Often seen marching around front porches, driveways and kitchen countertops, ants are considered to be one of the most common and pervasive insects we encounter on a daily basis. From regular, household ants mostly regarded as a simple nuisance, to more harmful types such as Carpenter Ants or Fire Ants that can damage property or even cause allergic reactions, these insects are always seem to be present in our immediate environment. Controlling the presence of ants can be an arduous task. After all, these tiny insects seem to appear out of nowhere and can be found in any area of both the interior and exterior of your home or business.
Despite their size, ants’ strength and abilities should not be underestimated and with over 20,000 species in the world, the amount of unique abilities ants possess is seemingly limitless. While ants play a very important role in their natural habitat, they are unwelcome in our residential and commercial environments. Despite our aversion to these insects, getting to know the inner workings of their habits and behaviors can be quite fascinating.
Though we enjoy watching superheroes on the big screen, we only need to look down to observe the superhero abilities of ants. Truly Nolen takes a look at these small, yet mighty insects which encourages you to ask the question, “just who is the real superhero?”
Ants versus The Hulk
Small in Size, Big in Strength
One of our favorite characters is that of The Hulk, who when provoked or angered has the ability to display unlimited strength and stamina, making him one of the most powerful superheroes. Ants on the other hand, need no provocation in order to display their strength. The iconic image of a trail of ants carrying leaves is a good display of just how strong they are for their size. This strength is especially helpful for ants to carry food back to their colonies, or to carry materials used to build shelter.
Almost all ant species, but in particular the Allegheny Mound ant and Carpenter ant, are capable of lifting nearly 1,000 times their body own weight! To put things in perspective, that is the equivalent of a 180 pound man would be able to lift the weight of a Boeing 737! By researching this amazing attribute scientists and engineers can take inspiration when designing new machines and take this concept to real world applications.
Ants versus Iron Man
Suit of Armor
The physical characteristics of ant’s exoskeleton can give the technological capabilities of Ironman’s suit a run for its money. Just as Ironman’s suit protects him from the outside world, so does the physical structure of an ant’s body. For example, odorous ants will release a foul odor when disturbed or crushed, which protects them from predators. Fire ants live up to their name when it comes to the impact of their sting. As a defensive mechanism, as well as a strategy to catch their prey, fire ants will use their mandibles to lock into their victim and inject venom using their stinger, causing a sudden burning sensation. In severe cases, allergic reactions are serious enough to require a trip to the hospital. Allegheny Mound ants are especially fascinating as their neck is structured in such a way that they are able to withstand enormous amounts of pressure. The membranes that connects the heads to their bodies are made up of microstructures that when used at a certain angle, can support any object an ant may need to lift.
Ants versus Aquaman
Follow my scent!
Aquaman’s most notable powers are his ability to breathe underwater as well as communicate with sea creatures if they are within “earshot” of him. His ability to breathe on both land and under the sea makes him unique and comparable to those ants that do not actually have lungs, but instead breathe through tiny holes in their bodies where oxygen passes through, otherwise known as spiracles.
Like Aquaman, ants can communicate with other ants in close proximity by releasing chemicals into the air that other ants sense. These pheromones serve as messages that ants use to ‘speak’ to each other, as well as provide warnings for approaching predators. Odorous house ants in particular, are known for releasing a chemical trail for other ants in the colony to follow.
Ants versus The Avengers
Let’s get Social!
Even though each superhero character has his/her own strengths and unique powers, they are far more effective when they work together. Ants are social insects and, unlike humans and termites, are the only species that have evolved to Eusociality. “Eu” meaning true, signifies that ants are not just social creatures, but creatures whose livelihoods depend on the cooperation of the whole colony. Eusocial animals all have the following characteristics:
- Adults live in groups
- Individuals care for offspring that are not their own
- Division of labor when it comes to reproduction with the subject behaving altruistically
- Overlap of generations
In the case of carpenter ants, each colony starts off with a single Queen, can produce colonies of anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 ants and even super colonies as large as 100,000 ants or more! As leader of the colony, the queen enjoys the benefit of having workers who take care of the young by providing food and services as protection from outside predators. Odorous ants operate in large colonies with tens of thousands of ants. Unlike the carpenter ant that has one definite queen of its colony, odorous ants can sometimes have multiple queens leading the group.
The Eusocial aspect of ants shows every ant has its defined role within the colony. The queen lays the eggs, workers care for the nest, and reproductives or “swarmers” ensure that new areas are found for colonization.
Ants are indeed remarkable insects, but they have no beneficial or symbiotic relationship with people. Keeping an observant eye out for signs of an infestation, can help to catch any issues before they have time to escalate. Homeowners should be aware if they see a trail of ants entering the home through a door, a window, or vent opening, as this indicates that ants are in search of food. If you notice ant activity around electrical outlets or inside cabinets, then the chances that ants are already forming nests somewhere in the home are pretty high.
Whether you already have a problem with ants, or prefer to take preventative measures, contact your local Truly Nolen to schedule a free ant inspection today!