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any of the 2,500 insectinsect,
invertebrate animal of the class Insecta of the phylum Arthropoda. Like other arthropods, an insect has a hard outer covering, or exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed legs. Adult insects typically have wings and are the only flying invertebrates.
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 species constituting the family Formicidae of the order Hymenoptera, to which the bee and the wasp also belong. Like most members of the order, ants have a "wasp waist," that is, the front part of the abdomen forms a narrow stalk, called the waist, or pedicel, that attaches to the thorax. The wings, when present, are also typical of the order; the small hind pair of wings is attached to the rear edge of the front pair. The head has two bent antennae, used both as organs of touch and as chemosensory organs. In most species there are two compound eyes. The jaws are of the biting type and in some species are used for defense. Some ants have stings, and some can spray poison from the end of the abdomen. Most ants are black, brown, red, or yellow. Metamorphosismetamorphosis
[Gr.,=transformation], in zoology, term used to describe a form of development from egg to adult in which there is a series of distinct stages. Many insects, amphibians, mollusks, crustaceans, and fishes undergo metamorphosis, which may involve a change in habitat,
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 is complete. A soft, legless, white larva hatches from the egg; in most species it is completely helpless and must be fed and carried by adults. In some species pupation occurs within a cocoon. Ants are cosmopolitan in distribution.

Social Organization

All species show some degree of social organization; many species nest in a system of tunnels, or galleries, in the soil, often under a dome, or hill, of excavated earth, sand, or debris. Mound-building ants may construct hills up to 5 ft (1.5 m) high. Other species nest in cavities in dead wood, in living plant tissue, or in papery nests attached to twigs or rocks; some invade buildings or ships. Colonies range in size from a few dozen to half a million or more individuals. Typically they include three castes: winged, fertile females, or queens; wingless, infertile females, or workers; and winged males. Those ordinarily seen are workers. In some colonies ants of the worker type may become soldiers or members of other specialized castes.

Whenever a generation of queens and males matures it leaves on a mating flight; shortly afterward the males die, and each fecundated queen returns to earth to establish a new colony. The queen then bites off or scrapes off her wings, excavates a chamber, and proceeds to lay eggs for the rest of her life (up to 15 years), fertilizing most of them with stored sperm. Females develop from fertilized and males from unfertilized eggs. The females become queens or workers, depending on the type of nutrition they receive. The first-generation larvae are fed by the queen with her saliva; all develop into workers, which enlarge the nest and care for the queen and the later generations. It is thought that the production of males by the queen and the rearing of new queens by the workers may be controlled by hormonal secretions of all the members of the colony. There are many variations on the basic pattern of new colony formation. In some species the queen cannot establish a colony herself and is adopted by workers of another colony. Slave-making ants raid the nests of other ant species and carry off larvae or pupae to serve as workers; in a few slave-making species the adults cannot feed themselves.

Feeding Habits

Different species differ widely in their diets and may be carnivorous, herbivorous, or omnivorous. Members of some species eat honeydew from plants infested with aphidsaphid
or plant louse,
tiny, usually green, soft-bodied, pear-shaped insect injurious to vegetation. It is also called greenfly and blight. Aphids are mostly under 1-4 in. (6 mm) long.
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 and certain other insects; others, called dairying ants, feed and protect the aphids and "milk" them by stroking. Harvester ants eat and store seeds; these sometimes sprout around the nest, leading to the erroneous belief that these ants cultivate their food. However, cultivation is practiced by certain ants that feed on fungi grown in the nest. Some of these, called leaf-cutter, or parasol, ants, carry large pieces of leaf to the nest, where the macerated leaf tissue is used as a growth medium for the fungus. Most leaf cutters are tropical, but the Texas leaf-cutting ant is a serious crop pest in North America. The army ants of the New World tropics and the driver ants of tropical Africa are carnivorous, nomadic species with no permanent nests. They travel like armies in long columns, overrunning and devouring animals that cannot flee their path; the African species even consume large mammals.

Beneficial and Harmful

Ants as a group are beneficial to humans. Their tunneling mixes and aerates the soil, in some places replacing the activity of earthworms. Many species feed on small insects that are serious crop pests. House pests among the North American ants include the yellowish pharaoh ant, the little black ant, the odorous house ant, the Argentine ant of warm climates, and the black carpenter ant. Carpenter ants tunnel in wood but do not feed on it. The fire ant, which has a painful bite, is a serious pest to humans and livestock in many parts of the South.


