Ant Wars: Fight For Your Queen

19 April 2018
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Ants are looked at as a small, insignificant pest, but these insects can be very violent. Given the appropriate conflict, an ant war between two colonies of ants can occur. These ants will rip each other to pieces in order to protect their colony and Queen.

Who Do Ants Go To War With?

Ants are social insects which live in ‘families’ known as colonies. An ant war can be among ants within the same colony or a colony versus another colony. These insects can also fight other animals, and even humans when they feel threatened.

Ant War, Why and how do ants fight

Why Do Ants Fight Each Other?

Ant Vs Ant

Most ant internal ant wars (within a colony) occur as a result of issues related to the queen ant. Each colony has one female ant which is exclusively allowed to mate with drones (male ants) and reproduce. However, there are other female ants (workers) within a colony who may try to mate with the drones to reproduce. The internal war is mostly among worker ants as they try to compete for drones for mating and serving purposes. In such a case, a fight between two worker ants continues until one is defeated. The defeated ant returns to work worker while the winner is allowed to go on to mate. Fortunately, fights amongst worker ants of the same colony don’t result in fatalities.

Queen Ant Vs Female Ants

Nevertheless, in an extreme case, worker ants may “assassinate” the sitting queen once their number in a colony hits 300. The replacement of the queen may occur as a result of her deteriorated reproduction capability, hence the need to get another queen.  The workers with full reproductive capability become queens and mate with their male siblings to form their own colonies.

Ant Vs Ant Colony

Intra-colony fights may also occur as a result of wrong identification of an ant within a colony. Ants sharing the same colony identify themselves according to their unique smell. However, sometimes one of them may smell differently, perhaps like an outsider, possibly as a result of contamination or just a mistaken identity. In such a case, the ant may be attacked by its nest mates until it cleans itself and is accepted back or unfortunately succumbs to the injuries it sustains from the fight. 

Ant Colony Vs Ant Colony

In other instances, an ant fight may occur when one ant colony raids another colony for food. The raid triggers a conflict between the two colonies and eventually a war. Both colonies (the raider and the raided) summon their worker ants to the tournament ground where hundreds of fighters conduct a highly stereotyped demonstration of fights. Eventually, the colony that’s able to summon a larger number of workers than the other takes over the one with the less worker workforce. The end of the fight is characterized by the killing or chasing away of the Queen of the weaker ant colony by the stronger colony. The latter also takes the larvae, pupae, callow as well as the honeypot workers of the weaker colony.

How Do Ants Fight? How Do They Attack?

During wars between same colony members, ants will “whip” one another using their antennae for about  14 to 21 times until winners are established. While some ant species maim and kill their rivals using their mandibles, others like Brachyponera Chinensis use the sting on their abdomen to fight. During a fight,  the stinging ants mount on their enemies and pierce them using their stings. Other species of ant spray their enemies with formic acid, a poisonous substance. Some ant fights are so serious that some fighting ants end up being torn into pieces and eventually die.

What Do Ants Do With Their Dead?

Have you ever realized that if you kill a few ants in your kitchen, a few more are most likely to show up? The logic behind that is the fact that ants don’t leave their dead family members just anywhere. Instead, the surviving ones come to pick the dead and put them in their midden, a pile made up of ants’ waste matter and remains. This pile is said to protect the ant colony and their Queen from contamination. 

Ants will risk it all to retrieve their fallen brothers and sisters and return them to their homes. They follow the chemical called oleic acid which has a scent that creates a path to their dead and injured family members.

Ant War Conclusion

Ants may be small, but they are fascinating and extremely loyal insects. Their colonies a formed in such a structure, that they are born with these natural insects.

To see a video of an ant war in action, click here.