Ant Facts

Ants are insects, they have 3 main body parts and 6 legs.

In biology, ants are classed as Insecta and their order is Hymenoptera (referring to the ant's membranous wings), their suborder is Apocrita (referring to their narrow waist) and their actual family is called Formicidae.

So now you know what we can keep ants in habitats known as Formicariums.

There are over 12,000 species of ants, 180 of which are within Europe, with perhaps 50 in Britain.

Ants are social creatures that live in colonies of hundreds, thousands or millions of individuals (depending on the species). There are different castes within a colony, and they can be of different sizes and shapes, known as polymorphs.

Ants communicate using pheremones (hormonally charged scent chemicals) and so can follow a trail of pheremones to food and back to the nest.

Ant nests are often underground, while other ants craft nests in trees. Some ants do not live in nests, as their colonies are always on the move.

Ants navigate using pheremone scent trails, as well as by remembering positions of landmarks, like stones. Ants can navigate by the sun and can count their own steps so they know distances.

The study of ants is called Myrmecology and so ant keepers are sometimes known as Myrmecologists.

Ant Morphology

Ant Morphology

Insects are made up of three main parts, the head, alitrunk and the gaster. Ants have one or two bumps at their thin waists called petioles.

Ant antenna always have 'elbows', they are articulated with one joint.

Some ants sting, injecting formic acid.

Ants do not have lungs or hearts! Spiracles allow air in and out of their bodies, directly into the blood stream.

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Thai Tree Ants (Crematogaster Rogenhoferi)

Ridged Abdomen?

26/08/2007 - are there two types of gaster? On the left you can see the usual 'heart-shaped' gaster that distinguishes this species of ant. But on the right, is a picture I took of my Crematogaster rogonhoferi that shows there's another phenotype! Four ridges can clearly be seen, as the light reflects of the two upermost ridges.

What is the significance of this abdominal difference?

Are there really 3 sizes of workers, with two different gasters?

Crematogaster Rogenhoferi (or as I call them, Thai Tree ants) are from Thailand and the south and east of Asia I believe.

They may be found in the Philippines, Malaysia, 

They appear to have 3 or 4 polymorphs; a queen, alates, and perhaps three styles of worker ant.

The Major worker is only a little longer than the Mid worker, yet its gaster (abdomen) is significantly larger, and the whole ant seems considerably bulkier. The Mid worker (shown bottom-left) is the predominant caste, and then there are the Minor workers; at 3mm long they are quite quite small.

The workers have a pointed triangular gaster and it is shiny brown and perhaps banded.

The winged alates that fly off in summer are 9mm long and have a large fat gaster, they are black. Presumably the larger alates are females and the smaller alates are male.

I have not seen a queen, and there may be several queens in a colony, as C. rogenhoferi are polygynous.

Crematogaster Rogenhoferi like other Crematogaster ants perhaps, build their brown paper-like nests in trees, around 2.5 metres off the ground.

Feeding Ants

Ants, in general are omnivorous, and some species hunt and eat a surprising variety of larger prey.

Some ants actually farm aphids, and milk them for the honey-dew they produce.

Some ants cultivate special fungus, working hard to provide the ideal growing conditions.

I cannot be certain what my Thai tree ants' (Crematogaster Rogenhoferi) natural diet is, as there is so little information available; the web turns up absolutely nothing about these fascinating tree dwellers.

Generally speaking, ants enjoy non-citrus fruit, honey, and eating various species of insects and grubs / bugs.

Foods to try:

  • Grapes;
  • Melon;
  • Apple;
  • Ant Jelly;
  • Squished flies, woodlice, spiders, grubs n bugs.

You need to provide a varied diet, so experiment and see what your ants like, but don't skimp on the meat, you may well need to go hunting frequently, or buy some insects for them!

Honey will keep your ants happy and busy for hours, but they need other things, and meat! Remember that sweet foods will make your ants thirsty, so have fresh water readily available at all times. A colony is at risk of dying from dehydration if you do not supply water.

Crematogaster Rogenhoferi Morphology

Crematogaster Rogenhoferi Morphology

This great close-up clearly shows the 'double waist' of the Two Petioles. Knowing whether an ant has one or two petioles helps greatly with their identification. C. rogenhoferi has a distinctive arrangement of petioles. If you can examine their waist in detail you may see that the second petiole is attached to the gaster in a unique manner, and is known as a post-petiole, and so distinguishes Crematogaster ants from other families. For a diagram of the post-petiole arrangement, see Australian Ants online.

Check out the Ant Morphology illustration.

Note that the heart-shaped or triangular Gaster is raised on this individual. She may have been bobbing her Gaster in a state of wariness, or she may have been holding it in the raised aggressive position due to the intrusion of the camera.

The ant above is what I call a Mid Worker - she is 5mm long perhaps, and has an average sized gaster. Read more about sizes.

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