Do you know that some ants keep ‘cattle’, small insects called aphids, which they ‘milk’ (stroke with their antennas) to feed on the sugary substances the aphids exude?
Ants are social insects. That is, they live in colonies, containing from a dozen to a million individuals. They have a caste system in which some ants are workers, some males, and other females. Among the workers, there are some which have big heads and strong jaws. These are the soldiers which guard the nest. Females and males have wings when they swarm out of the nest to mate but are wingless at other times. After mating, the queen ant flies off on her own. She lands and crawls off to excavate a nest after pulling off her wings. Never again she will see the daylight. She lays a few eggs which will develop into workers. When the larvae hatch, she feeds them with her salivary secretions. The queen lives off her fat and on her shrinking flight muscles.
When the first adult ants emerge, they are sterile females or workers who set at once to forage for food, both by themselves and for the future young. The queen may live for 15 years throughout an egg-producing machine, which the workers guard and feed diligently. Some of the eggs will hatch into reproductive females and males who will eventually fly off to establish their own colonies.
There are 3500 species of ants. Big, stiffly-moving carpenters ants riddle the woodwork of houses with galleries, like termites. Harvester ants live on plant seeds. In the tropical jungles live ferocious columns of carnivorous army ants which are constantly of the march. They are wholly blind and can only feel their way, yet they can clear the countryside of insects, birds and even small mammals which are luckless enough to come in their pain! Slave-making ants raid the nests of other ant species and carry away the pupae. When these become adults they help with the work of the colony. Some slave-makers have become so dependent on slaves that they cannot feed themselves or dig a nest without help.