We know that ants are little, but mighty. After all, haven’t we all seen an ant carrying a chip crumb that’s twice its size? It turns out that ants around the world have some other unusual capabilities.
When There’s a Chasm, Make a Bridge
When some ants—namely army ants—are out foraging for food and they encounter a gap or a chasm, they simply attach themselves to each other and form a living bridge across the gap as the remaining ants walk across. This happens in Central and South America, where there are apparently difficult places for ants to navigate. Army ants are so called because they raid in droves, killing everything in their paths. They don’t let a gap in their path stop them.
When There’s a Flood, Make a Raft.
Fire ants know how to survive a flood. And that’s a good thing, since many of them live in places, such as the South American jungle, where heavy rains cause flooding. When their nest is threatened, fire ants clip themselves together with their jaws, claws, and the adhesive pads on their legs, and form a massive floating raft of thousands of ants.
Fire ants have a hydrophobic (water-repelling) casing on their bodies, which keeps the raft waterproof. Because of the coating of fine hairs on their bodies, the ones on the bottom are able to avoid being completely submerged while the queen and the larvae are kept high and dry on top. Fire ants can form these rafts in as little as 100 seconds and stay in raft formation for several weeks. However, they face the constant danger of being eaten by predators, particularly fish, which makes dry land a preferable destination.
When There’s No Food, Become a Honeypot.
Honeypot ants (also called honey ants) live in some of the most arid or semi-arid places in the world—places like the Australian Outback, Mexico, and the southwestern United States. Honeypot ants have specialized worker ants who can store body fat, liquids, and water in their bodies from food that has been brought to them by worker ants. Sometimes, the food-storers swell to the size of grapes and lose their mobility.
When food shortages hit—as is common in the desert—worker ants will stroke the antennae of the honeypot ants and the honeypot ants will regurgitate the sweet liquid. Honeypot ants are not only valued by their own colony. Sometimes, raiders from other ant colonies try to steal them and humans eat them as delicacies.
Ants are some of the most hardy insects on the planet, but these three types of ants take it to a whole other level. If you see a bridge, a raft, or a honeypot, it might be ants. Beware, though, you don’t want to see these ants in your house—be sure to call ant pest control if you do.