A brief history of ants

By: Isabelle Baidoo

Although ants are seemingly small and insignificant creatures; their history is quite interesting and lengthy.

The ant (Formicidae) evolved from vespoid wasp ancestors in the Cretaceous Period roughly 145.5 million years ago. Today there are more than 13,800 species of ants that have been discovered, but scientists estimate that there are 22,000 species in total.

Ants are a Superorganism meaning they are a group of living organisms that work together as one to grow and develop. All ants play an important role in the colony. There are the ants that look after the baby ants, others that collect and prepare food, then there are the ants that dig and clean the nest. Some ants are born for their job, but others will change roles as they grow.

They live in colonies all over the world in almost every continent. Ants have snuck their way into Antarctica where they can only survive around humans. They live in trees, soil, rocks, logs, and small acorns or pinecones.

Defending their colony and their nest is a common struggle for ants. All ants can bite, and some have bodies specifically made for fighting. There’s also ants with stingers similar to bees, ants that squirt acid out of their abdomen, or ants that emit a potent smell. Although this seems rather violent, there are certain ants who don’t feel the need to fight and just hide or remain very still.

These colonies are mostly made up of female ants. Worker ants are all related and their mother is the queen ant of the colony. Once a year when a new colony is ready to be made, male ants and new queens are born. Both males and queens are born with wings. The males use these wings to fly and mate with the new queens, but their lives are very short because their only job is to mate. There is at least one queen per colony and many worker ants. Ants can be smarter than humans when they work together as a colony.

Ants’ lives begin with the mother laying a round squishy egg; which will eventually hatch into an ant larva. The ant larva eats and grows, then develops all the necessary adult body parts within its body; this is the pupa stage. They then shed their old skin and become an adult ant.

Ants come in a very wide variety of colors. Not all ants are just red, black, or brown. There are species of ants all over the world that range from green, gold, yellow, and even blue. In Australia there are shiny blue ants called Blue Ants. They can be bright metallic blue or green and are often found in flowers.

Some ants are farmer ants such as the leafcutter. There is a specific group of ants called “fungus-growing ants” that are fully self-sufficient; they create gardens of fungi to eat, and feed their fungi leaves and soil to keep it fresh. Then there are “rancher ants” who herd smaller bugs like aphids from plant to plant to help them cross safely from weather and predators. In return, the aphids provide sugar water to the ants.

Ants are commonly consumed in Asian, African, and Latin countries. Some popular edible ant species are: leafcutters, weavers, honey, and black ants. This is because they’re such a plentiful species and are relatively easy to locate.

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