© Stuart M Bennett 2003

Black Ant
Red Ant Argentine Ant Pharoahs Ant Wood Ant Carpenters Ants

Ants can be found almost everywhere, except probably at the polar caps, but you never know there may be a species of Eskimo Ant.  Anyway, there are something like 15,000 known species of ant which have been described, and these are adapted for widely varying conditions.  Common to them all, however, is the fact fact that they are all social.  Technically speaking, they all belong to the Superfamily Formicidea  of the order Hymenoptera and there are about 47 British species.

The winged ants which everybody raves about in summer are just normal ants which grow wings for what is known as the nuptial flight.  This is where the young queens are fertilised, as soon as this has happened the queen breaks off her wings by biting them and becomes your normal ant again being ready to start her own nest where she can continue to lay eggs for up to 15 years, the males usually die soon after mating.  Next time you're in your garden, have a good look at an ant.  You will notice that they have a very narrow waist, this is known as the pedicel and can have one or two segments depending on the species.  The sting is only normally present in species which have the double segmented pedicel.  They also have elbowed (bent) antennae

There are carnivorous, herbivorous and omnivorous species, but in a lot of species their favourite food is honeydew, which they milk from Aphids, which has a high sugar content. When an ant finds a food source it will lay a pheromone(scent) trail back to the nest, where it will communicate with other workers by tapping antennae and also giving some of the food from it's crop, these workers in turn will then be able to locate the food.  So when you spill sugar or a sticky drink in your kitchen or living room now you know why suddenly there's lots of ants about.

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