1. The total mass of ants on planet earth outweighs the total mass of humans
This might seem at first to be nearly impossible due to the much smaller size of individual ants versus that of human beings, but the fact of the matter is that the number of ants on this plant far outnumbers that of humans. It is thought that there are roughly 1.5 million ants for every human being on earth.
2. Ants can be found on every continent except Antarctica
There are well over 12,000 different species of these insects, and they can be found in virtually any setting on every continent on earth. They are equally at home in vast forests or even in a city setting. However the greatest number of insects is found in tropical regions of the world, such as the Brazilian rainforest and the African savanna. In fact it has been posited that a single acre of rainforest can be home to as many as three and a half million individual ants.
3. They can form massive and self-sustaining colonies
Because they are a highly social insect, it is no surprise that ants have a tendency to create huge colonies. The largest known colony of these creatures can be found in California, where there is a single mass of Argentine ants that stretches for over 600 miles and contains many millions of insects. In fact it is bordered by several smaller colonies that can occasionally be seen to engage in wars with each other. These colonies can be staggeringly large, sometimes reaching up to 20 feet underground.
4. Ants occasionally raise and herd other insects
Several species of ants display behaviors that are analogous to human activities in agriculture. For instance they will often surround a group of smaller insects such as aphids, and offer them protection from predators in exchange for allowing the ants to ingest the sweet substance that the aphids naturally secrete. The protective relationship even goes so far as actively destroying the eggs of the insects that might prey on the aphids such as ladybugs.
5. Ants can enslave rival colonies
It is relatively common for these insects to raid and rob the eggs from neighboring colonies. Once the eggs have been returned to the main colony of the raiding ants, they are raised as their own and once they hatch the new ants are kept as virtual slaves to the new colony, doing the same chores and protecting the nest in much the same way as the original insects. Generally speaking this behavior only extends across different species of the insect, however there are recorded cases of colonies of the same species of ant enslaving individuals from their species in their colony.
6. Ants have one of the most regimented caste systems in the animal world
The leader and most important individual insect in each colony is the queen. She is responsible for laying eggs and ensuring the survival of the colony and the strength of future generations. The queen on average has by far the longest lifespan of any of the colony, and can lay many thousands of eggs during her life. She is served by a huge army of worker ants, who are responsible for finding food and searching for new areas that might be hospitable for the expansion of the hive. On virtually the same level as the workers are the soldiers, who are not found among every species of ant, but are vital to the protection of the nest. They are equipped with larger jaws than the workers, which they put to use in the defense of the colony.
7. They wage elaborate warfare against other colonies
Several species of ant have been found to wage large-scale war against rival colonies. This often involves mere physical combat, and among the larger colonies warfare can cause the death of several million ants over the course of a few weeks or even months. There are also recorded cases of these insects using tactics that resemble psychological warfare against their rivals, such as camping out around the targeted nest and laying siege to the colony for several days before beginning any offensive action. The colonies that are targeted in this manner often stand no chance of defending themselves, as they are unable to forage in the days leading up to the inevitable attack.
8. They can lift up to 50 times their own body weight
Worker ants are able to lift and carry for long distances objects that outweigh them by up to 50 times. This would be equivalent to a human being being able to lift and carry something approaching the size of a family sedan. This ability is made possible by the low center of gravity of the insects and the power of their muscular structure, which is centered primarily in the front of their bodies.
9. Ants can move 50 tons of soil per year in one square mile of land
It has long been known that the ant is among the greatest movers of land in the animal kingdom. There are several reasons why they move dirt and soil. Among these reasons are objectives such as building nests and creating protective barriers for those same nests. In fact many species of the insect can create huge mounds of earth that are visible from quite some distance away.
10. They can survive for up to a day underwater
Because they do not rely on lungs to breathe but rather draw air in through holes in their thorax known as spiracles, ants can be submerged for quite some time before they suffer any negative consequences. There are cases on record of colonies being subject to floods, after which the ants came back to life seemingly miraculously after up to 24 hours submerged in the water.