Share

Six Surprising Facts About Ants

By Laura Dattaro
Published: February 25, 2014

Ants build rafts

Ants form themselves into rafts to protect the workers and queens during a flood. (D. Galvez/PLOS ONE)

Ants can be found in nearly every corner of the world — meaning they’re one of the few species that has to deal with nearly every kind of weather. For ants that live on flood plains, rising, rushing waters are a real threat, and it turns out they’ve developed a pretty ingenious way to deal with them.

When researchers at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, led by Jessica Purcell, flooded ants in their lab, the insects built a highly structured raft out of, well, themselves. The ants banded together, keeping their queen well protected in the middle of the raft, with the larvae and pupae — collectively known as the “brood” — at the bottom. Using this strategy, about 80 percent of the brood survived, and more than 95 percent of the worker ants survived, Purcell said, though in nature, the ants would also have to deal with other sources of danger including fish, birds and cold water.

The rafting strategy, which utilizes the fact that the brood are the most buoyant members of the ant colony, shows “how these ants take advantage of the properties of all members of the society when responding to an emergency situation,” Purcell told weather.com.

Rafting is not the only surprisingly complex behavior ants exhibit. Click through to learn more about what we know about the ants’ world.

NEXT: These ants are crazy


Featured Blogs

What Do Skyscrapers, Thundersnow, and Jim Cantore Have in Common?

By Dr. Jeff Masters
May 1, 2015

Thundersnow is a rare enough event to get even veteran meteorologists like The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore excited. New research shows that many cloud-to-ground lightning strikes observed in thundersnow are actually “ground-to-cloud” strikes, initiated by skyscrapers, wind turbines, and other tall objects.

The Great California Storm of April 19-23, 1880

By Christopher C. Burt
April 11, 2015

Could a single big late–season storm have a significant impact on the California drought? A 'Hail Mary' storm event? Normally by this time of the year (April 10th) California would have already received at least 90% of its rainy-season precipitation total and any additional rain or snowfall would have little impact so far as the current drought is concerned. However, back in late April 1880, one of the most intense storms ever to pound the state occurred. Here are the details.

Please check out the new homepage and tell us what you think!

By Shaun Tanner
April 2, 2015

The development team here at Weather Underground has been hard at work producing a new homepage! Please take a look at the sneak peek and tell us what you think!

Meteorological images of the year - 2014

By Stu Ostro
December 30, 2014

My 9th annual edition.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.