Army ants are a type of ant known for their aggressive predatory behavior and organized nomadic lifestyle, hence the name it bears. These species of ants belong to the subfamily Dorylinae and are naturally found in tropical regions, particularly in Central and South America, many parts of Africa, and parts of Asia. Studies have shown that there are over 200 known species of army ants.
Here are some key characteristics and behaviors of army ants:
Nomadic Lifestyle: Army ants are nomadic in behavior, meaning they do not build permanent nests; they are always on the move. Instead of permanent base, they form temporary bivouacs, which are large, hanging nests composed of their own bodies. These bivouacs are constructed for shelter during resting periods between foraging raids.
Foraging Raids: Army ants are highly efficient predators that conduct massive foraging raids on potential preys during their search of food. These species of ants usually move in large, organized columns and this pattern of movements give them edge over their potential prey. Simply put- they usually overwhelm their prey with ease. Their diet includes a variety of small invertebrates, insects, arachnids and other arthropods.
Blind and Deaf: Army ants lack proper vision. In other words, they are often blind or have very poor eyesight. To make up for their poor eyesight, they often rely on pheromones and tactile communication to coordinate their activities. Furthermore, they are also deaf. They lack the ability to perceive sound vibrations.
Soldier and Worker Castes: Like other ant species, army ants are organizational. They tend to have different castes, including soldiers and workers. Soldiers typically have large potruding jaws or mandibles and are specialized for defense and cutting through obstacles. Th workers are saddled with the responsible for foraging and caring for the colony.
Colony Structure: The colony consists of a queen, workers, soldiers, and a mobile brood (eggs, larvae, and pupae). The queen is saddled with responsibility of reproduction. She is the reproductive individual, laying eggs to sustain the colony.
Life Cycle: The life cycle of army ants follows the same paths as other animals in the animalia kingdom which includes an egg, larval, pupal, and adult stage. The development from egg to adult varies among species, and the pupal stage is often spent in a cocoon.
Ecological Importance: Army ants is ecologically indispensable for they play a crucial role in the ecosystems by controlling insect populations. Their foraging behavior helps regulate the populations of other arthropods in the areas they inhabit thereby reducing the problem the overpopulation of these arthropods could have caused mankind.
It’s important to note that there are many different species of army ants, and their behavior and ecology do also vary. The term “army ant” is a general descriptor for a group of ant species with similar characteristics, but the specifics that can differ based on the particular species.