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How many ants are there for every one person on earth?

Discover the impressive number of ants living on earth today.

Ants belong to colonies where social organization is key to survival. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Ants belong to colonies where social organization is key to survival.

Estimates suggest that there are about one million ants for every single person on earth.

In other words, if the number of ants in the world was rounded up, divided and parceled out to every man, woman and child on the planet, you personally would stand to receive a number in excess of one million -- and so would every one of your friends and family members.

Ants share with honey bees the distinction of having the most advanced society in the insect world. This social organization is what allows colonies of tiny ants to accomplish tremendous feats -- most obviously the building of huge and elaborate ant-cities to house their breeding queens and growing larvae.

But the social laws that govern the ant colonies are brutal, even offensive to our own sense of how life should be.

In most societies, an ant is one of three things:

  • A female worker ant: Always wingless and infertile, these ants toil -- mindlessly, constantly and thanklessly -- to gather food for the colony and to build and defend the vast ant-city.
  • A male ant: These ants grow up in luxury, and are fed and cared for by the female workers, but serving no useful function until they mate with the queen and promptly die.
  • A queen: These winged and fertile female ants reach maturity and then soar into the air to copulate, on a single occasion, with all of the male ants who are up to the task. The queens then shed their wings and spend the rest of their lives in the subterranean chambers of the ant-city, popping out babies.

Perhaps most troublingly of all, there are even some species of ants that gleefully practice slavery. Through brute force or cunning trickery, these ants enslave the members of rival ant species, forcing them to provide food and labor for an alien colony.

Indeed, we should be thankful that ants are so tiny and unthreatening to our own American way of life. But for the record, if any sort of 1950s-style nuclear mishaps produces a race of giant super-ants...watch out for the insect overlords.

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