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Insects and other arthropods

The ecological importance of ants

Camponotus sp, Québec, Canada.
Photo: Insectarium de Montréal (René Limoges)
Camponotus sp, Québec, Canada.
  • Camponotus sp, Québec, Canada.
  • Ants, Québec, Canada.
  • Ants, Québec, Canada.
  • Spider eating an ant.

Ants are among the planets most abundant insects. The total ant population is estimated at one quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000). One insect out of a thousand is an ant! Their numbers compensate for their small size. Their presence in nature and their actions towards the environment are essential to the well-being of the habitats in which they live.

Efficient cleaners!

Ants act as decomposers by feeding on organic waste, insects or other dead animals. They help keep the environment clean. Carpenter ants, which make their nests in dead or diseased wood, considerably accelerate the decomposition process of timber. After the ants leave, fungi and bacteria grow in the galleries and break down the lignin and cellulose on large surfaces.

Ants eat and are eaten

Ants are predators of other insects and their eggs. In their natural habitat, they are a source of food for many invertebrates and vertebrates, including woodpeckers and other insectivorous insects. Bears attack the trees where carpenter ants live to eat ant larvae and pupae.

Front line workers

By digging galleries and tunnels, ants help to aerate the soil. They till the soil by bringing pebbles and particles to the top. Like many other species of ants, carpenter ants are also efficient workers.

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