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are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related families of wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. Today, more than 12,000 species are classified.
Highly organized colonies may consist of millions of ants; these are mostly sterile females ("workers", "soldiers", and other castes), with some fertile males ("drones"), and one or more fertile females ("queens"). Able to occupy and use a wide area of land to support itself, ant colonies are sometimes described as super-organisms as they appear to operate as unified entities.
Ants have colonized almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ants are remote or inhospitable islands. Ants dominate most ecosystems, and form 15–20% of the terrestrial animal biomass. Their success has been attributed to their social structure, ability to modify their habitats, tap resources and defend themselves. Their long co-evolution with other species has led to mimetic, commensal, parasitic and mutualistic relationships.
Ant societies have division of labor, communication between individuals and an ability to solve complex problems. These parallels with human societies have long been an inspiration and subject of study for man. Many human cultures make use of ants in cuisine, medication and rituals.
Some species are valued in their role as biological pest control agents. However, the ability to exploit resources brings ants into conflict with humans as they can, for example, damage crops and invade buildings. The accidental introduction of species into new areas and a tendency to sting has made some ants major pests.
Myrmecology (from Greek: μύρμεξ, myrmex, "ant"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge") is the scientific study of ants, a branch of entomology. Ants are often chosen as a study group to answer questions on the evolution of social systems. All ants are highly eusocial.
* Text and images are taken from Wikipedia.org