How do ants make anthills?

Picture of an anthill in the forest.

A new home begins 

How are “anthills” built?

This is a very thrilling story.

It all begins with the coming of the rains.

All the queen ants are preparing themselves to leave home.

They feverishly get ready for the nuptial flight.

Never have they seen light before.

Neither have they had any experience in the outside world.

Yet, as if aware of the future before them, they await the falling of dusk so as to avoid some enemies.

Only after the rains have come and soaked the earth do they venture forth.

They seem to know that before the rains come the earth will be too hard, after its six-month drought, for them to begin work on a new home.

The foes of the “ant” also seem to realize instinctively that their annual meal of delicacies is about to be served.

In some parts of the world people trap them by using a light as an attraction.

Raw or roasted, they are a delicacy.

Containing about 44 percent fat and 36 percent protein, they have a caloric value of 560 to 100 grams.

The signal is given and the flight begins.

Thousands upon thousands upon thousands excitedly get their first.

View of the world outside.

It is estimated that only one in ten thousand of all of these will eventually build a new home.

Thousands become the stimulants for gastric juices and few, in comparison, succeed in escaping the hungry mouths.

After a few minutes’ flight the queens land, and as if their wings were now worn-out garments, they are discarded.

The female of the species takes the lead in attracting the mate, and he responds to her mating call.

Sure enough, here he comes!

His flight looks awkward as if he were tumbling but he steers himself right on course.

After landing and flicking off his wings he makes an ant-line for his partner-to-be.

He follows her closely as she leads him to their new home.

On finding some soft wet ground they begin to dig and this is the beginning of a new home, an “anthill.”

They have returned to finish their days in a world of inky darkness.

Strangely, though, these male and female ants had lived together before the exodus for as much as two years and yet there was no evidence of any sexual life.

In their life cycle they must experience flight, even if only momentarily, in order to be initiated into this new field of activity reproducing their kind.

Naturalists report that they have captured some of these “ ants” as they leave home and have cut off their wings so that they cannot fly, and these little insects seem to have no interest in life but just die off.

A few minutes’ flight sparks off their parenthood.

Anthill Architecture

Ants making an anthill.

The king and queen now build a hollow and start their own little fungus garden.

Soon the workers are milling around as the eggs continue to hatch.

These newcomers are the builders of the new home.

Their building material is a particle of sand mixed with saliva.

Some species use their waste matter mixed with a soil particle.

This becomes very hard, and with this material as building blocks the insects construct a labyrinth of tunnels and cells.

You may wonder how they are able to do this if no light enters their home.

We could illustrate it this way:

Imagine that you want to build an extension to your house but you cannot go outside to do it.

What could you do?

Well, perhaps you could knock out just a brick or two and then begin building by putting your arms out through the hole.

Once daylight is completely blocked out by the new walls, then you could crawl through into your new extension, there to begin the same procedure over again.

This is how the “ ant” builds.

Sometimes they tunnel hundreds of feet to obtain food and water, even boring their way right up through the trunk of a tree so that their aims can be accomplished in the dark.

In case of accident where part of the home caves in allowing the light to enter, there is an all out effort to restore darkness by filling in the gaps with their little building blocks.

They build two pillars of soil particles near each other.

Then one of them climbs a pillar with a piece of grass in his mouth.

With a wet piece of clay he secures the end of the grass to the top of the pillar.

Then as the grass stalk gradually bends over, a fellow builder on the other pillar catches it and fixes it to his side of the project.

They then build their little bricks around the stalk of grass, and so we have a reinforced arch.

The home is made and the “anthill” continues to grow.

Queen ant is tucked away cosily in her little cell.

She never works but her duty is to lay an endless stream of eggs.

All her children are busy about her.

They fetch water and food for the queen and carry her thousands of eggs to the breeding chambers.

The big fat body of the queen remains motionless, with her tiny head moving at one end.

The king?

He stays loyally with his not-too beautiful wife.

And so the endless night goes on.

Strange, isn’t it?

Yet that is the life of the “ant.”