Ants Rule!

Muse Science Magazine for Kids|July/August 2020

Ants Rule!
If all ants suddenly disappeared from the planet, life as we know it would collapse. In their book Journey to the Ants, naturalist E.O. Wilson and his colleague Bert Hölldobler analyzed the enormous influence these creatures have on ecosystems. Ants promote plant life, serve as predators and scavengers, and, in turn, serve as food for birds, dragonflies, and spiders. But they also can destroy crops and be serious pests.
By Sara Van Dyck

Wilson estimates that there are 10,000 trillion ants on the planet. They thrive in land habitats from forests to deserts to tropics, from treetop canopies to underground.

1 In excavating their underground nests, ants carry decaying organic matter down into the soil and carry minerals from below into the soil’s upper layers, aerating and enriching it for plants. Along with termites, ants remove more soil than earthworms or human farmers do. Scientists in Brazil measured the soil that leaf-cutter ants (Atta sexdens) removed to make just one nest. It weighed as much as six elephants—44 tons— and took up 800 cubic feet of space.

Leaf-cutter ants (various Atta species) are serious pests to farmers in Central and South America. Cutting into corn and bean patches, they can destroy billions of dollars of crops yearly.

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July/August 2020