Since ancient times, the life of hardworking ants has been the subject of constant observation and lively interest for people. In ancient legends, poetry, and even in the Bible, attention was paid to these insects. However, despite this, we still do not know much about them, and some of the secrets of their lives were revealed to scientists quite recently.
Ants appeared on our planet 200 million years ago (in the Upper Mesozoic). Their distant ancestors - witnesses to the flourishing of dinosaurs - were underground predators, only much later they mastered the surface of the earth and climbed trees. Over time, some forms of ants died out, others appeared, and now scientists have about 8 thousand different species. It can be distinguished from any other hymenoptera by a thin stem of one or two segments connecting the chest and abdomen. In the rest of the order, the abdomen is directly attached to the chest.
Ants live families, and so large that it is not so easy to count all family members. In the nest of a red forest ant (Formica rufa) there are up to 1 million inhabitants. Growing up, such a family unites several anthills of its own species, between which, along special paths, a constant one is carried out (as in Tetramorium caespitum, Serviformica cinerea) or temporary (y Formica rufa, F.polyctena, F.aquilonia, F.lugubris, Coptoformica axecta) exchange of inhabitants. The roads of the ants never cross. Even if two paths approach the tree, then, as a rule, from opposite sides. There are known ant roads that did not change their configuration for 15 years, although they reached a length of 130 m. exchange trails ants have and fodder... Along these paths, they carry protein food (various invertebrates) and fall (sweetish discharge of aphids, rich in carbohydrates).
Curious how ants come to food. The process by which one of the ants - scoutwho finds a food object, directs another - forager porter to food is called mobilization... It can happen in various ways: tandem (when one of the foragers is attached to the scout and follows him until he finds food) - this is how the ants of the genus behave Leptothorax, cinema-optically (when foragers from the top of the nest observe where the scout brought the prey from, and go there) - this is done, for example, Cataglyphis foreli, driven by a group of ants by a chain (like representatives of the genera Myrmica, Tetramorium, Formica, Camponotus) or on the trail (at Lasius, Monomorium), complex of movements, which the scout makes, thus activating foragers (abbreviated - KDAF) - this is typical for reaper ants of the genus Messor... KDAF, in principle, can be both remote (the release of odor substances - pheromones, making sounds as a result of striking the antennae against the substrate and friction of one segment of the abdomen against another - stridulation, swaying the abdomen, etc.) and contact (tactile irritations, jogging in the nest chambers, head banging, strikes with antennas, etc.). One scout communicates in this way, as a rule, with a constant group of foragers of 5–8 ants. Moreover, if he ineptly conveys information about how best to get to food, foragers are more likely to make mistakes and go astray.
Ants collect the fall on aphid colonies, located both on the leaves of grasses and tree branches, and underground - on the roots of plants.
Fig. 1. Working individual of the red forest ant (Formica rufa) on an aphid colony
At the same time, they actively take care of their hosts: protect them from predatory insects, transfer them to parts of plants suitable for "grazing", build shading for them from direct sunlight, carry them away for wintering, etc. In such a relationship with ants, called trophobiosis, not only aphids enter, but also leafhoppers, coccids (or worms), leaf beetles and even some butterflies.
Ants - carriers of honeydew (foragers) collect it in a goiter, which is separated from the stomach by a special valve. By closing the valve, the ants block the path of the honeydew to the stomach, and when they meet their fellows, they transfer part of the honeydew from the goiter to the goiter - this is called trofallaxis ... One forager can feed 8–10 (and in some species - up to 100) ants in this way, and then again hurries to the colony of aphids to collect honeydew.