Among the many hundreds of thousands of astonishing organisms with which we must
share this earth, there is one seemingly ordinary group of specimens which
fascinates many people beyond all others. There is nothing too extraordinary in
the proportions or appearance of ants, but it is their history and culture that
induces a second look. These insects are about as different from us mammals as
two organisms can be, yet it appears that of all the known animals their way of
life appears closest to our human way of life. The similarities in the ways in
which we organize our lives are astounding. Ants are doubtlessly the most
successful of all the social insects of the Hymenoptera, an order also including
wasps and bees.
The earliest known specimens are found entombed in the Scandinavian Baltic Amber
samples which scientists date in upwards of 100 million years old (The Ant
Colony 89). These primitive samples have evolved into the 5000 to 10000
species known today which vary amongst themselves as widely as the numbers
suggest (Social Insects 68). These remarkably adaptive creatures are found in
some form on all continents and all habitats but the extreme arctics. Their
success is manifested in the claim that at any time there are at least 1
quadrillion living ants on earth(Groliers 93).
All species of ants are social. They live in organized communities or colonies,
which may contain anywhere from a few hundred to more than 20 million
individuals. These are organized into a complex system which may contain two or
more castes and sub castes which can be roughly organized into three groups.
Queens, males and workers.
The queen is much larger than the other ants, and has wings until mating. Her
primary task is to lay eggs for the colony. Some colonies have one queen;
others have up to 5000. Queens develop from fertilized ordinary eggs, nobody
is exactly certain what causes these to develop into queens but it is generally
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