April 27, 2022

5 Riveting Facts About Ants!

A Closer Look with Brittany Campbell

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Ants are fascinating creatures but unfortunately, are constantly ranked by pest management professionals as one of the most difficult pests to control. Whether you are trying to keep them off of a property or observe their behavior on a sunny afternoon, there are several riveting reasons to appreciate ants.

 

FACT #1 All worker ants are females

Females definitely do the heavy lifting in ant colonies. The worker ants are wingless females that scavenge for food and carry out other necessary duties to keep the colony functioning. The female worker ants will also help to build the nest and sometimes even defend the colony when a foe attempts to enter.

FACT #2 Ants are excellent farmers

Ants have learned that aphids, insects that suck plant juices, can provide a delicious treat. Aphids secrete honeydew, a liquid that is rich in sugar, from their plant juice diet and the honeydew produced is a favorite meal of many ants. Ants have learned to take advantage of this meal and will actually herd aphids around a plant and in turn provide valuable protection to aphids from predators.

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FACT #3 Ants don’t always respect their elders

Within a caste, or specific role that an ant has in a colony, there are age differences in the different tasks that ants perform. For instance, in many ant species the older worker ants actually do the foraging while the younger worker ants stay inside of the nest with indoor duties. The older ants are left to the more hazardous tasks outdoors where they can come into danger, so are more dispensable in ant colonies.

FACT #4 Red imported fire ants build rafts

Most people can agree that red imported fire ants (RIFA) have no place in and around structures. Unfortunately, even a great flooding event doesn’t wipe out red imported fire ants. In large rain events, RIFA ants will clasp onto each other tightly and create a raft that floats on top of water to survive flooding.

FACT #5 Ants are weight lifting champions

Ants have been found to be able to carry over 5,000x their body weight. To figure this out, engineers used Alleghany mound ants and measured the centrifugal force required to rip the head off of the neck, since the neck joint is where ants have much of the pressure when carrying wight. The neck joint separated at forces up to 5,000x their body weight!

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References

Oettler, J., & Johnson, R. A. (2009). The Old Ladies of the Seed Harvester ant Pogonomyrmex Rugosus: Foraging Performed by Two Groups of Workers. Journal of insect behavior22(3), 217–226. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10905-008-9167-7

Adams, B. J., Hooper-Bùi, L. M., Strecker, R. M., & O'Brien, D. M. (2011). Raft formation by the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Journal of insect science (Online)11, 171. https://doi.org/10.1673/031.011.17101

Vienny Nguyen, Blaine Lilly, Carlos Castro. (2014) The exoskeletal structure and tensile loading behavior of an ant neck joint. Journal of Biomechanics, 47(2), 497-504.

Tag(s): Pest Control , Ants

Brittany Campbell, Ph.D., BCE

Technical Services Manager PCO Product Development

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