Ant identificationSuperfamily Formicoidea
These familiar and plentiful insects occur from the frigid regions to the Equator, being present in abundance practically everywhere, and it has been claimed that there are more individuals of ants than of all other terrestrial animals. They live in colonies which are quite permanent, enduring for many years in some cases, and the life of an individual ant may continue for several years.
Ants are nearly always easily recognized by the presence of a petiole which is enlarged near or behind its middle (Fig. 1), either being swollen or having a portion projecting upward there, followed behind by a constriction where this segment joins the rest of the abdomen. In some ants the following segment is also more or less similarly shaped. This gives these insects a rather elongate, narrow portion between the thoracic and abdominal masses, enlarged at one or two places, according to the number of segments concerned.
Three classes of ants always compose a colony-males, queens (females) and workers-and there may be subdivisions of each of these in some cases. The males and females usually have wings during a portion of their lives, these having a simple arrangement of the veins; the workers are wingless, though some have vestiges of these structures. The queens and workers are provided with a well-developed sting in some groups of ants, while ill others it is vestigial or entirely absent. The usual colors of ants are yellow, brown, black, red, dull red or brownish yellow.
Colonies of ants occur in many kinds of locations. Some are in the ground and these may be of different types of structure; some occur in the cavities of plants, either preformed or else tunnelled out by the ants; some form nests on branches, malting them of various materials; and some nest in timbers or other unusual places; while a few kinds have no fixed homes.
The food of ants is as varied as are their nest locations. Probably the original food of the group was insects, either dead or helpless, and many species feed on this material. Others take the honeydew supplied by scale insects, leafhoppers and particularly by plant lice. Some raid the nests of other species of ants and feed on their larvae and pupae. Plant seeds, bulbs and the bark on tender roots also form the food of some ants, and one tribe raises a fungus in order to feed upon its hyphae. Sweet materials, such as cake, candy, sugar and molasses in houses, often attract ants, which find in these substances satisfactory foods.