How Many Types of Ants Are There?
Some numbers are just too big for the human mind to comprehend—the number of stars in the universe, the grains of sand on a beach, or the sum total of all the ants crawling around on the Earth’s surface. But for those who like big numbers, there are an estimated one quadrillion ants roaming the earth. That’s one million billion, or the number 1 followed by 15 zeroes. And those quadrillion creatures come in more than 15,700 different species and 21 subspecies. New ant species are discovered every year and it’s very likely thousands of species out there will never be discovered; according to researchers only half of the ants on the planet have been described.
While you may dread fire ants, crazy ants, Argentine ants, and those little black ants in your kitchen - the majority of ants want nothing to do with humanity. These adaptive and amazing insects help over 450 plant species propagate. Ants farm fungi, harvest seeds, and hunt cooperatively in packs. The critters even act as micro-cowboys by herding and milking aphids. Ants can be real slave-drivers, forcing captured enemies to do their bidding.
Ants have been around since the time of the dinosaurs and are the most successful conquerors the planet has ever known. At least one species of ant occupies every square acre of earth, with the exception of the North and South poles. Ants are also amazing invaders; in Hawaii, not one of the 50 species of island ants are natives.
Ants come in a variety of colors, sizes, shapes, and personalities but they share common traits that allow them to thrive. Ants can lift twenty times their weight, something like an average 180-pound guy lifting a pickup truck over his head. Most queens live numerous years and each produces millions of offspring. And, when ants fight, it’s to the death. From the Sahara Desert to the Amazon rain forest, from the Yukon to New Zealand, from your backyard to your kitchen, ants are there.