Ants may seem like a difficult pest to deal with, particularly when a long stream of them have somehow found their way into your kitchen, bathroom, or trash. However, what you may not realize is that these tiny insects are doing what they do best. In fact, ants are one of nature’s most important and fascinating creatures. While we prefer that they don’t find their way into our homes or businesses, ants are a crucial part of the world. Here are five things you probably never knew about these tiny creatures.
Ants Play an Important Role in Nature
As humans, we rarely see ants as anything more than obnoxious pests that somehow found their way into your home en masse. However, we benefit from their existence in so many ways that few people often think about. Ants are nature’s farmers and decomposers, turning debris and waste into nutrient-rich soil that can be used to grow new life. In fact, Harvard studies have suggested that ants are the world’s main natural turners of soil, moving an estimated 50 tons of soil per year through the creation and expansion of new colonies.
There Are Tens of Thousands of Species of Ants
Ants are about as varied as humans are, and perhaps even more! To date, scientists have identified and named more than 12,000 species of ants, and more are being discovered as we learn more and more about this immensely complex planet that we live on. Some ants are large, others are so small they’re almost impossible to see without the help of a magnifying glass or microscope. One species of ant, in particular, is made up entirely of female ants. Whereas other species are primarily female and only use male ants to fertilize the colony queen, this particular species of leaf cutter ants reproduce by cloning themselves!
Ants Navigate by Compass
Ants have a pretty unique way of getting around: they use a compass. However, it’s not a physical one like we would use when finding our way through the wilderness. Instead, an ant’s compass is entirely internal. Ants are so sensitive that they can sense the pull of the earth’s magnetic field, just like a compass would. This gives them a constant bearing or direction that they can use to reliably navigate through even the trickiest of terrain.
Ants Have a Sense of Smell Better Than That of a Dog
Some scientists theorize that ants have the best sense of smell of any organism on earth. In fact, their sense of smell is many times more sensitive than that of a dog. For perspective, a dog’s sense of smell is already an estimated 40 times better than a human’s, meaning ants are capable of picking up on odors that are a tiny fraction of a percent of what a human nose could pick up on. Not bad for a creature that doesn’t have an actual nose—you read that right. An ant’s smell receptors are actually in its long antennae.
This is important because smell is everything for ants. Ants communicate by secreting chemical pheromone trails that emit a scent that other ants from the colony are able to follow. Likewise, every colony has its own unique scent that acts as an identifier to others. When any intruder ants from a rival or neighboring colony try to sneak into a colony, their different scent makes them stand out like a sore thumb and the colony swiftly turns to attack and defend itself.
Ants Work in Shifts, Just Like We Do!
Ants actually have a routine that they follow, just like we do. Because animals need to rest and recuperate like we do but a colony can never stop, ants actually work in shifts. Once their shift ends, they eat and they sleep. When they wake up, they have even been observed to yawn and stretch, just like we do! Once they do, they go back to work, where they often have to lift several times their own body weight for the majority of the time. Colony life certainly sounds rough.
How are ants capable of doing this? Scientists believe that ants are some of the most intelligent insects in the world, if not the most intelligent. They are estimated to have 250,000 brain cells, making their brains one of the densest and most developed of any bug.Got an ant problem in your home? Don’t let these bugs cause damage; give Hopper Termite & Pest, Inc. a call at (479) 332-3745 today.