The long life of ants depends on their species
As curious as it may seem, the longevity of ants is a topic that has been the subject of several scientific studies over the years and, in fact, on previous occasions we have already told you about several of them, dedicating some very interesting that help to understand how long an ant lives and why .
Research carried out to date has indicated that although there are cases in which ants can live for many years , there are certain variants to be mentioned, and, depending on the species of the ant, its longevity will have a certain average. In other words, it all depends on what species of ant it is, and it should be noted that some are not as long-lived as is believed.
For example, in the case of an ant that belongs to the species Pharaoh ( Monomorium pharaonis ) or the Pharaoh ( Tapinoma melanocephalum ), there is an exception: its life will only be a few weeks. On the other hand, if, on the other hand, we have a Rufa ant (the most common red ants) or a family of this species, its longevity is much greater, being able to live from 1 to 3 years.
The queens, the oldest and the most important
In the case of Queen ants of the Rufa species, the average rises to 15 years while that of the Pharaoh species does not reach a year. However, the maximum longevity of a queen ant on record was 30 years and occurred in a laboratory colony. The worker ants , for their part, have a common average lifespan of about 2 years.
According to a study that we published a couple of years ago, when the first genetic map of the ants was completed, it was revealed that the queen ant contains the same genetic material as common ants and that, when fertilized, it becomes a queen, its DNA is modified and its longevity multiplies, which is tremendously surprising.
In other species, with the death of the queen, the colony disappears. That’s how important these ladies are, other investigations have also indicated that the presence of Telomerase in this process would be decisive for such modification to be feasible.
Characteristics of ants
Ants are among the most common insects in the world . They are capable of surviving in almost all habitats and, sometimes, colonies so abundant that they become a pest that is quite difficult for humans to control.
But how many types of ants are there? It is estimated that there are around 20,000 species of ants. Although each species has different behaviors and characteristics, there are several elements that they have in common. Among them, it is possible to mention the following:
- Food : most species of ants feed on natural juices from fruits and flowers, while others feed on plants. In addition, there are some carnivorous species that consume dead insects, such as flies and cockroaches.
- Habitat and coexistence : they live all over the world, except for Antarctica and some remote islands. They usually build anthills on earth and wood, although they are also organized on the walls of houses and buildings. All species live in colonies that number up to 10,000 members. In most anthills there is only one queen, although in certain species we can find two and even three.
- Lifespan : the longevity of an ant depends on its species, but most of them live only a few months, at most, they reach one year of life.
- Behavior and organization : ants are very sociable animals and, at the same time, very organized. Thanks to this, there are different types of ants in a colony. They share the work of maintaining the anthill in such a way that each individual has a specific function. The objective is to guarantee the well-being of the colony and the protection of each of its members. In addition, they are very jealous of their home, they do not allow other types of ants in a colony.
The species of ants:
Ants defend themselves through bites . These can be insignificant for people, but lethal for certain animals, especially if they are insects. Despite this, there is a wide variety of ant species that are poisonous, causing complications or death.
These are some of the types of poisonous ants:
The bullet ant or Paraponera clavata is found in South America, in countries such as Nicaragua, Paraguay, Venezuela, Brazil and Honduras . It owes its name to the pain caused by its bite, very similar to that caused by a bullet impact. It is considered thirty times more painful to the sting of a wasp. After a sting, an erythema can occur accompanied by chills, sweating and even numbness of the affected limb.
The bulldog ant , Australian giant ant or Myrmecia is located in Australia and New Caledonia . It is characterized by its huge yellow jaw, in addition to its reddish and brown tones. It has a powerful poison capable of generating a powerful burn on the skin that can leave permanent marks.
Black fire ant
The black fire ant or Solenopsis richteri has a deep black color with fiery tones, as its name indicates, and is distinguished by a particularly aggressive behavior . It does not usually attack humans, unless provoked. As for its sting, it has a very strong and poisonous bite, capable of turning into an annoying and persistent pain, similar to the sting of a wasp.
The African ant , Pachycondyla analis or Megaponera foetens , is one of the most dangerous species in the world and inhabits Senegal, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Togo . They measure between 18 and 5 mm and have a stinger and strong triangular jaws, capable of piercing human skin. Their neurotoxic venom is especially powerful, with which they manage to paralyze their victims.
Other types of ants
There are millions of ants around the world, belonging to the thousands of species that have been recorded. However, not all of them are poisonous. In general, the types of house ants are usually harmless and their eventual bites do not represent a problem for people.
These are some of the ant species most distributed around the world :
The carpenter ant , belonging to the genus Camponotus, is a species that inhabits America, Europe and Africa . It owes its name to the fact that they build their nests in wood, which can have devastating consequences for the environment: the colonies expand and cause extensive damage to tree structures. Generally, carpenter ants take refuge in rotten wood to make their nests, since it meets the right humidity and temperature conditions to keep them alive.
They are polymorphic, which means that all individuals have different sizes . Their colors can range from black, red, yellow, and dark brown. As for their diet, they do not eat wood, their diet is based on dead insects, sweet substances from plants, flowers and fruits, as well as meat and fat.
The Argentine ant or Linepithema humile is endemic to Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay . Currently it is distributed in many other countries due to the action of man, and is also considered a pest. This is the last of the types of ants that we are going to mention. It measures around 2 and 3 mm, but they are especially aggressive, carrying out battles for control of the territory , also covering large areas. Their action causes the death of native species in the areas they invade, causing irreversible changes in the ecosystem.
We call “leaf cutter ant” more than 40 species belonging to the genera Atta and Acromyrmex. They are characterized mainly by their complex social organization , since the colony is divided into different classes known as castes: there is the queen, the soldiers, the foragers and the gardeners. In the colony of the leafcutter, each individual has a specific objective to fulfill, starting with the queen, who is in charge of looking for suitable nests and reproducing.
Meanwhile, the soldiers protect the colony from external threats, the foragers are in charge of digging the tunnels and looking for food for the other ants. The gardeners, for their part, are in charge of caring for the cultivation of fungi, larvae and developing eggs. This species of field ant is found from Panama to northern Argentina . It can cause great economic damage, since it attacks various types of plants and crops, such as cassava, coffee, corn and sugar cane.
Smelly house ant
The smelly house ant or Tapinoma sessile is also known as sugar ant or coconut ant. It is native to the United States . It owes its name to the fact that it gives off a very strong smell when crushed. This type of house ant builds its home under rocks, logs, debris, or other objects, including cracks in walls and floors.
The species does not have a schedule to search for food or “foraging”, they can do it at any time of the day. Their diet consists of fruits, insects, and nectar. Populations of the smelly house ant can become pests if the conditions in which colonies spread are not controlled.
Red wood ant
The red wood ant or Formica rufa European red ant is very common in Europe. It creates large, visible colonies in dense forests, which are home to about 200,000 individuals . They are omnivorous animals , feeding on invertebrates, fungi and vegetables. They are capable of strong bites.
The granary ant or Messor barbarus spreads through Spain, Italy, France and Morocco . They create nests on the ground and are strictly granivorous animals. This species stands out for its hygiene, as they are constantly cleaning themselves and the nest. Also surprising is the size of the head of the soldier ants.