Ants are social insects; they live together in colonies. Some colonies are in heaps of twigs; other is in chambers deep in the ground. Still other is in heaps of earth or sand. There are about 14,000 kinds of ant. They are found almost everywhere, but are more common in hot climates than elsewhere. Some types of ant are harmful to human beings while others are quite harmless.
Ants very much size. They may be as small as .2 cm or long as 2 cm. their color can be yellow, brown, black or red.
All ants are very much alike expect in size. The head and thorax are connected by a neck-like part. Between the thorax and abdomen is an almost thread-like waist. A pair of feelers, or antennae, is on the head. They serve not only as feelers, but also as organs of smell. They are helpful in guiding the ant about. The antenna also helps the ant to find other ants and to communicate with them.
The mouth of an ant has two sets of jaws. The outer pair is used for carrying objects and for digging. The inner pair is used for chewing. Some ants have a powerful sting at the end of their abdomen.
The males in the ant family are very unfortunate. They have a very short life. They live for a few months only while a female ant can live as long as 15 years.
Those female ants which spend their life laying eggs are called queens. A queen can lay as many as 25,000 eggs at a time.
Most of the females do not lay eggs. They do the work of the colony. The make nests, store food and bring up the young. They are called workers. Some workers are stronger than big the others. They have bigger bodies. They have very large heads and jaws. They do the work of defending the colony. They are called soldiers.
Ants like bees, are very hard –working. They also seem to be as intelligent as human beings! Scientists tell us that some ants do farming as men do. They carry tiny pieces of a leaf to their nests. There they chew them up very nicely. Then they make beds of these chewed –up leaves. On these beds grows a kind of fungus, which is the food of ants.
Just as keep cows for milk, ants keep aphids or 1ant cows’ for a kind of milk which is called honeydew. An aphid or `ant cow’ is as big as a louse. Ants catch these aphids and take them to their nests. They keep them there and feed them. When they want to milk’ them, they stroke the aphid’s abdomen gently with their antenna. The aphid gives out a sweet liquid which the ants eat with great relish!
Scientists have observed many surprising things about the behavior of ants. There are ants which keep other ants as slaves. They attack the nests of smaller and weaker ants, and carry off some of their eggs. When these eggs hatch, young ones have to live as slaves. From their birth they are taught to obey their masters. They have to do all the work in the colony. They even carry their masters about on their backs.