Fun Stuff!

Wood Ant Facts

World records

  • There are more ants roaming around the world than any other creature on the planet.
  • The combined weight of all the ants on earth would total more than the combined weight of all the humans.
  • A healthy forest has around 500 wood ants for every square metre.
  • If a human could run as fast as an ant for its size, it would be running as fast as a thoroughbred race horse.
  • They can lift 100 times their own weight. The human equivalent would be for us to carry a bus. 
  • Relative to their size, ants have the largest brain of any insect.
  • A human brain has 10,000 million cells. An ant brain has 25,000. So a colony that has 40,000 ants is equal to one human bran.
  • It has been calculated that an ant's brain has more processing power than the computer that controlled the first Apollo space missions.

Colony Life

  • The whole colony acts as one organism with interchangeable roles.
  • Colonies for the most part are all female.
  • The life expectancy of a worker wood ant is only 60 days, males only a few weeks, but queens can live 15 years or more.
  •  Queen ants sleep for up to 9 hours a day. Workers have to make do with power naps!
  • Wood ants are right-handed! Or rather footed!


  • Wood ants are solar engineers in that the different aspects of nest construction maximise thermoregulation. They also sunbathe on top of the nest on sunny days to absorb heat which they then release in the brood chamber.
  • As well as a loft insulator, the thatch is waterproof.
  • In autum, the nest can generate enough heat to melt a light dusting of snow.
  • Wood ant nests are home to many other insects - some welcome, some no so welcome! Many of these nest dwellers are found no where else.
  • Pine resin has antibacterial properties, so by incorporating this into their nests, wood ants are protected from bacteria and fungi that could otherwise harm them. 


  • A wood ant colony can consume more than 20,000 prey in a year.
  • Wood ants use sight and smell to navigate. They have remarkable memories for after hibernating for 6 months they will still remember routes to foraging grounds. 


  • They can spray formic acid 12 times their own length.

Folklore and Myth

  • There is a Cornish belief that ants were fairies in the final stages of earthly existence, gradually, generation by generation, becoming smaller. 
  • Another belief was that unbaptized children became piskies (Puss moths) when they died and finally through further transformations meryons (ants).
  • Ants eggs mixed with onion juice were a treatment for deafness in Scotland.
  • Old Scots names for ants are: 'pish-minnie' or 'pish-mither', 'enmet', 'eemocks', 'immicks', or 'emmerteen'. 
  • The 'hippy' wood ant is so-named because of its long hair!


Cartoon ant (c) Grey Earl