25 Awesome Facts About Ants You Probably Didn’t Know

Posted by , Updated on October 17, 2014


You probably know that ants can lift and carry objects many times heavier than they are themselves or cooperate effectively within their colonies but in fact, there are many more astounding curiosities about these little tiny creatures. From being the smartest insect in the world to having the ability to enslave other ants, these are 25 awesome facts about ants you probably didn’t know.


Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago. It means they are as old as dinosaurs but unlike them, ants managed to survive.

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Ant colonies range in size. While some colonies consist of just a few dozens of individuals, others can be formed from millions of ants.

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Ants have colonized almost every landmass on our planet. With the exception of Antarctica, the Arctic, and a handful of islands.

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There are more than 12,000 known species of ants, ranging in shape, color and size from just 0.03 to 2 inches in length.

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Termites are often incorrectly considered ants but in fact, they belong to the order Isoptera which is closer to cockroaches than ants.

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Some scientific studies suggest there are about 10,000,000,000,000,000 individual ants alive on Earth at any given time. Ants are estimated to represent about 15–20% of the total terrestrial animal biomass, which exceeds that of the vertebrates.

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The ant queens can live for up to 30 years, which is about 100 times longer than solitary insects of a similar size. Workers live from 1 to 3 years.

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Ants can "enslave“ individuals from other ant species, keeping them captive and making them do work for the colony.

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The largest ant colonies are called “supercolonies”. They create giant ant hills and can be thousands of miles long. The largest supercolony covers over 3,700 miles, and has over 1 billion ants.

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Paraponera clavata, commonly known as the lesser giant hunting ant, conga ant, or bullet ant, delivers the most painful bite. According to some victims, it is equal to being shot, hence the name of the insect. The all-consuming pain can continue unabated for up to 24 hours.

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Ants are known to be able to lift and carry about 50 times their own bodyweight but a recent scientific research by The Ohio State University suggests it can be up to 5000 times their bodyweight which is really incredible.

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Ants have "compound eyes“ which are made from numerous tiny lenses attached together. Ant eyes are good for acute movement detection, but do not offer a high resolution image.

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Weightlifting is not the only sport discipline ants are good at; they are also good runners capable of running as fast as 3 inches per second. If a man could run as fast as an ant, he would be able to run 34 miles per hour.

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With 250,000 brain cells in its tiny head, the ant is believed to be the smartest insect.

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Ants do not have ears, but they hear by picking up ground vibrations via special sensors on their feet and on their knees.

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Each ant colony has its own distinctive smell. Therefore, intruders can be recognized immediately.

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The only duty of the ant queen is to lay eggs. The eggs are then taken care of by the workers who move them deep into the nest to protect them from the cold every night.

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Some species (such as the Army Ants) are nomadic - they only live in the same spot for short time and then, they pack up their food, eggs, larvae, and the queen and move further.

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Ants can grow and cultivate fungus and transfer it not just within individual species but also with other fungus-growing species.

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While Bullet Ant´s bite is considered the most painful, Jack Jumper Ant´s sting can be even fatal. Luckily, and an anti-venom has been developed for it.

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Ants may be the only creatures ( apart from mammals) that can learn by means of interactive learning. There have been recorded cases of experienced foragers leading their "students“ to newly discovered food. The follower obtained the knowledge through its leading tutor. The leader was even sensitive to the progress of the follower and slowed down when the follower lagged.

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Antquarium, a special container for keeping ants as pets, sold all over the world, was originally developed by NASA for the purpose of research of animals in space.

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Apart from regular methods of finding their way back from foraging such as visual orientation or usage of their antennae, some ant species are even able to use the Earth's magnetic field for navigation.

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Ants are capable of a wide range of moves such as jumping, gliding, or rafting. Some species are also notable for their ability to form living chains to bridge water or vegetation.

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In some countries, ants and their larvae are eaten as a delicacy. The eggs of two ant species are used in Mexican specialty called “Escamoles”. The eggs are considered a form of insect caviar and can sell for as much as USD 40 per pound.

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