Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Ants, the world’s barely visible largest biomass
Ants are a group of colony-forming social insects, which belong to the order of Hymenoptera. Ants have been able to adapt to very different habitats; where they occur, ants are the dominant life form on the bottom. It is estimated that the total biomass of ants is greater than that of any other animal species on earth.
Because ants occur anywhere in the world (except Antarctica), they are one of the most successful groups of animals. Many ant species build the nest in the ground or in hollow trees, some spin leaves together to make a nest, while others live in crevices between rocks.
An ant colony consists of one (or several) queen(s), workers (all females) and sometimes young males and virgin queens. The largest group are the workers, which together divide the work tasks. There are spies, food gatherers, nest-maintainers, nursemaids, soldiers, etc.
When the nest is large enough, a part of the growing larvae are raised to males and queens. Together they leave the nest flying when the time is right. This happens often on warm days after rain. In the air, the males mate with the queens. The males die shortly thereafter and the queens will seek a new nest site. This can be done in flight, so that even in window boxes 10 meters above the ground nests may arise. Ants are sometimes kept as pets, in a so-called formicarium.