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!