Ants are social insects of the family
Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in
the mid-Cretaceous period between 110
and 130 million years ago.
Today, more than 12,000 species are
classified with upper estimates of about
Ants are common social insects.
They always live in colonies (a colony is a group of
some colonies have millions of ants in them.
Ants have colonized almost every landmass on
Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ants are
Antarctica and certain remote or inhospitable
Ant societies have division of labour,
communication between individuals, and an ability
to solve complex problems.
Each ant colony consists of the following:
Queen - The queen begins her life with wings, which she uses
while mating. After mating with a male ant (or many males), she
flies to her nesting area. She then loses her wings and spends
her life laying eggs.
Workers - Workers are the many sterile (non-reproducing),
wingless female worker ants who are the daughters of the queen.
These workers collect food and feed members of the colony,
defend the colony, and enlarge the nest. Most of the ants in a
colony are workers.
Soldiers - Soldiers are large workers (sterile females) who defend
the colony and often raid other colonies, capturing slaves.
Males - Males are small ants that have wings. They fly from the
colony to mate with a queen. They die soon afterwards.
Ants exhibit complex behavior; some ants build intricate nests,
some are fierce warriors, some collect and store seeds
(harvester ants), some capture slaves, and some farm fungi
Males and females have 4 wings.
Females lose their wings when they mate
Characteristics and duties of queen ants
Largest individuals in colony
Are the only females that reproduce
Locate nest site
Assist workers in feeding and grooming
Some ant species have only one queen per
colony; others such as Argentine ants may
Ant Life Cycle
The life cycle of the ant consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
Fertilized eggs produce female ants (queens, workers, or soldiers);
unfertilized eggs produce male ants.
Egg: Ant eggs are oval shaped and tiny (they are on the order of 1 mm long, but the
queen's egg is many times larger).
Larva: The worm-like larvae have no eyes and no legs; they eat food regurgitated by
adult ants. The larvae molt (shed their skin) many times as they increase in size.
Pupa: After reaching a certain size, the larva spins a silk-like cocoon around itself
(against a solid object, like the wall of the chamber) and pupates. During this time the
body metamorphoses (changes) into its adult form.
Adult: The pupa emerges as an adult. The entire life cycle usually lasts from 6 to 10
weeks. Some queens can live over 15 years, and some workers can live for up to 7
Ants, like all insects, have jointed legs, three body parts
(the head, thorax and abdomen), a pair of antennae, and a
The exoskeleton is made up of a material that is very
similar to our fingernails.
Ants range in color from yellow to brown to red to black.
Some ants have a stinger and some can even inject
poisonous acid from the stinger (the stinger is at the tip of
the abdomen, the rear body segment).
Ants can also bite using their jaws (mandibles).
Ants range in size from about 0.08 inch (2 mm) to up to
about 1 inch (25 mm) long.
Anatomy of an Ant
Leafcutter ants are social insects found in warmer regions of the
They cultivate (grow) their own food, a type of fungus, in
Leafcutter ants travel in long lines far into the forest, in search of
leaves; they leave a scent along the trail so they can find their
way back home.
They use their sharp mandibles (jaws) to cut leaves from plants,
and then carry the large pieces of leaves over their back.
A leafcutter ant can carry almost ten times its own weight.
The leafcutter ants carry the leaf pieces back to their
underground nests where the leaves are chewed into a pulp.
The decaying pulp is stored with ant feces and fungus spores,
and strands of fungus eventually grow on the decomposing pulp.
This fungus is the crop that these ants eat; the ants do not eat
Ants, like all insects, have jointed legs, three body parts (the
head, thorax and abdomen), a pair of antennae, and a hard
The exoskeleton is made up of a material that is very similar to
Leafcutters are large ants that have long legs.
The worker leafcutter ant ranges from about .1 to .5 inch long.
The males are .5 inch long.
The queen may be over 1 inch long.
Leafcutter ants range in color from orange to brown to red to
Ants have compound eyes
(Lots of little eyes working together)