A r m y   A n t

Over 200 different kinds of army ants exist in the world, only some of which live in the Amazon. Army ants live in huge colonies and, unlike other ants, have no fixed nests. Instead, they are nomadic, moving into different areas of the forest during "raids," killing, dismembering, and bringing to temporary homes (called "bivouacs") any animals that couldn't escape them.

Like other social insects (i.e., ants, termites, and honeybees), there are several different groups of army ants in a colony, headed by a single, large, fertile female, the queen. She has no wings and produces vast quantities of eggs, which are cared for by other members of the colony. Every 30-40 days or so, the colony gathers in a large swarm. The queen then lays up to as many as 30,000 or more eggs in two days. Male army ants are few in number and have wings; they periodically leave the colony to search for other queens. The majority of the 80,000 or so army ants in an average-sized colony are sterile females. These ants are generally either workers or soldiers. Soldiers are about twice the size of workers, with enlarged heads and jaws.

The many ants working together as a coordinated army function as a kind of forest "super-predator." They mainly hunt on the forest floor, killing other insects, small lizards, and small mammals, but they will also climb trees, killing tree insects, baby birds in their nests, etc. Because the ants move relatively slowly, most large or fast-moving animals are able to escape them.