What eats every animal in its path, raids other ant colonies, and migrates to find more food? An army ant colony!

Army ants are amazing creatures! Not only have they founded nests, developed a social hierarchy, and migrated to other areas, but they also have a very interesting life cycle and colony structure.

Taxonomy

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropada
Class: Insecta
Family: Formicidae
Genus and Species: Eciton burchelli

Nests

Army ant colonies consist of the queen, the queen’s brood (her eggs), soldiers, and the workers. Army ants are nomadic, making temporary nests as they travel. The nest is made up of the army ants themselves. They form walls and fasten onto each other by using their mandibles (jaws) and their claws. This way, they can hang from a log or another surface while the nest encloses the queen and her brood.

Army ants are referred to as bivouacs — a cluster of ants. Their nests have chambers and corridors where they can bring in prey and transport eggs are being transported to other areas in the nest.

Hierarchy

The main castes in an army ant hierarchy are queens, workers and soldiers. In the hierarchy, the queen ant lays eggs the whole day. The large soldiers focus on defense, the medium size workers do the foraging, and the smallest workers tend the queen’s brood. Since the workers in the colony are sterile females, they cannot lay eggs or start their own colonies.

Migration

Because of their large colony size, army ants migrate in order to find food. They may raid other colonies and capture slaves. During the nomadic phase, army ants march at night and stop to camp in daylight. The colony starts its stationary phase when the need for food decreases. Then they make temporary nests and change them every day. Each of these rampages lasts for about 17 days. Some say that army ants may have a collective intelligence

Army ants kill and eat up to 100,000 animals in a day. Together they can kill lizards, snakes, chickens, pigs, goats, scorpions, and many other animals. They also climb trees and eat birds plus insects that may live in trees.

Description

Like many other insects, an army ant has a head, thorax and abdomen. The head has a mouth, eyes and antennae. The mouth has two scissorlike jaws called mandibles. Nevertheless, they can only swallow liquids because the solids form a ball that they must spit out. Unlike other ants, army ants do not have compound eyes, but instead have single eyes (but they are still blind). Army ants use their antennae to sense smell and touch. This is how they know which colony and nest they belong to. They use their antennae to communicate as well. The thorax is connected to the head by joints called nodes. The thorax is between the head and abdomen. It is connected to the abdomen by a narrow waist called the petiole. The abdomen is in the shape of an oval. That is where the stomach, large intestine, sting, etc. are located.

Life Cycle

Egg – larva – pupa – adult

Egg: The eggs are microscopic and white or yellowish in color.

Larva: Larvae do not have eyes or legs. They build a cocoon around themselves.

Pupa: The pupa is a relatively non-mobile stage.

Adult: When an individual leaves its cocoon, it is now an adult ant and belongs to a caste.

 

Sources
http://www.ex.ac.uk/bugclub/raiders.html