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10 Facts About Ants You Probably Didn’t Know

When you see a column of ants streaming across your kitchen counter or swarming over a piece food dropped on the floor, you probably don’t say to yourself, “Hmm, ants are fascinating creatures.” But you should (after you place ant bait stations all around your home). Ants are amazing little critters who live in dark, vast colonies and can lift several times their own body weight. So without further ado, 10 interesting facts about ants:

  1. Dinosaurs stepped on ants: A 2006 study of ant genetic material proves that the little critters have been around since the mid-Cretaceous period, which was about 120 million years ago. 
  2. Ants are long-time survivors: They survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, around 65 million years back, and they will likely survive humanity. 
  3. Ants make Genghis Khan look like a softie: In the thirteenth century the ruthless Genghis Khan conquered China, the Middle East, Russia, and Eastern Europe. With millions of years more experience, ants have conquered the entire world, except for the Arctic and Antarctica. Ants are the greatest success stories in terra firma. 
  4. Don’t mess with the Argentines: No world-conquering ant species is more successful than the Argentine ant. In the last 100 years, Argentine ants have invaded and overwhelmed native ants in 15 countries on six continents. 
  5. There’s a lot of them: You think 7 billion humans is a lot? There are 10 quadrillion ants alive on Earth - or 10,000,000,000,000,000.
  6. They may be little but they weigh a lot: Each ant weighs between 1 and 5 milligrams which means the weight of those ten thousand trillion ants is equal to all human beings on earth. 
  7. There’s such a thing as the “Anternet”: A group of ant ecologists at Stanford discovered the foraging behavior of ants is similar to the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) used to manage data congestion on the Internet. The ant “hive mind” operates like an algorithm that tells the critters to forage for food, or not, depending on the food “bandwidth.” 
  8. Ants provide for life on Earth: Ants keep the environment healthy by moving tons of dirt on a daily basis. This aerates and mixes the soil to enhance water infiltration. Ants are also recyclers, incorporating organic plant and animal matter into the earth which adds nutrients to the soil and helps innumerable species up the food chain to survive and thrive.
  9. Ants hate vermin: Foraging ants will swarm over and kill cockroaches, termites, ticks, chiggers, boll weevils, and even rodents, providing food for their colonies while ridding the world of pests.
  10. Ants are slavers: Some types of ants raid neighboring colonies, steal their eggs, and force the young to work for them after they hatch. Some ant species can’t even support themselves without slave labor.