Ants are small social insects that live in organized communities called a colony. There are near 20,000 species of ants that vary in size, color, and ways of life. Most are a dull, drab color such as brown, rust, or black. However some ants are yellow, green, blue, or purple. The largest ant species can reach over 1 inch in length, while the smallest is about 1/25 of an inch. Some ants can lift items 50 times their own weight. Ants are distinguished from ant like wasps by a knot like growth or node on top of their waist.
Ants are most numerous in warm climate regions, but they live almost everywhere on land except for extremely cold locations. Ants have many different ways of life. Some ants live in underground tunnels or build earthen mounds. Other ants live inside trees or in certain plants. Some construct nests of tree leaves. Army ants do not have permanent nests. Some types of army ants move across the land in enormous swarms eating insects they encounter. ‘Slave maker’ ants raid other nests and enslave the captured young. Harvester ants collect seeds and store them within their nests. Another species are sometimes called dairying ants, because they keep insects that give off a sweet liquid.
An ant colony may be small in number or reach into the hundreds, thousands, or even millions of inhabitants. Larger colonies have many queens whose chief responsibility is to lay eggs. Most colony members are workers. Like the queen(s), all worker ants are female. They build the nest, forage for food, take care of the young, and fight predators. Males, whose only job is to mate with young ant queens, live in the colony nest only at certain times. After mating, a male soon dies.
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