The Army Ant



You guys are in for another treat this week because our bug of the week is really scary! (I hope you like scary.)  I can't believe how many amazing bugs there are out there. It's crazy!


Gosh, I just thought of something! On my home page, I told you that I wanted to change people; I didn't want you to be afraid of bugs anymore. Well, I guess this week's bug is not going to help me with that goal; but it's really cool, so I'm going to tell you about him anyway!


He is the Army Ant! Take a look at the picture below and just pray that you don't live in a tropical forest! They can typically be found in South and Central America, India, Malaysia, and warm, humid places like that. I bet you people in North Dakota are feeling better about where you live all the time!


Home Sweet Home? Yikes!

Army Ants live in huge colonies of up to almost a million ants! Sometimes they camp out. That's called the stationary phase if you want to be scientific, but the word I really like is Bivouac. That sounds like "Biv-wac", if you're interested. Anyhow, something really amazing about the camping out phase (the bivouac) is the nest. Most ants dig holes in the ground when it comes time to build a home--not these guys. They get into a big pile and lock their legs and jaws together so that the shell of the nest is made out of ant bodies! Check out the picture below: This thing comes complete with tunnels and chambers and everything!


They do this because they move so much, and it's a lot faster to make camp and break camp when you don't have to dig a hole. I'm glad we don't live that way; but if we did, I would want my brothers to be the nest!


Time To Move, Kids!

It's during this time that the queen starts having babies. When the queen starts to lay eggs, she can lay up to 300,000 in just five days! Talk about over-population! Anyway, as the babies begin to become adults, it puts a serious crimp in the food situation. To keep everybody fed, the whole colony hits the road so they can find more food. This is called the Migratory phase or the Nomadic phase. I bet you didn't know that ants could be nomads!


Just FYI: this is a really good time NOT to be camping out nearby, especially if you happen to be asleep!


While these guys are on the move looking for food, they march at night and bivouac during the day. So I would suggest you adjust your schedule to theirs--if you don't want to be "what's for dinner", that is! 


These marches (some people call them "rampages") usually last about 17 days. During this time they eat anything in their way. They kill and eat up to 100,000 animals a day! Most of these animals are other bugs, spiders, crickets, scorpions, beetles, and even other ants; but they are also known to eat lizards, snakes, chickens, pigs and goats! They will also climb trees, trapping animals and eating birds and their young.


The Hunt!

The queen and the drones stay in camp while the soldiers and guards go in search of food. The guards are actually the largest ants and don't actually hunt. They are massive--up to an inch long with huge jaws. They will line the route of the soldiers and protect the soldiers as they hunt. The soldiers are smaller than the guards, and it's not their jaws that you have to worry about--it's their sting!  When they find prey, they sting it to death - they can kill small birds with only three or four stings - cut it into pieces, and then haul it back to the colony while being watched over by the guards the whole time!


We're Home!

At the end of the rampage, the colony goes into the stationary phase. But this won't last long! The queen will soon begin laying eggs, and the cycle will begin all over again.


I hope this was as interesting for you as it was for me! There is so much more that we could talk about, but as they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words!" So sit back and enjoy the video.


Thanks again for visiting! See you next week at Who Loves Bugs!




P.S. No, there will be no Bug Tips on how to make pets of Army Ants!