For most people the Army Ant colonies seem dangerous. Hundreds of thousands ants that hunt and move all in one group can surely seem impressive, but they are not dangerous to humans, if not provoked. These ants inhabit territories ranging from south Mexico down to the tropical regions of South Africa.
Unlike most ants, this species are on a constant move. These colonies move at speeds reaching 20 kilometres per hour. They live in cycles of about thirty to forty days. That is the time the colony spends at one place, and only in exceptional cases will the construct a hive. They move only during the day, spending nights tightly squeezed to each other, with the work ants forming the outer layer of the living pile of millions of ants, with the queen and the eggs inside the very center of the structure. When not moving, the queen lays about 100 000 eggs every day. Having exhausted all food in one area, the colony migrates to a new territory.
Unlike most ant species, the Army Ants feed on live prey. When moving, they attack any creature in their way. Snails, caterpillars and bugs are no match for the force of millions of ants, each equipped with strong jaws, designed to tear apart any prey. Sometimes small lizards, snakes or even mammals become victims of these dangerous ants. In the colony, there are special scout ants who find prey, marking the path behind them with a special excrete. War ants then attack the target, while work ants carry the queen and the eggs behind.
The reproduction system of the Army Ants is quite complex. All year round, the queen lays eggs that hatch into infertile females that each serve a special function in the colony. Once a year, a set of fertile females and a number males hatch. A new queen along with a few thousand infertile females move apart from the already existing colony, later accompanied by about 3000 males. This is considered the birth of a new colony, and the new queen leads the young ants to another area. Males fertilize the queen, and one act of copulation is enough for the queen to store enough material to keep laying eggs all life.
Army Ants are undoubtedly the most dangerous and aggressive species of ants, but there is no reason for a human to fear them. Although many superstitious stories are told about Army Ants eating humans alive, it’s still a fact that these ants just lack the power to tear apart and kill a creature of human size. The closest resemblance to this fact may come from the habits of African Army Ants – they can actually kill a creature as large as a dog. Still, it should be noted that these ants attack only creatures that are in their path, and thus can easily be avoided.
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