Some ants farm caterpillars like we farm sheep and cows.


Social insects are among the most successful of all animals. It has been calculated that more than half of the living animal tissue on earth belongs to social insects—termites, ants, wasps and bees. Social insects live in colonies where collectively they share the workload and the rewards.


Ants are the most organised of the social insects. They live in a caste system comprising workers, a queen and reproductive males. The workers in a colony are all sterile females. The males serve only one function, which is to fertilise the queen.

A fertilised queen will build the initial nest cells of a colony and lay her first batch of eggs. The offspring take over all duties inside the nest and continue to enlarge it as the colony grows. This allows the queen to concentrate on laying eggs.

An ant colony can number less than a hundred to more than a million. They communicate with one another by exchanging a droplet of sweet liquid—a chemical message called an ‘ant kiss’.

Tasks such as nest building, nursing the young, attending to crops or foraging for food are divided between the workers. Some ants even keep livestock, such as certain caterpillars and bugs that produce substances that the ants eat. Other ants are employed in defending the nest, and wage war against other ants.


Bee colonies can contain 60 to 80 thousand members, all of which are the progeny of a single queen. Like other social insects, the individual is of no importance; their lives are entirely devoted to the queen. All the worker bees in a colony are sterile females. Males are produced at particular times, but for breeding only.

At any one time a bee colony may have several thousand bees harvesting an area for nectar, and they are constantly on the lookout for new areas. When a scout bee locates a new source, it communicates its discovery to the rest of the hive in an extraordinary way. The bees gather around a space at the hive entrance where the scout bee performs a special dance. The type of dance informs the other workers of the nectar type and quality, the quantity, and even the direction and distance to the flowers.

Wasps, Bees & Ants
 Beetles  Flies
 Moths  Termites
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Bull Ants and larvae, link to large image Bull Ants and larvae

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Ant tending a caterpillar, link to large image Ant tending a caterpillar

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