Ready to go on a picnic? Here in Wonderopolis, we love to grab a blanket and a big basket full of food and head out to our favorite picnic spot next to the lake. Of course, there’s always one problem: uninvited visitors. Who are we talking about? Ants, of course!

But where do they come from? When we pick out our picnic spot, we never see any ants around. As soon as we get out the food, though, there they are! Are they hiding and just waiting for us?

Ants tend to live in large groups called colonies. Some insects and animals live by themselves. They work alone to find food for themselves. Ants, on the other hand, live with many other ants. They each have a special job that benefits the group as a whole.

If you’ve ever seen an anthill, you may have noticed ants marching back and forth, carrying dirt, leaves and other things they can use for the colony. Ants are hard workers that can lift things many times their own body weight.

Ants have learned that it pays to work together toward a common goal. It would be hard for a single ant to survive on its own. Working together, though, ants are able to divide up all the work that needs to be done, so that all the ants in the colony can not only survive but thrive!

Ant colonies are very organized groups. Most colonies have three types of ants: the queen, the males and the workers. The queen mates with the males to lay as many eggs as possible. This keeps the population of the colony going strong. The workers are the female ants other than the queen who do the rest of the work: gathering food, building the nest and defending it from intruders.

So how many ants can live in a colony? If you’ve ever found an anthill around your house or school, you may have noticed what seemed like hundreds of ants crawling around it. The largest ant colonies can be way bigger than that, though. It’s not uncommon for some ant colonies to contain millions of ants!

Ants have become so successful at working together that they can be found just about everywhere on Earth. The only places without ants are Antarctica and a few remote islands.

When ants build a nest, they often burrow into the ground or under rocks or a fallen tree. They start small and expand their nest as necessary to make room for new ants. Some burrows can be identified by finding small mounds or anthills that are used to enter and exit the nest.

As nests grow, they can become extremely large and complex, consisting of interconnected corridors and chambers. Some ant colonies occupy nests covering an entire acre or more!

57 Join the Discussion

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    • Frosting, a groom, a bride– me oh my! We LOVE your guess for tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®! We Wonder if anyone in Ms. Bayko’s WONDERful Class has attended a wedding? Did the happy couple cut the wedding cake in front of all their guests? We Wonder where that tradition began… :)

  1. Thoughts: I enjoyed the fact that the female ants are the workers! (Gabrielle) Do ants from different colonies fight? (Cristian) I think it’s strange that the females are the workers in the ant colony. (Luis)

    Connections: This reminds me of Phineas and Ferb because on the show they made their own ant house. (Cristian) This reminds me of Ant Farm because the kids on Ant Farm act like ants. (Joe)

    Predictions: Where is Candy Land? (Michelle) What is a wedding cake? (Jake) How do you make a wedding cake? (Shalize) What is a chocolate fountain? (Jaaron)

    • Hello hello to our WONDERful friends in Mrs. Hess’ Class! We love that Gabrielle, Cristian, and Luis have been thinking about the female ants and how the different colonies get along! :)

      We Wonder if Cristian or Joe have made an ant house or ant farm of their own? We bet it would be very cool to observe how ants lived in your own backyard! :)

      Michelle, Jake, Shalize, and Jaaron have such sweet guesses… we’re getting hungry here at Wonderopolis! This seems to be happening an awful lot lately! Thank you for sharing your SUPER predictions and comments with us! YOU ROCK! :)

  2. Thoughts, connections, and questions: Chaney- Why do the female ants do all the work? Bryan- Was the anthill in the video the largest anthill? Christian- How do ants travel to other countries? Alexia- How do ants make an anthill? Sierra- What are the jobs that ants have? Aaliyah- Ants are incredibly smart. David- I didn’t realize ants did so much more than just live under ground. Our whole class was amazed at how much ants can do!

