Ants belong to the order Hymenoptera which also includes bees, wasps and sawflies. There is believed to be over 11,800 known ant species in the world, including Bull Ants, Meat Ants, Fire Ants and Honey Pot Ants. Ants have been colonising on earth for over 150 million years. They are extremely social creatures and enjoy living in colonies. These colonies are made up of several castes (different forms of mature insects living in colonies) including a reproductive queen, workers and soldiers with several subcastes which include winged males & females. The winged males and females only appear during mass mating flights in which the male dies after mating and the female sheds her wings to start a new colony or to join one already existing.
A colony is begun when a female ant lays a small number of eggs. She feeds the larvae to maturity and these essentially become the first workers, building nests and looking after the queen. Once the queen has her worker ants under control she can sit back and relax. Well not altogether relax, her role is purely laying eggs.
Ants generally build their nests on the ground, though some species are known to build their nests in trees or in leaves. Some nests can be very complex with many chambers and interconnecting tunnels, while others are very simple. Every ant colony in the animal kingdom has its own special way of designing their home. Some even build climate control nests with ventilation holes which they can open and close.
The ant has numerous predators. One of the most unique is the ant-mimicking spider. This spider has evolved to look very much like its favourite food, the ant. The spider uses its two front legs as antennae and it has a pinched in area along its cephalothorax to give it the illusion of having three body parts (smart). As it inter-mingles with the ant colony, it just picks off an ant whenever it feels hungry or inclined. Lucky for us humans we haven’t evolved into our favourite food!