Are ants a type of beetle
Strict division of labor in the ant colony
One of the reasons the ants are so successful is that they are organized into well-functioning states. The number of animals in a colony varies between a few hundred and several million.
Ants of a species are divided into so-called boxes, which clearly differ from one another on the outside: sexually active females (queens), workers and males.
Like wasps and bees, ants also belong to the group of hymenoptera. But only the sexually active females and the males have wings. The workers remain wingless.
The sexually active females are the largest and have wings until they mate. After the males have mated them in the air, the females shed their wings and, as queens, found a new state or part of another colony.
The males die after the mating flight. The sexually underdeveloped females, the workers, are the smallest.
The three castes are specialized in certain tasks in their state: The males only care for the fertilization of the queens. The queens - several of which can live in one nest - take care of the offspring.
The workers do all the other tasks: They go looking for food, build the nest, provide the brood and queen with food and defend the burrow against attackers.
Each individual has a specific task, which can, however, also be changed as required. Depending on which work is assigned to the individual ants, the shape of the animals can also differ significantly from one another. The nest defenders, for example, have particularly strong upper jaws.
The queen and the offspring
Despite her high position, she has perhaps the hardest work to do: the queen lays eggs continuously from spring to autumn. For example, the queen of the red wood ant can live for 20 years. During this time, she lays around a million eggs, more than 100 a day.
However, the record is held by the driver ant Dorylus nigricans, whose queens each produce 50 million eggs in one year alone. But that doesn't work without help. The worker bees groom the queens all the time. They bring their food and take care of the brood as soon as the eggs are laid.
As a rule, a queen founds a new state after mating. In some cases the queens simply integrate into another colony in order to have their brood cared for here.
Science calls this action "social parasitism". The queen is taken in by a foreign people and enjoys the same services as the queens of the host people. The advantage: Compared to the establishment of a new colony, the colony can grow faster and more safely.
Ants nest almost everywhere: in holes in the ground, under stones, in wood or hollow plant stems. They set up their nesting piles on the ground, building nests out of cardboard or woven leaves. Ant burrows usually consist of branched corridors and several chambers in which supplies are stored and the offspring are cared for.
Many species of ants love warmth, and the eggs and larvae also like it warm. Therefore, there is a constant climate in the buildings. If it gets too hot, the ants provide cooling by building air holes. If it is too cold, the animals bring in warmth from the outside: They sunbathe their dark bodies and give off the warmth they have absorbed in the nest.
The home of the ants is very different depending on the species: The yellow meadow ant (Lasius flavus) builds a dome that is often overgrown by grass and is not immediately noticeable as an ant burrow.
The glossy black wood ant (Lasius fuliginosus) adapts its nest to the external conditions. It prefers hollow tree trunks, in the wood of which it first gnaws cavities. She fills this with a mass of chewed wood and sugar. A fungus grown by the ant also penetrates the cavities and solidifies them. The cardboard nest is ready.
The weaver ant's nest, made of leaves sewn together, is an ingenious construction: women workers who form a chain pull the leaves together on the tree.
Other workers hold the ant larvae, which supply a thread from so-called spinneret glands, to the edges of the leaves. Then they then weave the leaves together with the silk threads produced by the larvae.
Ants as useful helpers
Ants take care of the landscape, because without them, vast stretches of land would be barren and almost devoid of green: They loosen up the soil with their passages and thus enable plants to put down better roots. By shifting the soil, they also promote the formation of fertile humus.
Especially in the tropics it is evident that the small animals do the preparatory work for the colonization of wasteland by plants. If the ants are missing, plants can hardly settle down and the soil is quickly eroded by downpours.
The hardworking insects also contribute to the spread of plant seeds. Forest ants, for example, transport the seeds of around 150 plant species. Ants also clean the forest and remove dead animals.
And even more important: as predatory animals, they destroy pests in large quantities. They are also the basis of food for many other animals, such as toads, birds, lizards and spiders.
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