The Army Ant from Costa Rica
They march. They set up camps like bivouacs. They destroy much of what is in their path, but they also attract a lot of followers who profit from their campaigns.
Tending to live near the Caribbean, Army Ants can be found from Southern Florida and Baja throughout South America. They inhabit montane, premontane and lowland forest. In Costa Rica they can be found in Cahuita National Park, La Amistad International Park and Corcovado National Park among others.
Army Ants are also found throughout many regions of Africa.
Mating & Reproduction
Army Ants function as a caste system where there are workers, breeding males and queens. The workers have a special role to play where they choose the next generation of queens and male suitors.
Army Ants build a moving nest known as bivouacs. The bivouacs are extensive and well-structured despite the way they appear. The colony only maintains one queen, but she mates with multiple males to produce the brood that propagates the army and its incessant movement.
Queen Army Ants are considered to be the most prolifically reproductive in the insect world with some African species producing millions of eggs monthly. The rapid develop of large colonies can result in a split where two colonies are formed from the original one. These splits also insure that if the new colonies don’t succeed, the worker ants may return to an earlier colony and reintegrate with the group.
Army Ants are considered a keystone species, because their rampant foraging results in other species being able to feed themselves as well. This is sometimes referred to as cleptoparasitism. A number of birds, beetles and mites follow the marches of Army Ants and take up the leftover spoils of the Army Ants’ conquests. Many of the birds are also then followed by butterflies who feed on the excretion of the birds that follow the bivouacs.
In a day, a colony of army ants might consume 500,000 animals. There are above ground, underground, and tree hunting species of Army Ants, and, collectively, they eat arthropods, larvae, earthworms, other ants, wasps, birds, bird and turtle eggs. Most small prey that get in their way are taken by Army Ants, but they do not have the ability to seriously damage large prey. In other words, humans are safe.
Army Ants are the largest species of ant. They are often portrayed as being devious scourges that can devour anything in site in films and television. There are more than 200 species of Army Ants.
Locations in Costa Rica: Corcovado National Park, Cahuita National Park, Manuel Antonio National Park, La Selva Biological Station
Diet: insects, birds, eggs, arachnids
Migration Pattern: constant
Habitat: montane forest, premontane forest, lowland forest
Species: Eciton burchelli