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Fast Fact: Ants

Insects may be hard to recognize, but pretty much everyone knows an ant when they see one. There’s a lot of different kinds of ants, though — more than 12,000 species in all! And of course it would be impossible to count all in the ants in the world, but scientists estimate there are 20 quadrillion ants on Earth — more than 2.5 million ants for every person.

Ants forming a bridge from one leaf to another.
(Photos via Shutterstock)

Ants live almost everywhere in the world, but you won’t find any on Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland and some island countries. You might think of ants as being black, but they come in many colors, including red, yellow and brown. They are very social insects and live in colonies. Some ant colonies can have hundreds of thousands of ants living in them!

Every ant in the colony has a job to do, but the jobs can differ among different species. Their diets can vary by species too. Many ants eat fungus, insects, nectar and seeds, but some ants can eat animals much larger than themselves, including reptiles and birds. Ants are known for their ability to carry things much heavier than themselves. It is estimated that they can carry objects that weigh between 10 times and 50 times as much as they do.

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