Petit insecte, de l'ordre des hyménoptères, qui vit en société, et qui fait ordinairement sa demeure sous terre.
ETYM Old Eng. ante, amete, emete, AS. aemete akin to German ameise. Related to Emmet.
Social insect living in organized colonies; characteristically the males and fertile queen have wings during breeding season; wingless sterile females are the workers; SYN. emmet, pismire.
Insect belonging to the family Formicidae, and to the same order (Hymenoptera) as bees and wasps. Ants are characterized by a conspicuous “waist” and elbowed antennae. About 10,000 different species are known; all are social in habit, and all construct nests of various kinds. Ants are found in all parts of the world, except the polar regions. It is estimated that there are about 10 million billion ants.
Ant behavior is complex, and serves the colony rather than the individual. Ants find their way by light patterns, gravity (special sense organs are located in the joints of their legs), and chemical trails between food areas and the nest.
Communities include workers, sterile wingless females, often all alike, although in some species large-headed “soldiers” are differentiated; fertile females, fewer in number and usually winged; and males, also winged and smaller than their consorts, with whom they leave the nest on a nuptial flight at certain times of the year. After aerialamating, the males die, and the fertilized queens lose their wings when they settle, laying eggs to found their own new colonies. The eggs hatch into wormlike larvae, which then pupate in silk cocoons before emerging as adults.
Remarkable species include army (South American) and driver (African) ants, which march nomadically in huge columns, devouring even tethered animals in their path; leaf-cutter ants, genus Atta, which use pieces of leaf to grow edible fungus in underground “gardens”; weaver ants, genus Oecophylla, which use their silk-producing larvae as living shuttles to bind the edges of leaves together to form the nest; Eurasian robber ants, Formica sanguinea, which raid the nests of another ant species, Formica fusca, for pupae, then use the adults as “slaves” when they hatch; and honey ants, in which some workers serve as distended honey stores. In some species, “warfare” is conducted. Others are pastoralists, tending herds of aphids and collecting a sweet secretion (“honeydew”) from them.
The largest ant communities known have about 3 million members. One is in the Jura mountains E of France, covering 7 sq km/2.7 sq mi and comprising 1,200 linked ant hills.