1902 Encyclopedia > Ant > Hymenoptera order, to which Familiar Ants (Formica) Belong. Early Descriptions of Ants. Grain-Storing Ants.

(Part 2)


(B) Familiar Ants (Formica)

Hymenoptera order, to which Familiar Ants (Formica) Belong. Early Descriptions of Ants. Grain-Storing Ants.

The Hymenopterous insects are distinguished by the possession of four membranous wings, although in certain exceptional instances-as among certain members of the ant community-the wings may be wanting. The organs of the mouth are partly fitted for mastication by the development of jaws, and partly for suctorial purposes by the possession of a proboscis or "antlia." The females of this order generally possess a terminal abdominal appendage, forming a "sting" (aculeus), or which may be used in the deposition of the eggs, when it is termed an ovipositor. The Hymenoptera, besides undergo a "complete" metamorphosis, -- that is, in their passage from the egg towards adult or mature existence they appear first as grubs, or larvae, then are enclosed in a pupa-case, and finally appear as the perfect, and generally winged insect, or "imago." The Hymenoptera exhibit, perhaps, the most remarkable development among insects of the faculty of instinct, and constitute excellent examples of so-called "social" insects, living in communities regulated by definite laws, each member of the society bearing a separate and well-defined part in the organization and arrangement of the colony at large.

From the earliest times ants have attracted the attention, not only of naturalists, but of philosophers and poets. The ancients were familiar with many of the phenomena characteristic of the ant colony. Aristotle and Pliny, for example, inform us that the labours of ants are regulated in a great measure by the phases of the moon. Pliny also makes mention of a species which he alleges is found in Northern India, which were said to equal Egyptian wolves in size, and were supposed to occupy themselves in digging gold from the bowels of the earth, whilst the inhabitants of the country were said to rob the ants in summer of their accumulated winter treasures.

The harvesting and grain-storing habits of ants, so familiar to the popular reader, were at first supposed to be common to all species of ants; but thus view has been abundantly proved to be erroneous, whilst the opposite extreme of asserting that no species practice these habits is to be viewed as equally incorrect. In many cases it is probable that observers have been deceived into the supposition that certain species of ants really carried grains of corn in their mouths, whereas the co-called corn grains of these species were in reality the cocoons or pupae-cases containing the young and immature forms. And whilst most species of ants are granivorous, or vegetable feeders, certain species are as decidedly carnivorous. These latter kinds do not, therefore, participate in the frugal and industrious habits of their allies.

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