Ants: the basics

ant on flower

Ants are wholly fascinating creatures. But before we dive into the details, let’s look at a few important facts about ants: ant genders and roles, species, and social behaviors.

Ant genders and roles

There are 3 types of ants: males, fertile females, and sterile females.

Fertile females are queens and have wings. Their job is to lay eggs. Queen ants are not dictators. They lay eggs but do not manage or direct the work of the colony. In fact, there is no one ant or one type of ant centrally controlling the colony. Individual ants make decisions on what to do.

Sterile females are workers or soldiers. Most of the ants you see out and about are sterile females.

Males mate with queens, then die.


There are over 12,000 species of ants that have been classified. Ants show an incredible diversity in species, from tiny ordinary ants out on your sidewalk to army ants marching across Africa.

Social Behaviors

All ants live in colonies, which range from a few dozen ants to millions.

Watching ants work together is fascinating for children and adults. People who study ants are called myrmecologists.

More on Ants

This is the introductory post in a series on ants. If you’re itching to get started with some hands-on learning about ants, try an ant farm!

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