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Types of Ants: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Farrell

Jen has taught Science in accredited schools in North & South America for thirteen years and has a degree in Sociology (Epidemiology & Aids Research).

This lesson investigates the world's tiniest, yet most plentiful creatures on Earth: ants. Explore the potent sting of bullet ants, super strengths of leaf-cutter ants, aggressive habits of fire ants, and impressive nest building of weaver ants.

Types of Ants

Scientists sometimes claim that the weight of all the ants in the world is roughly equivalent to the weight of all the people in the world. While no one knows for sure, there are more than twelve thousand species of ants found around the world. Species refers to the type of ant and their unique characteristics.

Each species has its own role within an environment. Some farm by gathering seeds and others are carnivorous predators. The work of ants across the world is important for the Earth's ecosystems and the living and non-living things in it. The constant movement of ants as they travel in large groups called colonies, help to turn up the soil. As a result, more nutrients reach the roots of plants, helping to create space for the plants to spread and grow. Ant colonies typically live underground, in nests, or in trees and are found on all but one continent: Antarctica.

Each species has its own bizarre practices. Wood ants guard other insects from predators and are rewarded with a sweet nectar for their protection. Honeypot ants can expand their bodies to significant proportions to store water and nectar, while hanging upside-down from their nest. Describing each species of ants could take a lifetime of studies. Let's take a look at four of the many fascinating species of ants.

Bullet Ants

Named for their powerful sting, reported to cause twenty-four hours of intense pain, bullet ants live in nests at the base of trees, throughout humid rain forests in Central and South America. This species of ant is arboreal, hunting insects and spiders in trees, rather than on the forest floor. The vast majority of people try to avoid the sting of bullet ants, but one particular scientist intentionally sought out the sting to create the ''Schmidt sting pain index'' as part of his research.

Leaf-Cutter Ants

Leaf-cutter ants have tremendous strength. These ants are capable of carrying up to twenty times their own body weight! The powerful jaws of these ants vibrate a thousand times per second to saw a leaf off a plant. Rather than eat the leaves, they carry them back to their underground nest. The leaves rot in the nests and form fungus gardens, which are the primary food source for leaf-cutter ants. Colonies of leaf-cutter ants are found throughout Central and South America as well as parts of the United States.

Cutter ants can remove the leaves of a tree in one day.
Cutter Ant

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