Bengalureans leave by an ant trail

On a cool weekend morning in Lalbagh recently, anxious parents and children had gathered for an ant walk. Guided by a senior scientific advisor of a foreign embassy who has spent almost 25 years observing ants, the event saw the participants, armed with magnifying glasses, taking a walk in the park to see closely the lifestyle of this 'eusocial' insect .

Different types of ants and the activities they perform.

When participants begin to observe acrobatic ants, Sunil explains that in an ant colony, specific roles are assigned to each ant. He is at the top of the social hierarchy

Queen ant: Throughout her life, the queen has mainly one purpose: to lay eggs and expand the colony. In most cases, the queen ant chooses her successor. The premature death of a queen can also mean the death of the colony. To ensure her protection, she is always hidden inside the ant colony.

Male and female infertile ants: These ants generally act as workers, gatherers, nurses and caregivers of the offspring. His duties include finding food and cleaning the nest.

Fertile male and female ants: Fertile male ants are expelled from the colony, after which they need to find a virgin queen ant to mate. Similarly, fertile ants are also expelled. They can start their own colony once they find a suitable partner. Sometimes, these ants also challenge the authority of an existing female ant, to become the next queen.

Fun fact:
Have you ever noticed an ant with wings? These are often the fertile male or female ants that are given wings, so they can find a new mate and start a new colony.

Ants reprimand bad behavior

If a working ant tries to become dishonest, it is known that working ants bite that ant and put it back online. This happens because ants believe in working for the greater good of the colony.

Conquests and expansion of colonies

The most common enemies of ants are termites: they often fight for survival in similar habitats. It is also known that ants make war on other ant colonies, to capture more worker ants for their own colony. The conquerors, therefore, add more workers to their own colonies, qualifying them with their characteristic smell.

Agriculture and water harvest

Some ants are engaged in agriculture and produce mushrooms. They also milk some insects and drink their nectar. Some others reuse feathers for their nests so that they catch morning dew and store it for later use.

The travel patterns that ants follow

After detecting a solitary ant, a participant in the walking group asked: Ants don't walk in line? Responding to that, Sunil said the network is not a general feature. According to him, some ant colonies are numerous, so the gatherers come together and bring food home. They leave the trails on their way with pheromones, as if to announce: Look, I found food here. However, some colonies have fewer ants and, in such a situation, lonely ants set out to find food.

He also shared an investigation that he and his team had undertaken, in which they marked large collecting ants that went out to look for food in specific colors and studied their routines. “Ants are very disciplined and adhere to the paths assigned to them. Among those we had marked, we saw that each ant adhered to a particular route. One day, however, we eliminated one of these ants marked with color. And we were surprised to discover that the next day, an unmarked ant went out to look for food in the same way as the ant we had removed, indicating that there was a transfer of knowledge in the nest, ”he explains.

Do ants bite or bite?

On their way, participants see a red knitting ant in a tree. Watch out. They bite when they are alarmed, Sunil warned, adding: Often, when ants bite or bite, they run the risk of being injured. There are some ants that have evolved in such a way that they can bite the skin first, cause a cut and then spray chemical water into the wound.

Some of the common ants found in Bangalore

Fire ant (geminated solenopsis): infamous for their habit of biting, these ants can easily adapt to any environment.

Crazy black ant (paratrechina longicornis): a black crazy ant is known for its habit of cleaning its own legs

Smell ants (tapinoma melanocephalum): these domestic ants apparently absorb sugar.

Acrobat ant (crematogaster: an acrobat ant raises its gaster to release alarm pheromones

Weaver ant (oecophylla smaragdina): It is said that these ants persuade their young to release the silk they use to glue the leaves while building their nest.

Did you know

Some ants are blind. These insects can work perfectly well without eyes. They can perform their daily tasks using only their sense of touch and smell.