How Many Ants Are In The World?

Written by Volia Nikaci
Updated: October 22, 2022
© Andrey Pavlov/Shutterstock.com
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Often, it can feel like ants are everywhere, and it is hard to avoid them. There is a good chance that you will run into an ant colony somewhere along the way if you step outside of your home. Since they live in colonies, it makes sense that they are social insects. Additionally, they are the most significant and most widespread insects on earth. It’s no secret that ants are one of nature’s most persistent insects. So with this in mind, how many ants are in the world? Learn about the number of ants in the world and other interesting facts about these resilient insects.

What Are Ants?

Bees and wasps are ants closest relatives.

©iStock.com/ Ritthichai

Ants are eusocial insects of the family Formicidae. Eusocial means that they are incredibly social creatures that live in structured nest communities throughout the world. Yes, you read that correctly. Ants are one of those insects that you can find anywhere across the planet. They are most closely related to bees and wasps, which all have a narrow waist that segments their body. In fact, ants evolved from vespoid wasp ancestors in the Cretaceous period and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. Their body is separated into three parts—the head, thorax, and gaster (the part of the abdomen behind the waist). 

Despite how annoying it can be to find ants taking over your home or your picnic party, they are incredibly important to the planet. They are great for the environment and play a vital role in ecosystems. Ants help plants grow by fertilizing them with droplets of nectar they carry from flower to flower. They also serve as an important food source for birds, lizards, scorpions, wasps, and spiders.

Where Can You Find Ants?

As mentioned above, ants are basically found all over the world. Around the world, there are ants on almost every continent. An interesting fact about ants is that they can survive in a wide range of climates. Ants can be found in the desert, jungles, forests, and even in suburban homes. It is not uncommon to find ants on the floors of homes. The odds are that you will have at least one ant species to deal with unless you live in the Arctic or a desolated island. As long as an adequate food supply is nearby, they will likely survive and thrive in most environments. Although some ant colonies may have a more specific type of vegetation they prefer to eat, they will still find a way to harvest food or establish colonies near such vegetation. This is why they remain such resilient insects. Given this resilience, we must again ask: how many ants are in the world?

How Many Ant Species Are In The World?

Worker Carpenter ants (Camponotus sp.) taking care of the queen ant, eggs, larva and pupae in test tube.
Approximately 12,000 species of ants exist, most of them black, brown, or red.

©Poravute Siriphiroon/Shutterstock.com

Ants inhabit almost every part of the planet. Even though they are small, the total amount they add up is quite astounding. So how many ants are in the world? It is estimated that the world’s ant population exceeds 15,700 named species and subspecies of ants. From research that has examined all the continents of the world and the habitats within them, the number of ants on Earth seems to be over 20 quadrillion. Would you even be able to imagine how many ants that must be? The number is definitely large enough to exhaust our imaginations. Over 4,000 species of ants inhabit the Australian continent, making it the continent with the largest number of ants.

How Many Ants Are There In An Ant Colony?

Now that we know how many ants are in the world, how much do we know about ant colonies? Ant societies have a division of labor, communication between individuals, and an ability to solve complex problems. They are an incredibly complex society and they all depend on each other to survive. That being said, when we come across an ant colony it usually feels like there are so many ants that you can’t even count them. 

In a typical ant colony, the numbers can range from a few hundred to several thousand ants. However, most colonies have between 50,000-500,000 individuals. But some are home to millions of ants. Ant colonies are eusocial and efficiently organized. There are queens, workers, drones, and soldiers working communally to ensure the colony runs smoothly. This is one of the reasons why ants have been able to survive for so long.

How Long Have Ants Been On The Planet?

This planet has been inhabited by ants for a much longer period of time than you might think. The majority of scientists agreed previously that they have existed for at least 50 million years, which is a testament to the fact that they have had a high rate of survival. It is also for this reason that there are so many of them now. However, a study published in 2006 suggested that ants may have evolved tens of millions of years earlier than previously thought, up to 168 million years ago.

During the Cretaceous-Tertiary era approximately 65 million years ago, a mass extinction event in which many dinosaurs and other species of prehistoric animals were wiped out. The ant species, however, managed to survive through that. In comparison with humans, ants have been on the earth for a much longer period of time. Considering that an ant has up to 250,000 brain cells, this isn’t surprising. According to this figure, it is estimated that 40,000 ants collectively have about the same number of brain cells as a human.

Ant Diet and Predators

ants eating spider on leaf
It is not uncommon for ants to prey on spiders as well as other insects

©boyphare/Shutterstock.com

Ants are omnivorous insects in terms of their diet. In other words, ants are not picky eaters. Almost anything, including meat and plants, will be eaten by them. An ant’s typical diet consists of leaves, seeds, other small insects, nectar, and honeydew. Food is carried back to the nest by ants, who are capable of carrying more than 10 times their own weight. 

Due to their small size, ants are also a staple food for many other animals. Ants are regularly eaten by a variety of animals. Among them are beetles, caterpillars, snakes, birds, lizards, spiders, and snails. Clearly, ants play a very important role in the environment. Having so many ants in the world is pretty awesome!


The Featured Image

red ant isolated on a white background
Insects like ants have a head, thorax and abdomen and at least three pairs of legs, which are typically jointed.
© Andrey Pavlov/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Volia Nikaci is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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