    Predictions: Alexia- How do you decorate a cake? David- How do you make ice cream? Savion- Who made the first piece of candy? Christian- What do butterflies drink? Bryan- How do you make pie? Cassie- How do you make candy?

    • Aren’t ants AMAZING, Wonder Friends in Mrs. VanDusen’s Class?! They can accomplish so very much; we think they’re great at teamwork! Chaney, Bryan, Christian, Alexia, Sierra, Aaliyah, and David have shared some awesome thoughts and questions! We are so happy to know about all the WONDERing that’s going on in your class today!

      The Wonder video we saw today was a discovery of one of the largest ant colonies known! Isn’t it awesome to peek inside and see how those ants lived? They are hard workers and very-well organized!

      We’ve got a few Wonders for you to enjoy, Alexia, David, Savion, Christian, Bryan, and Cassie!

      Wonder #448– How Did Candy Canes get their Shape? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/how-did-candy-canes-get-their-shape/
      Wonder #325– Is Taffy Really Made with Salt Water? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/is-taffy-really-made-with-salt-water/

      Thanks for all your AWESOME predictions! We’ll see you tomorrow! :)

    • Thank you so very much, Isabel! We Wonder if you have a favorite topic to Wonder about? We hope to see you again soon, Wonder Friend! :)

  3. Ants are really cool, unless they bite you! I’ve gotten bitten by a fire ant when I was, like, one.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about cake decorating!!!! :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

    • YIKES, we hope you’re A-okay, Wonder Friend Gabrianna! We Wonder if all ants can bite, or only certain species, like fire ants and carpenter ants? Hmmm… Thanks for sharing your prediction for tomorrow’s Wonder… we can’t wait to find out what it will be! :)

    • That’s a SUPER question, Wonder Friend Dawson! We hope you’ll continue to Wonder about the roles of each ant in the colony. It is fascinating to learn about the teamwork that happens in the world of the ants! Thanks for sharing your very own Wonder from today! Keep it up! :)

  4. We liked the video today. We have learned about ants in our Reading Series.

    We think tomorrow will be about: Wedding Cakes, pies, birthday cakes, anniversary cakes, candy, chocolate or fancy cookies.

    We just know it is definitely going to make us HUNGRY!!!!!

    • Good afternoon, Wonder Friends in Miss Holden’s 2nd Grade Class! We LOVE the connection between today’s ant Wonder and your Reading Series! HOORAY for awesome topics! We Wonder if any of you have seen an ant hill in your backyards or around your homes? :)

      Your predictions for tomorrow are making us hungry, too! PHEW! We have had so many delicious clues this week that our Wonder Friends here at Wonderopolis are developing a sweet tooth… or would it be sweet teeth?! But we are going to go out for some ice cream or perhaps we’ll bake some cupcakes… all these Wonders are making us hungry! :)

  5. One time in Indiana Jones 4 I think a Russian soldier was knocked out by Jones causing him to fall backwards he fell on a blanket of ants.

    • You have a great memory, Hunter! Thanks for telling us about your connection between ants and the very cool Indy Jones! :)

  6. Wow Wow Wow!!! I Had Know idea They Were That Big!!! :D
    That Was Just Pure Amazing!!! :D I Mean Wow I Will Think Twice About Digging Around an Ant Hill!!! :D
    That Was A Good Idea To fill It Up With Cement Just Wow Amazing!!!
    ANTyway I Mean Anyway HA HA HA!!! I think Tomorrow’s Wonder Will be Cake Related Because Cake Can Look Cool And You Said It’s Delicious
    So Cake!!!!!!!!!! :P I Wonder How Many Ants Were In There…He Killed All Of Them!! But It Was For science And Also We Got Enough Ants!!! :D

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Max! We LOVE your comment and we’re so happy you’ve learned so much from today’s Wonder! We loved checking out the ant colony through the excavation.

      Thanks for telling us all about your prediction for tomorrow- it’s so sweet! :)

  7. Hi Wonderopolis! I learned a lot about ants! I think it is weird that the queen ant keeps the nest safe.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about wedding cakes and other cakes!

