Ants are social insects that live in highly organized colonies that include workers, drones, and queens. Considered a highly successful insect, ants have colonized all parts of the world except for Greenland, Antarctica and Iceland. Ants are classified part of the Hymenoptera family of species with bees and wasps and this similarity is evident in their similar social structure. There are over 12,000 known species of ants in the world .
Highly organized, ant colonies are coordinated by the release of pheromones - chemical signals passed between individuals that allow information to be passed around the colony. Pheremones can be used for such diverse purposes as: marking trails, identifying which task group an ant belongs to, triggering alarms, and even spreading confusion among invading colonies.
Most ant colonies have male and female ants in highly specialised roles, such as queen, worker, etc. Some species of ant do not have any males at all, and reproduce asexually.
Relationship with humans
While commonly seen as pests, ants actually have many benefits for human agriculture including pest control, and aerating soil, and even collecting seeds for farmers. They also regarded as food by many cultures - ant larvae known as escamoles in parts of Mexico are regarded as a kind of caviar, and can sell for as much as $80 per kilo . Remarkably, in some parts of the world Army Ants are even used as rudimentary sutures, their powerful jaws clamping wounds together to assist healing .
Ants in fiction and the Bible
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8 (KJV)
Observe that the Bible gets the gender of worker ants correctly whereas Aesop's ant character was originally personified using the incorrect masculine pronouns.