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10 Interesting Facts About Ants

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Few creatures seem more mundane than the ant. Of all the insects in the world, they’re probably the ones you’re most accustomed to seeing. After all, they’re everywhere. No, seriously: the BBC calculated that there are approximately 100 trillion ants in the world. The only continent where ants aren’t everywhere is Antarctica… and it’s hard to blame them for that.

For how ubiquitous ants are and how unassuming they seem, we’d forgive you for finding them kind of boring. Compared to some of the weirder, wilder insects, ants are just kind of… there--or so you might think! In reality, ants are some of the strangest, most fascinating creatures on the planet. Seriously! Don’t believe us? Here are ten of the most unusual facts about ants to prove our point. You’ll never look at the freakishly strong, ancient “superorganisms” (their actual name!) the same way again.

There are over 12,000 different ant species around the world.

That’s a big number. None of these 12,000 ant species behave exactly the same way, either. In North America, we have the common carpenter ant, which bores through wood to make hollow living spaces. South America’s bullet ant gets its name from its sting, which is so painful it feels like getting shot. South India’s honeypot ants store honey gorge themselves on so much honey that you can see it inside them.

Those are just three ant species! Make no mistake, either: the other 11,997 each have their own freaky thing going on, too.

Compared to many other insects, ants have very long lifespans.

When you imagine the lifespan of your average insect, you probably think in terms of days or weeks. That’s about right for some species of ant, but not all of them. Queen ants of the Pogonomyrmex Owyheei species, for example, can live for up to 40 years. Yowza.

Relative to their size, ants are one of the world's strongest creatures.

An ant, on its own, can carry an object that weighs fifty times its own body weight. That’s like a 250 pound person lifting a 13,000 pound African Bush Elephant on their own. When they work in groups, ants can lift even larger weights.

Ants don't hear - at least, not the way we do.

Ants don't have ears or auditory canals like mammals do. Instead, they "hear" by feeling vibrations in the ground. Ants use specialized sensors on their feet to feel and interpret vibrations. They can even “talk” to each other by purposefully making vibrations for other ants to pick up on.

Ants are social insects.

Ants live in colonies called formicaries. These colonies adhere to a highly-specialized caste system, wherein each class is dependent on the others. Queen ants lay eggs, worker ants build and attend to the queen, and soldiers defend the colony from invaders.

Some ants make soccer ball-sized nests by sewing leaves together.

Weaver ants work together (of course) to build these unusual nests. They link their legs together to pull and bend leaves into the positions they want. Then, they use their own larvae to create the silk they’ll use to "stitch” the leaves together.

The largest ant colony ever was over 3,500 miles wide.

The “supercolony” was discovered by Swiss, French, and Danish scientists in 2000. The Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) colony stretched from northern Italy across France, all the way to the Atlantic coast of Spain.

This colony was actually the result of two distinct supercolonies that collided and ended up combining into one. You could call it a “super-supercolony.” The nation-spanning nest houses millions of queens and billions of workers.

Ants are pretty smart!

Many ant species have as many as 250,000 brain cells in their tiny heads. They are widely considered the world’s smartest insects.

Ants are as old as dinosaurs.

A study conducted by scholars at Harvard and Florida State found that ants have existed for over 130 million years.

An ant species holds the record for fastest bite in the animal kingdom.

The appropriately-named trap jaw ant can close its jaws at up to 140 miles per hour. Ouch.


Here’s a bonus eleventh fact: having an ant infestation in your business can be a troublesome burden. That one feels a little obvious, so here’s another: the pros at Assured Environments can take care of ant infestations of any size or severity. If ants have made a nest in or around your property, give us a call. We can help you get them out and keep them out.

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