Army Ants’ Habitat

There are over 200 species of army ants that exist worldwide. Army ants thrive primarily in tropical areas and are common on volcanic islands and mountain heights and in vast deserts, swamps areas, lowland tropical forests, rainforests and scrub forests.

Although they usually live in humid climates, army ants can venture into agricultural environments and densely forested areas to forage for food. Army ant colonies can diminish the food sources of other animals such as birds, beetles and reptiles. As a group, army ants are capable of killing pigs, chickens, goats, snakes, lizards and other animals.

Army ants typically nest in trees above the ground but also can form a bivouac, creating a nest from the bodies of the army ants themselves. During this process, army ants use their claws and mandibles to attach themselves to one another, forming protecting walls to safeguard their queen and larvae. This structure is temporary and disassembles when the army ants mobilize.

Army ants are nomadic, nesting temporarily and migrating often to find new food sources for their large colonies. During the nomadic stage, army ants march at night and stop to rest in daylight. This nomadic stage may last several days.

The queen’s reproductive cycle controls both migratory and stationary stages of the army ants. When army ants have collected enough food, they begin their stationary phase and create temporary nests. They remain stationary for two to four weeks, during which time the fertilized queen lays up to 30,000 eggs each day. At this point, larvae from the previous stationary stage begin to spin cocoons, becoming pupae and then adults. As the population of the colony increases, army ants once again enter the migratory stage.

The army ant queen and her colony can survive up to 20 years. However, male drones will die soon after mating with the queen, and workers survive only one year.