All About Ants

February 6th, 2012 by Ray Burman Leave a reply »

What is an ant?  Well its a social insect  and therefore usually lives in a colony or nest.

Is there such thing a solitary ant?  Well possibly….but the jury is out on that one..

However when a queen ant starts a new nest it is solitary for a while, until it lays it eggs and these hatch into workers.

How do ants find there way back to the nest?

Its actually a very complex thing to explain, but they use a combination of things.  The position of the Sun, some vector maths and also visual pointers about there environment, all this is combined so they can tell if they are either moving further away or closer to their nests.

It all quite amazing really for something so small!

How many types of ants are there in the world?

There is not exact figure because we are always finding new species.  But the estimates seem to be between 10,000 to 20,000 species.

I expect we have also lost quite a few undiscovered species, but will most probably only know about them in fossils or if there frozen in amber.

My simple categorization of the common ants native in the UK:-

  1. Black ants
  2. Orange ants
  3. Red ants
  4. Wood ants

Black ants

These ants are our most common, they like making their nests under paths and paving slabs.  They will also make small mounds of earth after rain.

These are the ants that you will see swarming in the summer months in what I new as a kid as ant day.

They are also the most command ants to find in your home.  Usually because someone has dropped something sweet somewhere.  I am unsure if they can smell sweet things and am attracted to it….

Wood Ants

These are large sized ants that are brown in color.  They are usually found in woods or forests as there name suggests.

Wood ants make large nest that can be a meter or more high!   Ants nests of this size will contain tens of thousands of ants.

There are  sometimes so many ants crawling around, that you can actually hear them walking.

The internal structure of these nests are very complex.  Like a termite mound they need to have area’s of ventilation to keep the nest healthy.

I remember going on a school trip and one of my classmates was thrown into one of these giant nests, ouch.

Orange ants

These ants are very small.  And a nice light orange color.

These are the ants that can make mole hill sized nests on your lovely lawn.

This behavior usually occurs after heavy rain, and its the ants attempt to clean up and also protect there nests.

Orange ants usually come of worse if they pick a fight with a black ant.  You will sometimes see a black ant walking around with a orange ant on one of its legs!

Red Ants

These are medium sized ants, that don’t normally create mounds of earth or large external nests. There colonies as quite small, usually no more than 300 individuals.

These ants can give quite a bite using  formic acid.  So I usually keep well away from them.

These are the ants that you wont notice when kneeling down in you garden until you get them in your pants and then you will know it!

They are much hardier than the black or orange ants.

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