Ants aren’t everyone’s favourite creatures and more often than not, are seen as an annoyance. They terrorise our picnics, march across our countertops and contaminate our food, but these little creatures are actually quite fascinating! We’ve compiled a few fun facts about ants to help you get to know the enemy a little better!
Here are a few fun facts about ants that you may not know:
Now while that may seem like a lot, there are (only?) 550 known species of ants in South Africa, of which relatively few are actually pests.
Ok, that IS a lot of ants! But they’re so tiny that they take up very little space. The smallest ants in the world are thought to belong to the Oligomyrmex species, which – like many tropical rainforest insects – have not yet been described by scientists.
The largest ant in the world is the queen driver ant. She can grow up to nearly 5 cm long, though you’re more likely to encounter the much smaller worker and soldier driver ants. Driver ants – found mostly in central and east Africa – are actually prized for their ability to keep pests away, as they eat insects, worms, and prey as large as rats! A swarm of driver ants can also invade a termite mound and annihilate the colony to feed their own.
In fact, scientists now think that ants can actually lift up to 5000 times their own body weight – making them an engineering marvel worthy of study by professors of mechanical and aerospace engineering at The Ohio State University.
The ant’s antenna is key to their method of communication. With the help of an advanced system of pheromones they can “smell” a wide range of topics. Over millions of years ants have developed specific pheromone-cocktails to communicate different things to fellow ants. To receive the messages they use their antennas, much the same way we would use our nose if blind and deaf.
This is called “anting” and in truth, no-one really seems to know why birds do it, although over 200 species of bird have been recorded doing it. The behaviour was first observed in the 1930s, and since then ornithologists and researchers have been attempting to find an explanation for it. A number of leading theories have to do with chemicals produced by the ants themselves.
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