Ants can be found anywhere from coastal mangroves to urban backyards and inside our homes. Their success, in part, is because of their ability to communicate with each other. They have the most complex form of chemical communication in the animal kingdom and together they accomplish tasks beyond any individual insect.
Ants are formidable opponents and defend their foraging area from other animals. They can overwhelm by sheer weight of numbers and have offensive armoury that may include fierce jaws and potent stings.
Features of ants:
Ants are social insects. They exist in colonies that work together to gather food, rear young and defend the nest.
Nests contain eggs, larvae and pupae and different types (or castes) of ants.
Colony sizes range from a few individuals to tens of thousands. Each colony is made up of a queen, different-sized workers and a number of other castes at different stages of the colony cycle.
The most commonly seen caste are workers.
Winged ants leave the nest to mate and found new colonies in late summer and spring, often after rain. Many are eaten by birds and other predators.
Ants are probably the most common insects encountered by humans.
There are around 15,000 different species of ants worldwide.
There are 1,275 Australian ant species described, but this could double with further research.
Most species of Australian ants are found only in Australia.
Many plants and other insects have evolved relationships with ants, even to the point where ants are a necessary part of their life cycle.
Some birds place ants on their bodies to remove parasites. This is known as anting.
Whats the difference from Ants to termites.
Ants and termites are sometimes mistaken for each other, however they are very different insect groups. Several key features help to identify them correctly.
Termites: Simple string of bead-like segments.
Ants: Compound eyes present.
Termites: No eyes.
Waist (called a pedicel, found between thorax and abdomen)
Ants: Pointed at end.
Termites: Blunt at end.
Both ants and termites can be divided up into several ‘castes’, which depend upon their roles in the colony.
Ants: Sexually undeveloped females.
Termites: Sexually undeveloped males and females.
Ants: Are workers and may have dual role.
Termites: Sexually undeveloped males and females. There are two possible body forms: mandibulate (jawed) and nasute (long-nosed), depending on species.
Both ants and termites can have a winged stage in their reproductive cycle.
Ants: Fore/hind wings unequal, strongly veined
Termites: Fore/hind wings equal, no obvious veins
Ants: Complete metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa, adult
Termites: Incomplete metamorphosis: egg, nymph, adult (no pupal stage)
Ants: ants are scavengers, with different species foraging for different foods. Some ants live within damp/decaying wood, but do not actually eat the wood.
Termites: termites are plant tissue specialists, feeding on wood and grasses, and some species can cause extensive damage to buildings and trees through their feeding and nesting habits.
Ants: Order Hymenoptera, Family Formicidae
Termites: Order Isoptera, several families