    • Hey Wonder Friend Holly! We learned so much about the roles of all the ants in the colony, just like you mentioned the roles of the queen! How interesting! THanks for telling us all about your guesses for tomorrow’s sweet Wonder! We’ll see you then! :)

  8. Wonderoplis, thank you for sharing about ants with us! I think it is WONDERFUL that you talk about how ants like the picnic areas.

    • Thank you for visiting us today, Wonder Friend Meredith! We bet you’ve seen lots of ants while you picnic– they are always looking for some food for their colony! We look forward to WONDERing with you soon! :)

    • Is sounds like you have enjoyed today’s Wonder, Meg! We Wonder if you and your sister enjoy anything else… perhaps you both enjoy dancing, or candy? :)

  9. Thoughts: (Luke) I thought the video about ants was interesting because it showed how the ants constructed the hill. (Justin) I thought it was interesting when they said it took tons of cement to fill an ant colony. (Ben) I thought it was amazing how ants can carry four times its weight.

    Connections: (Quinten) I have an ant hill in my back yard. (Hazen) My one year old brother was bitten by an ant when he saw his first ant hill. (Isabelle) When I was nine years old, my sister and I went to my friends house and she was bitten by a fire ant. She started crying.

    Predictions: (Chris) Who Invented Jelly Beans? (Alyssa) Who Made the Chocolate Bunny? (Michael) Why Did They Make Cakes?

    • Good afternoon, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Coleman’s Class! Luke, Justin, and Ben have been doing a great job of thinking about the ways ants live. They are incredible insects!

      We have been WONDERing about ants that bite, too, just like Hazen and Isabelle! We like that Quinten can observe ants right in his backyard!

      We love your sweet predictions for tomorrow, Chris, Alyssa and Michael! YUM! We look forward to seeing you tomorrow! :)

    • WOW, those are some great question, Ria! We hope you’ll continue to research and Wonder about the life of ants! We hope you’ll tell us all about what you have learned! Keep up the great work! We’ll see you tomorrow, Ria! :)

  10. Tony again but I knew a lot about ants but I thought that when the Queen ant dies the male ants breed a new queen! Cool right?

    • Hey again, Wonder Friend Tony! The Queen rules the colony, and it’s up to her to produce as many ants as she can– they will help keep the colony running! We are so glad you learned something new with us today– you ROCK! :)

    • Hello to our Wonder Friends in New River Primary! We are so excited that you visited us today to learn about the lives of ants and where they live! Isn’t it amazing to see the colony they have constructed? We look forward to WONDERing with you again soon! :)

  11. Mrs. Farr’s Class
    Thoughts:
    Kaia and Kiona were surprised at how big it is.

    Monica and Jocelyn want to know how long it took for the ants to build it?

    Rebecca was surprised by the amount of rooms it has.

    Connections:

    Katelyn though it reminded her of a town.

    Anikah thought about all the digging it took to do all that work.

    Jesse though it reminded him of a castle.

    • Hey there, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Farr’s Class! We love all the awesome thoughts you have about our ant Wonder! Kaia, Kiona, Monica and Jocelyn have some great questions and thoughts about the ant colony!

      We love the connections from Katelyn, Anikah, and Jesse– there is so much exploring to be done in the ant colony! We like the references to towns, castles and all the digging! :)

      Thank you so much for all your WONDERing and great work! :)

  12. I think ants are helpful to us they eat food on the ground outside that we have droped. They also have the weirdest looking bodies it’s like 3 bodys they have! How many hearts do ants have I wonder? Also, how many ant species are there? I only know like 5 of them! The only thing that I don’t like about ants is… the get on you and try to bite you! They also look weird! They give me the creeps sometimes!

