Sticking to Defense

Termites are a relatively weak type of insect, relying solely on dedicated defenders. But this does not mean that their defenses are sturdy enough. In most cases, the soldier termites are used as a distraction, allowing the workers to seal the queen’s chamber shut. This way, invaders are unable to destroy the colonies chance for success. To lower the chances of this happening, another form of specialized defender has been evolved — the Nasutitermitinae or nasutes. Nasutes are defenders with very different head-shapes from their peers. They have a horn-like structure that is able to spray noxious chemicals at intruders. However, in return, they lose their mandibles and, with that, their ability to eat on their own. Because of this development, other workers must feed them in order for them to survive.

Who is the Heir?

Ants usually need a queen to continue laying eggs. Without the queen, most colonies will fall due to having no replacements for the workers. There’s always an exception to rules, however. In some species of ants, there is no designated queen and every ant is able to lay eggs. These ants are known as gamergates. However, they can only lay eggs that will mature into males. When males have been born, they will mate with whichever female seems most dominant/attractive. Some species will have a single gamergate while others may have multiple egg-laying gamergates. When a worker has developed the ability to lay eggs, she will attempt to inhibit her sisters, clipping off bumps found on the abdomen or by using pheromones that cause the workers to remain nonreproductive.

Virgin Flight

You may have seen ants crawling around with a pair of wings on their back. These are actually alates — virgin queens and males ready to mate. Around late-spring, alates will wait outside of the nest, waiting for the correct time to take flight. No one knows why this happens but the pattern is after heavy rainfall, as the ground is much softer and easier to dig for queens looking for a place to make their colony. When the time is right, the alates will fly, finding alates of other colonies and participating in a nuptial flight, where queens will be fertilized by 1 or more males. With this sperm, the queens will be able to lay their worker eggs and, for some queens, the sperm lasts a life-time. In some cases, the queen will mate once every few months, as in the case of the driver ant.

Injected with Bullets

A well-known species of ant, the bullet ant is renowned for its painful sting, similar to the feeling of receiving a bullet wound. It most commonly makes its home under very specific species of plants in South America and they mostly forage in the trees. They rarely forage for food on the ground and usually only in relative emergencies. Their main significance is their involvement in the initiation rites of a certain people group in Brazil for young men to become warriors. Ants are rendered unconscious and placed in a glove made of leaves. When they awaken, the young man must keep it on his his hand for 5 minutes before he can remove it.

Garbage Insects

Ants, like all other animals, produce organic waste. If left to sit in their homes, it may lead to attracting predatory insects, disease, or parasites. To make sure this isn’t the case, some of the ants are assigned the task of taking out the garbage, including excrement, carcasses of previous prey, and all of the dead. This is not a safe job, as in the human world. They are unable to interact with food on their own and are confined to the area which has been designated as the landfill.