Wikijunior:Bugs/Ant

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What do they look like?[edit]

A Meat Eater Ant.

Even though ants can look like small moving dots if you're standing, when looking closely at an ant, you can see that it has antennae which are curved to look a lot like our own elbows. Ants also have small sharp claws that help them keep hold of things while moving around on objects such as trees.

Where do they live?[edit]

Ants live in little "cities" called ant colonies. Ant colonies are found in many places: under stones, within living or dead wood, and even underground. More advanced ant species are great builders and create many chambers that are used for different reasons. A chamber may be used as a nursery or to store food. When ant colonies are underground they are often covered with piles of dirt, sand, clay, or pine needles. These piles are called ant hills. Ant hills are used as entrances to the colony and as protection of the colony. Some ant hills are small but others can grow as tall as 3 feet!

What do they eat?[edit]

Counting on what type of species or role in its ant colony, ants eat many different types of food. Species like the meat-eater ant eat mainly meat like remains of dead animals, but also can eat other foods including honey. Some other ant species, such as leafcutter ants actually "grow" their own food. They do this by collecting leaves and cutting them into pieces on which a type of fungus grows. The ants then harvest and eat this fungus.

How do they defend themselves?[edit]

Most ants work as a group to defend themselves. Whole colonies working together are sometimes called superorganisms, as the colony can act much like one large whole organism instead of the hundreds of tiny bugs that they really are. Another ant defense system is that some species of ant have venom which they could use for defense. This is also a reason why one particular species of ant is called a 'killer ant', even though these ant don't kill but can cause some damage to their victim.

The small white objects are ant pupae.

What stages of metamorphosis does it go through?[edit]

Ants go through a type of metamorphosis called holometabolism which is a type of metamorphosis that includes a total of four stages. The ant begins life as an egg laid by the only reproducing female ant in an ant colony, called a queen ant. After the egg hatches, it is in its baby stage which is called the larval stage. After a while, the ant larvae goes into a stage in which it cannot move, and is also gaining its adult features; this stage is called the pupal stage. Finally after a few weeks, the pupal casing the young ant was enclosed in is broken and the fully-adult ant comes out.

Most ants live up to 6 to 10 weeks with the exception of some queen ants which may live up to 15 years and some worker ants which may live up to 7 years.

What special behavior does it exhibit?[edit]

Unlike many other animals, ants use smell instead of noises to talk to each other. Ants use a type of chemical called pheromones that leave a scent to help ants communicate, as well as figure out where each member of the colony is or was last located at. Ants also use their elbow-shaped antennae to smell, as they don't have nostrils like humans have.

How does this bug affect people?[edit]

Ants can either help get rid of pests or be the pest itself. Ants can eat smaller insects that can be pests to a human's backyard or garden, but ants can also be pests as they can destroy some gardens. One species of ant known as the carpenter ant is sometimes a pest to humans, because they eat wood. One kind of ant, the red imported fire ant, which is common in the southern United States, can deliver a very painful bite.

People in some parts of the world eat ants as food! Countries known for having dishes with ants on the menu include Mexico, Colombia and Thailand.