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ant

Characteristics

What do ants look like?

Ants belong to the group of insects and thus to the articulated animals.

They have an armor made of chitin, a very hard material.

They also have six legs and a body that is divided into three sections and consists of the head, chest and abdomen.

A typical feature of the ant is the waist, which is located between the chest and abdomen.

Depending on the species, ants can be reddish-brown, black or yellowish in color. There are two angled feelers, also called antennas, on the head, which are used for orientation.

Workers and queens arise from fertilized eggs, while the males from unfertilized eggs.

The fertile females are the young queens. Like the males, they have wings so that they can fly out for the wedding flight and for mating.

When the young queens are mated, they shed their wings. Workers don't have wings.

How big ants get is very different. The workers of the great red wood ant that lives in our home are four to seven millimeters tall, for example.

The queen and males measure nine to eleven millimeters.

Where do ants live?

Ants are found almost all over the world, from the tropics to the Arctic Circle and from the coast and desert to high mountains. The well-known great red wood ant lives in Europe, Siberia and North America.

Ants live mainly in forests and meadows. Our great red wood ant can be found in deciduous and coniferous forests.

What types of ants are there?

There are around 10,000 different species of ants worldwide. The best-known groups include the bulldog ants in Australia, which can grow up to two centimeters long, the driver ants in the tropics, which go on forays in their thousands, and the knot ants, which have a conspicuous waist.

The species that live with us include, for example, the great red wood ant and various meadow ants.

How old do ants get?

Ants live for different lengths of time. Some workers only live a few months, others can live to be one to three years old. Queen ants have a longer life expectancy: they can live to be 20 years and even older.

behavior

How do ants live?

There is no such thing as an ant alone - they always live in groups, form large states and build mighty anthills, sometimes even over a meter high, in which they live.

Such an ant nest consists of underground chambers and passages. The excavated earth is piled up over it.

In cool areas - like ours - the ants also pile brushwood and pine or spruce needles over them so that the nest and the offspring are protected from the cold.

However, some species of ants also gnaw passages in tree trunks and create their nests there.

An ant colony living together in one state can consist of up to a million animals; in some species, however, only about a dozen animals live together.

300,000 to 600,000 animals live in one colony of the great red wood ant.

The division of labor is typical for such an ant colony: most of the animals are so-called workers. These sterile, wingless females are responsible for all construction work, except for reproduction.

Among them there are in turn special groups, also called castes, which are responsible for certain tasks.

Soldiers defend the nest, field service ants bring food, nurse ants take care of the offspring.

These workers can store the food in their stomachs and later either feed it to other ants or use it themselves.

They also carry the dolls to the warmest places in the building so that they can develop well.

When building the nest and when transporting the food, it turns out that ants are very strong: They can carry up to 30 times their body weight.

One or more queen ants live in each state. Their only job is to lay eggs and thus provide for offspring.

Ants can also orientate themselves very well outside of their nest, even if they move far away from it when searching for food. You can see amazingly well, but above all smell very good. And they can perceive gravity very well and remember exactly how steep a path is. On top of that, like the bees, they are based on the position of the sun.

Most important, however, is orientation with scent marks: on their way, the ants release scents from special glands onto the ground and objects along the way. This creates real "scent roads" on which the ants can easily find their way back to the nest.

This scent trail is not only recognized by the ant that created it, but also by its colleagues. For example, the trail can show the workers the way to a particularly rich source of feed.

The ants use other scents to warn: if an ant has detected a danger, it emits an alarm scent that warns everyone else.

Our native ants are completely harmless to humans. They can only become a nuisance when entering apartments.

Friends and enemies of the ant

Ants have many enemies: birds like woodpeckers, but also mammals like the badger feed on them. And other insects such as the ant lion hunt them too: He builds a funnel in the sandy soil in which he catches the ants.

Anyone who has ever been bitten by ants in the meadow or sitting in the forest can feel that ants can also defend themselves: they form formic acid in special glands, which burns violently on our skin.

How do ants reproduce?

In the case of ants, only one thing cares for the offspring: namely the queen. As long as she is young she has wings. In order to mate with the winged males, she flies out on the wedding flight and is mated. Shortly after mating, the males die. The fertilized queen forms a new state - usually together with a few workers from the old people.

The queen throws off her wings, digs in the ground and lays eggs. The white larvae hatch after two to six weeks. They are supplied with food, pupate after a while and finally new ants hatch from the pupae (also called ant eggs). New queens can develop from some fertilized eggs if they are fed a special feed juice.

How do ants hunt?

Ants hunt prey by biting them and injecting the deadly poison, formic acid, into the prey.

maintenance

What do ants eat?

Ants have a very varied diet: They eat plant saps, fruits, seeds, but also animals such as sawfly larvae, many other insects and carrion.

Some, such as the meadow ants, even keep aphids and scale insects, whose sugary excretions serve them as food. These excretions are called honeydew.

Other species of ants feed on mushrooms that they grow in chambers inside their nests.