10 things you didn’t know about ants

Ant by Penny Frith

Did you know that there are around 1 million ants for every 1 human in the world? Here’s the Wildlife Trust’s guide to 10 things you probably didn’t know about these incredible insects.

      • There are estimated to be over 60 species of ant in Britain, with 27 species found here on the Isle of Wight.
      • Ants are social insects and live in colonies. A colony is made up of three kinds of ant: one or more egg-laying queens; a large number of female ‘worker’ ants and male ‘drones’. Worker ants tend to the queen, build and maintain the nest, forage for food and care for the young whereas the only function of male ants is to mate with the queen.
      • Only queen and male ants have wings. Mating takes place during flight, after which the male will die and the queen will shed her wings and start a new nest.
      • Ants communicate via chemical signals, leaving a trail of pheromones to alert other ants to food sources or danger.
      • Each ant colony has its own distinctive smell so intruders can be detected instantly.
      • Ants don’t have ears. Ants “hear” by feeling vibrations in the ground which are picked up by an organ located below the knee.
      • Depending on the species, an ant can lift 10-50 times its own body weight.
      • Ants are farmers! Just like humans raise cows, sheep and chickens as a food source, ants do the same with aphids. Black garden ants are expert aphid farmers, not only tending and protecting the aphids in exchange for the sugary honeydew they excrete but also moving the aphids to new healthy plants to ensure their continued survival.
      • A number of blue butterfly species, like Adonis, common and chalkhill blue butterflies, have a symbiotic relationship with ants. They secrete substances that ants find attractive and in return the ants protect the caterpillar from predators and parasites.
      • Some ants are slave makers! The blood red ant is a social parasite on smaller black ant species; they raid the nests of other species and either take over their nest or steal larva to carry out tasks on their behalf.

Discover more with your local Wildlife Trust www.hiwwt.org.uk