There are definitely some crazy insects out there--but very few people would count the ant among them. They’re tiny, everywhere, and they kind of just keep to themselves (unless they’re bothering your kitchen, of course). If there is such a thing as a “boring” insect, it would probably be the ant, right? Wrong! We may take the common ant for granted, but a little homework reveals that they’re perhaps the wildest, most ridiculous animal on the planet. Seriously, after reading a couple of these facts, we’re starting to worry a little about some kind of ant uprising apocalypse event. We found 20 of the weirdest, most hard-to-believe ant facts. You’ll never look at the little guys scampering around in the dirt the same way again!
- Ants keep regular daily shifts for working, sleeping, and eating. They even stretch and yawn when they wake up, just like us but without the obscenities. It’s adorable.
- As a species, ants are far, far older than humans. Scientists estimate that ants developed in the mid-Cretaceous period, 110-130 million years old. Ants are as old as dinosaurs!
- The Hormiga culona (“big bottom” or “fat butt” ant, yes we’re serious) has been considered a delicacy in Columbia for centuries. They taste like buttered popcorn. What? Yeah, we tried them. Because we’re scientists.
- Fire ants inflict approximately $5 billion of damage in North America alone every year.
- Ants live longer than any other type of insect--they can live up to 30 years!
- Ants have 250,000 brain cells, and are believed to be the world’s smartest insect.
- There are over 12,000 known species of ant.
- Don’t try to drown ants--they can survive underwater for up to two weeks, because they have extremely tiny breathing tubes which water can’t penetrate.
- Every worker, soldier, and queen ant is female. Only drones are male. Drones don’t do any colony work; their only function is to fertilize a princess ant. They die shortly thereafter. Men.
- An all-female species of ant was recently discovered. These leaf cutter ants reproduce by cloning themselves!
- Ants can sense the Earth’s magnetic field, and use it for navigation.
- Ants communicate with one another using chemical pheromone trails. Colonies use these chemicals to work together so efficiently that they have been labelled “superorganisms”--several organisms working as essentially one being.
- Every ant colony has its own unique scent, so that intruder ants in a colony can be recognized immediately.
- If a man could run as fast as an ant relative to his size, he could do 34 miles per hour. For reference, Usain Bolt has been clocked at 28 mph--and he’s USAIN BOLT.
- Ants move an estimated 50 tons of soil per year, making them the world’s main turners of soil, according to Harvard sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson.
- If every single human on the planet got on one arm of a giant balance scale and every ant in the world got on the other, the ants would weigh more.
- Ant colonies operate so efficiently that mathematicians used algorithms based on their behavior (actually called “Ant Colony Algorithms”!) to build a supercomputer for NASA.
- Scientists estimate that there are about 10 quadrillion ants (that’s one million billion ants) in the world. That’s a lot of ants.
- The largest ant colony ever recorded was found in Europe. It was 3750 miles wide and made up of multiple colonies that came together to form a “super” colony.
- Ants can carry 50 times their own body weight, making them one of the world’s strongest creatures relative to their own size. If an average man was as strong as an ant, he could lift 9,000 pounds! Imagine a dude lifting a monster truck over his head. That’s what ants do every day.