  13. I think that ants are so cute! They look like little things that bite you!(and they do!) I think they help us by picking up the crumbs that we drop out side! They clean up after us! They can commuicate with their antennae! I did not know that! They look cute to me but my sisters hate them they think they look scary! The only thing that I think about is… there are wires underground and they will probably chew through those! I’m glad they work together! :D

  14. (Zoe) Do you like ants? I do! I think there cool! They clean up after us! They pick up are crumbs that we droped on the ground! I like the fire ants because they are red and I like fire too I like their name too! My sister says: (Megan) I think ants look cool to but sometimes they scare me!

    • HELLO to our awesome Wonder Friends Megan and Zoe! It sounds like you really enjoyed our ant Wonder today! HOORAY! We love all the great thoughts you have about ants– how they live, what they look like, and what they do! We LOVED learning about their colonies– how intricate!

      Thanks for sharing your super comments and visiting Wonderopolis. We know you learned about where ants live, but do you know how sTrOnG they are? Check out Wonder #836– Do Insects Work Out? http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/do-insects-work-out/ :)

    • That’s a SUPER Wonder question, Marc! We bet you can do some research of your own to find out more information about all the ants that exist! We can’t wait to hear about what you learn! :)

    • We’re so glad you’re here, Wonder Friend Olivia! Thank you for sharing your comment and telling us about what you look forward to learning at Wonderopolis! :)

  15. Dear Wonderopolis,
    We wondered how the ants communcicate to tell each other what to do and how to work together. They sound like an amazing insect. We are intrigued to learn more about them. Thank you for such an amazing wonder!

    Mrs. Kahler’s 2nd Grade Class

    • What a great Wonder, Mrs. Kahler’s 2nd Grade Class! We think it is very cool that you’re WONDERing about how ants communicate and work as a team! They communicate in different ways, including the use of their antennae.
      Thank you for WONDERing with us today! :)

    • AWESOME question, Marko! We aren’t certain, but thousands and thousands of ants can live in a colony, especially one as large as the video showed! It’s like a town for ants! :)

    • Thanks for WONDERing with us again, Kylie! We’re glad you’re thinking about how ants live, work, and how long it takes to create a structure like that! We hope you’ll do some research of your own to learn more about the ant way of life! :)

    • We’re sorry that you are unable to see the video. Things appear to be working here in Wonderopolis. You may want to check your internet connection.

  16. We learned that ants can live in colonies that have millions of ants. They also can carry things twice their weight. There are three types of ants the queen, the males, and the workers. Some ant colonies can engulf a whole acre. We wonder how big ants can get and if the size of the ant effects the size of the bite.

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Where do ants live?
  • How many ants can live in a colony?
  • Can you find ants living near your house or school?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Ready to check out some ants up close? All you need to do is gather a few friends or family members together and have a picnic! Or you could also just check out one or more of the following fun activities:

  • If you choose the picnic option, you’ll need a couple of snacks. Check out these ant-inspired picnic recipes and make one to take on your picnic!
  • Ever WONDER how many different types of ants there are? Could there be dozens? Maybe even hundreds? What about thousands? Do some Internet research on the types of ants that can be found around the world. Based upon what you learn, pick out two or three types of ants and learn all you can about them. How are they similar? How are they different? Make a chart that compares the ants you researched based upon different criteria, such as where they live, what they eat and what they look like. Share your research with your friends!
  • Up for a challenge? Grab a friend or family member and head outside to search for ants. You might find some in your backyard or at a local park. Look for signs of a large ant colony. Do you see any small mounds of dirt near the bases of trees or plants? When you find some ants, take time to sit and watch them closely. What do they do? Where do they go? Can you find their home? Take along a notebook and a pencil to write down some of the things you see. If you want, you can even draw a picture of the ants you see. Feel free to share your ant observations with your Wonder Friends on Facebook. We can’t wait to read about your ant adventure!

Still Wondering

In ReadWriteThink’s Internet Quest: Ants! interactive, children use the Internet to research and record information about ants.

Test Your Knowledge

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