ability to sting. If they feel threatened, they will quickly jump into defense mode. While most ant bites will go unnoticed, ant stings are a different story. Stinging ants will typically bite first and then sting their target multiple times. It would not be wise to underestimate them, as some pack a powerful punch. The bullet ant is recorded as the insect with the most painful sting. The pain it inflicts has been compared to being shot by a bullet and can last up to 24 hours. Though it be but little, the ant is fierce.
Ants Are Strong
Fact: Ants are capable of lifting objects that are at least 10 times their own weight. The composition of their body makes weight lifting easier for them. Their bodies are compact which allows more weight to be placed on their back. Having an exoskeleton also helps them out. Having their skeleton on the outside of their body takes strain off their muscles. This free energy can be used to lift objects. If you think one ant is strong, imagine what multiple ants can lift. When ants come across an object too heavy to lift, others will join in and help carry it.
Ants Have Jobs
Fact: Ants aren’t afraid to put in the work. Ants live in groups called colonies and within a colony, every ant has an assigned task. The queen ant has the job of ensuring the survival of the colony. She accomplishes this task by laying thousands of eggs. The other females in a colony make up the work force. They spend their days searching for food, feeding larvae, taking out the trash and defending their home. These are the ants that we see marching through our picnic. Don’t worry though, male ants have a responsibility too—mating with the queen.
Ants Have Ears
Fiction: Ants don’t have ears, but that doesn’t stop them from hearing. Instead of auditory canals, ants use vibrations to pick up sound. Right under their knee is an organ called the subgenual organ. It’s responsible for allowing ants to “hear” the vibrations. Like other bugs, ants use their bodies to produce different sounds. These sounds and their ground vibrations are used to communicate. If ants feel their colony is under attack, they will quickly sound the alarm.
Ants Smell with their Antennae
Fact: Ants are quite skilled in this department. This is important for ants who communicate through odor signals. Ants release scented chemicals called pheromones, which other ants detect through their antennae. These chemicals allow ants to help each other. Ants produce different pheromones to represent different things. Some scents alert their colony to food sources and others are used to warn the colony of an approaching threat.
All Ants Have the Same Lifespan
Fiction: Many factors contribute to the lifespan of an ant. Ants are divided into categories called castes—queen, worker and male. Worker ants tend to live longer and range from several months to a couple of years. Male ants aren’t as lucky. Living for only a few weeks, they typically have the shortest lifespan. Things get a little interesting with queen ants. These rulers can live for many years and one has even celebrated their 28th birthday. Access to food and the ability to avoid threats plays a big part in their lifespan.
Zombie Ants Exist
Fact: All of our science fiction nightmares are coming true. The ophiocordyceps unilateral fungus is responsible for creating zombie ants. This fungus attacks ants by sneaking under their exoskeleton. Once it latches on, it begins eating the ant’s tissue. The fungus is then able to take over the ant’s body and forces them to relocate to a more suitable habitat for the fungus. Eventually, the fungus kills the ant and release spores that will infect other ants. Though it is unlikely you will cross paths with one of these zombie ants, the whole thing is still pretty creepy.
It looks like ants still have a few surprises under their exoskeleton. Only with time will we be able to discover all that ants have to offer. Did any of these ant facts surprise you? Let us know in the comments below!