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What is an ant? Ants are insects, they have six legs and each leg has three joints. Ants legs are very strong.
With its little legs it can lift twenty-five time its own body weight. They have two stomachs. One stomach holds its food, and the second holds food to be shared with other ants. The out side of their body is covered with a hard armor. This is called the exoskeleton. Ants have four growing stages, the egg, larva, pupa, and the adult. There are over 100,000 known species of ants. Each ant colony has at least one or more queens.
The queens job is to lay eggs. How does she start her colony? Well in the spring all the males and young winged queens leave there nest and fly high in the air and mate. The few ant queens that survive this marriage flight cast off there wings and instinctively begin to look for a spot to start a new ant colony.
After making a nest, the young queen ant seals off the entrance and begins to lay eggs. Some of the first batch are eaten by the queen for nourishment. When the surviving eggs hatch they become like larvae. After a few weeks each larva spins a cocoon around itself and pupates. In a few more weeks, adult workers emerge. It is their job to hunt for food and make the nest bigger.
More workers will develop and the colony gets very organized. The new workers will completely take over as caretakers of the eggs, larvae, and pupae. Now the queens only duty is to lay more and more eggs, thousands of them in her lifetime. Many wingless workers develop and help to enlarge the nest into an intricate network of tunnels and chambers that will eventually house thousands of ants.
When the colony becomes well established, the queen begins to lay some eggs that develop into queens and males. It takes a few years before a colony becomes large enough to send out winged males and young queens to start new colonies. The cycle will now begin all over again.
Ant nests come in all shapes and sizes. One tropical species built a nest that extended forty feet below the surface of the ground. Another species built a nets that covered an area the size of a tennis court. Ants know the best time to build a nest, thats after it rains. The damp soil is easier to work with. Their are many chambers in an ants nest. Some rooms are used to store the food. Some are used for storage of ant eggs. There are rooms for tiered ants to rest. There are even rooms for socializing! When its cold, the ant colony moves down to the deepest rooms of the nest where it is warmer. The reason we find ants under stones is also for warmth. Stones become hot from the sun and remain warm during the night. The warmth will radiate down into the nest and keep the young and older ants warm.
Ants are social insects. Most insects have no family life, but ants are different.
Ants have families and live in communities. They are all related in the colony because the queen ant is the mom to all of the ants. In the colony, every ant works for the welfare of the whole community. Each ant has its appointed work, and does it very well. Ants are everywhere , they can be a big problem for people when they invade the timber of a house , causing the wood to collapse. They even nest between walls. When ants invade wooden beams , they chew out extensive interconnecting chambers for nests. All this chewing is what weakens the wood . When people discover the ants chewing up their house, their is only one way to get rid of them extermination!
The jaws of an ant are very powerful. Their powerful jaws not only chew through wood but are also used to fight off enemies. Ounce an ant gets a bite on its enemy, dont expect it to let go, even if it is torn to pieces. Its jaws are also used to grasp, carry, cut up food, and carry their young. Ant jaws work differently from human jaws. The ants jaws move from side to side. They actually have two sets of jaws. The set that moves side to side are called mandibles, the other set are called Marilee. These jaws chew food into very small pieces. Pieces that the tongue laps up and passes in to a pouch below the mouth opening that contains contracting muscles. The muscles action squeezes the liquid out of the pieces of food. Since ants swallow mainly liquids, they spit out what is left of the food.
Ants cant use their jaws to talk but they do communicate, and very well. One way they communicate is by touching each other with their antennae.
They also communicate by producing chemicals called pheromones. These chemicals can give off different kinds of information. The taste or smell of a certain pheromone can warn of danger, or mark a trail. Another way some ants can communicate to one another is by sounds. The sounds they make are like the sounds of a cricket or a katydid, only not as loud. Also, sounds that communicate information are made if one ant rubs its armor-like body against another ant. Although the ant cant talk, it has great communication skills.
There are about 100,000 species of ants. They are usually black, brown, or rust color. There are some that are yellow, some purple, some green, and some are even blue. There are to many to write about them all, but here is some information on a few ant species.
Amazon ants cant survive with out slaves. They attack the nests of other ants and kidnap the pupae, then wait for them to develop into adults. The slave ants accept the amazon ants, the as their own, because they dont know they were kidnapped as pupae. These slave ants will spend their entire lives working for the amazon ants. The amazon ant has a sickle shaped jaw, its excellent for fighting but it is completely useless for taking care of themselves or their own larvae. They must depend on their slaves to survive. Harvester ant
Harvester ants can be found almost everywhere in the world. In the southwestern united states they build huge nests. The mound above ground might be twenty to thirty feet across and six feet or more in to the ground, with sixty thousand to ninety thousand ants living inside. Harvester ants collect and store seeds in their nest. They chew the kernels into a soft pulp and feed it to the growing larvae.
The adult ant will not eat the pulp unless there is a drought, and no other food sources are available. During rainy times, the ants will not allow the seed to get damp. If they did they would sprout or get moldy. When days are dry the workers carry the seeds outside to dry them out in the sun, then carry the seeds back into the storage area before nightfall. They work hard to make sure their seeds dont get moldy or grow sprouts. Leaf-Cutter ants
The Leaf-Cutter ant always looks like its carrying a little umbrella over its head. Its actually carrying circular pieces of leaves. Using their scissor like jaws, they completely strip trees and other plants of their foliage. They then carry all the leaves back to their nest. The chambers of the nest can be as big as a bushel basket. The leaf cutter ants nest is very large. The leaves they bring back are not eaten they are chewed into a thick pulp like material, which soon sprouts fungus. The fungus is what the ants eat for food. The ants tend to their gardens very carefully. If the leaves are dry, the ants place them outside at night to collect moisture. If they are wet, the ants place them out side on a sunny day to dry. This all takes place before they start chewing the leaves. The little ants also know how to regulate the ventilation and temperature of the sponge like mass of chewed leaves by arranging the mass properly in the chambers.
When a queen starts working on a new nest, she carries along a pellet of fungus in a pocket on her head.
She puts the pellet in the new nest and deposits special secretions from her body on the pellet. When her first eggs hatch, the new workers go out and find fragments of leaves. They then bring the fragments back to the new nest. These are the leaves that will eventually become the food source for the nest, using the queens pellet as a starter. Bulldog ants
The Bulldog ants are little bullies. They are a jumping, stinging, giant ant. They are one of the most fierce ants known to man. Just a shadow passing over their nest will provoke them to rush out and find the enemy, jumping up to a foot off the ground as they approach. They make it very difficult to get away from them. Thirty stings from a bulldog ant could kill a man. The only likable thing about them is how loyal they are to the colony. At home in the colony they are just a typical ant, their always working, repairing, cleaning, exchanging, and gathering food. The bulldog ant is a very aggressive ant, and a very loyal one. Five more facts to think about the next time you see an ant Ants are the longest living insects. Workers live for one year and some species up to four or five years. Queens will live as long as twenty years. Ants are like sharks, they havent changed very much physically in millions of years. Ants will work together in small or large groups to move extremely large objects. (team work) When moved to a different climate or location, the ant will adapt quickly. Some ant species can survive under water for up to fourteen days or longer in a state of suspended animation.
The next time you see an ant, remember… They might be little but they are extremely mighty.
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