Our Ants have moved into their Antarium – finally. We like to watch them – peacefully and quietly – during break or lunch time. We’ve also received some ‘instructions‘ with the Ants on how to look after them. Ants don’t like bright lights, so we do cover them during the day, when we are not observing them. They have now settled and you can clearly see how they’ve made a start burrowing their way through the sand. They are still a bit ‘shy’ and we do like to know more about Ants! Our Ants will visit the Nursery classes the coming week and their Teacher is already very excited about the idea. We have more Teachers interested to have the Ants with them, so we will need to start drawing up a ‘journey planner‘ for our Ants.
Many think that ants only use their antennas for touch, as they do use them for feeling they also use them for smelling. When an ant eats their food, it goes to one of two stomachs. They have a stomach for storing their own food and then another for storing food for other ants in their colony. Ants don’t, however, eat food like we do because they are unable to swallow solids. Instead they squeeze the juice from their food, whether it is a seed, plant, or another insect.
Ants – life cycle – image:askabiologist.asu.edu
An ant’s life begins as an egg. Ant eggs are soft, oval, and tiny – about the size of a period at the end of a sentence. Not all eggs are destined to become adults – some are eaten by nest mates for extra nourishment.
An egg hatches into a worm-shaped larva with no eyes or legs. Larvae are eating machines that rely on adults to provide a constant supply of food. As a result, they grow rapidly, molting between sizes.
When a larva is large enough, it metamorphoses into a pupa. This is a stage of rest and reorganization. Pupae look more like adults, but their legs and antennae are folded against their bodies. They start out whitish and gradually become darker. The pupae of some species spin a cocoon for protection, while others remain uncovered, or naked.
Finally, the pupa emerges as an adult. Young adults are often lighter in color, but darken as they age. The process of development from egg to adult can take from several weeks to months, depending on the species and the environment. Did you know that ants, like all insects, are full-grown when they become adults? Their exoskeletons prevent them from getting any larger.
Furthermore, adult ants belong to one of three castes: queen, worker, or male.
Queens are females that were fed more as larvae. They are larger than workers and lay all the eggs in a colony – up to millions in some species! Queens initially have wings and fly to find a mate(s), but they tear them off before starting a new colony. A queen can live for decades under the right conditions.
Workers are females that were fed less as larvae. They do not reproduce, but perform other jobs, such as taking care of the brood, building and cleaning the nest, and gathering food. Workers are wingless and typically survive for several months.
Males have wings and fly to mate with queens. They live for only a few weeks and never help with the chores of the colony.When you come across an ant on the ground, it’s almost always a worker ant. Workers are adult females that don’t reproduce, but perform all the other jobs needed to keep an ant colony alive and healthy. In case you are wondering, there are no male workers in ant colonies.
Please click HERE to read more about Ants – and their bodies.