Ants are classified in the phylum ArthropodaArthropoda
[Gr.,=jointed feet], largest and most diverse animal phylum. The arthropods include crustaceans, insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, scorpions, and the extinct trilobites.
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, class Insecta, order Hymenoptera, family Formicidae.


See publications of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture; E. O. Wilson, Insect Societies (1971) and, with B. Holldobler, The Ants (1990); G. E. Ball, ed., Taxonomy, Phylogeny, and Zoogeography of Beetles and Ants (1985); J. H. Sudd and N. R. Franks, The Behavioural Ecology of Ants (1987); L. Keller and E. Gordon, The Lives of Ants (2009); M. W. Moffett, Adventures among Ants (2010); J. Choe, Secret Lives of Ants (2012).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


(invertebrate zoology)
The common name for insects in the hymenopteran family Formicidae; all are social, and colonies exhibit a highly complex organization.


McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


works hard to prepare for winter while grasshopper plays. [Gk. Lit.: Aesop’s Fables, “The Ant and the Grasshopper”]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. any small social insect of the widely distributed hymenopterous family Formicidae, typically living in highly organized colonies of winged males, wingless sterile females (workers), and fertile females (queens), which are winged until after mating
2. white ant another name for a termite
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(1) The primary build tool to automate compiling, testing, packaging and deploying large Java projects. Written in Java and supported by all major Java development environments (IDEs), Ant executes a file of XML-based commands. It was created by James Davidson to automate compilations of the Apache project's Tomcat servlet engine. Ant was later used to build all Apache programs and migrated to the Java community.

Phing is an Ant version for PHP, and NAnt is a version for the .NET framework. MSBuild is a Microsoft build tool that was modeled after Ant. See build and make.

(2) (ANT) (Advanced Network Technology) A wireless protocol for ultra low-power sensor networks from Dynastream Innovations Inc. that operates in the 2.4GHz frequency band over a distance of 50 meters. ANT is widely used in the fitness industry, with Nike being one of the early customers.

ANT and Bluetooth LE
ANT is similar to Bluetooth LE but with lower overhead. Both support peer-to-peer and star topologies, but ANT adds tree, mesh and cluster modes. Using a master-slave architecture, ANT allows complex connections. For example, any node can be a master for one channel and a slave in another.

ANT+ (ANT Plus)
ANT+ adds functionality for specific device profiles such as heart monitors, speed sensors and remote controlled equipment. See Bluetooth LE and fitness tracker.

ANT+ and Bluetooth LE (Smart)
Geared to the active user, Garmin's fenix 5 smartwatch supports both low-power communications; witness this excerpt from the spec sheet. Bluetooth LE is also known as Bluetooth Smart. For more information, visit
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References in periodicals archive ?
It can be said, that as much as kopjes, acacia trees or the rolling savannas of the African bushveld are concerned, termite mounds or ant-hills are synonymous with the dark Continent.
Finally, although it was outside his remit, Mr Franks dismissed the theory that Hammarskjold was found leaning against an ant-hill. He pointed out the spot of the wreckage plan showing where Hammarskjold was found; but no ant-hill is indicated there, even though ant-hills are shown on the plan.
Congress should allocate the $500 million - an ant-hill sum in the Mount Everest that's the federal budget - needed for a one-year extension.
Imagine that I am an ant, nearing the completion of a magnificent ant-hill. Along comes a 12-year-old boy with big sneakers, who gives the hill an aggressive karate kick--completely destroying it, as men routinely destroy whatever blocks their way in the videos he watches--and, having destroyed it, just keeps on walking.
A personal regret is that there is no place for the voices of participants, but this is a book about the ant-hill rather than the ants.
In Things Fall Apart, Achebe uses the word in a hyphenated form to describe Obierika's compound to be "as busy as an ant-hill." (4) In this context, the word is used as a simile but also almost as a synecdoche because the tenor which conveys the comparison is not the ant-hill.
Along the way he recalls the Pound of the Pisan Cantos: "as a lone ant from a broken ant-hill." In a beautiful passage he evokes "This land, where I stand, was all legend / in my grandfather's time: cattle raiders / animal tribes, priests, gold." This is the authentic elegiac tone.
Or tried using a magnifying glass on an ant-hill on a hot day?
For the City Chambers are built on top of an ant-hill of buildings and houses which date back almost 500 years, and which were sealed off during the last great outbreak of bubonic plague in Edinburgh in 1645.
It refuses to budge on blatant human rights abuses ingrained in a nation reared on the robotic ant-hill teachings of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.
Forestry workers have been left stunned after discovering a man-sized ant-hill in a Northumberland wood.