Ants are one of the most well-known insects. Found throughout the world in a variety of ecosystems, most have encountered an ant at some point. While these insects are common, their lifestyles and social systems are not. Here are a few facts about them that make them decidedly unique.
Some may be surprised to learn that the vast majority of ants in a colony are female. The queen ant is responsible for reproducing, and most of the eggs she lays are destined to become female workers and soldiers, while the only responsibility of male ants is to breed with a queen ant prior to dying. The queen is the only female in a colony allowed to reproduce, although her daughters do care for their immature siblings.
While it may seem strange enough that there are so few male ants, they are also produced using a very different system than their female counterparts. Female ants are produced like most animals with which one is familiar in that the genetic material of a father and mother is combined to create the offspring. However, when a queen forms a male ant, she does not require the genetic material of a father and instead gives birth to offspring that has only her genes. These males in turn will only ever contribute to female offspring.
Those who have dealt with an ant infestation may find it especially frustrating when they keep returning to the same area of the home even after being removed. This, as well as their tendency to move in orderly trails, can be explained by their use of scent. Scouting ants will go in search of food and, upon finding it, they will leave pheromones while returning to the nest, creating a scent trail. This allows the other ants of the colony to find the food as long as the trail remains.
Given their small size, many may assume ants to be short-lived, and this is true for some like males, which usually only live a few weeks. Workers’ lifespans are typically measured in months, but queen ants can live much longer than the average insect. While the exact span varies by species, queen ants can live for decades and continue reproducing throughout their lives. This can make it very difficult to fully prevent re-infestation if the queen ant is not removed, so it is important to have unwanted ant colonies dealt with by a professional.