It is interesting to explore the behavior of different species of ants as every species has unique and impressive behavior of building webs, collecting food, and fighting with predators.
Do Ants Make Webs? Ants make webs by squeezing the larvae bodies to get sticky silk that is used as glue to join the rolled leaves and build a nest. This network of silk can be used to protect pupae from attack by winding threads around cocoons. Adult weaver ants resemble spiders in appearance and are known to create a mesh of leaves or silk.
Probably, some of you have seen ants with silk or thread on their abdomen and wonder about it.
Some of their larvae and babies can produce a lustrous white thread and are known as silk-producing vessels.
Why do ants make webs?
Ants can construct a web-like structure with the help of leaves and silk for two purposes. First, they use silk to protect their pupae and build a cocoon to reduce the risk of damage.
Pupae are prone to damage from the environment as they are not adapted to changing weather and are at risk of attack. A quick change in external temperature or rainy season can make them die.
Accordingly, the adult colony members cover their bodies with protein-based material that helps avoid direct contact with moisture and heat rays.
This silk-based cocoon reduces stress on these developing insects and improves their lifespan by keeping predators away. Secondly, this network of silk helps build strong nests for living purposes.
The reproductive males can break the old nests made of plant twigs, leaves, and grass. It allows adult workers to create a new nest for the colony.
They are good at weaving leaves together and building a strong structure that can handle a whole colony. It is different from the one made by spiders due to the molecular structure of silk.
Furthermore, you can see web-making behavior in some other insects that produce silk to protect the stored food, like seeds or pollen, like a bumblebee.
How do ants make webs?
Adult ants come forward to make webs, as it requires great effort to roll up the leaves and build a robust platform. In addition, it involves teamwork when adults and larvae work together to create a nest.
Workers are essential for collecting or rolling leaves and bringing larvae to the construction site. However, they can’t build a nest without leaving, as these are silk-producing machines.
The process begins with the collection of leaves when adult workers carry chunks of leaves at a single point. Next, these tiny insects bring leaves at a close distance and roll them up together.
They have to put glue on leaves to join them and make a web-like structure, requiring silk-producing larvae.
The adult workers reach the queen chamber to carry larvae as they are used as tools.
They use strong mandibles to maintain a grip on larvae bodies and take them to the nesting site. Workers begin to squeeze their bodies, resulting in the release of silk from labial glands.
Moreover, larvae release glue-like material or protein-based silk to join the leaf chunks together. This sticky material connects the ends of leaves and creates a solid platform.
These larvae are shuttled over different regions of the leaves to join the pieces together. Adults keep squeezing their bodies, forcing larvae to release the sticky material drop by drop.
The larvae are left in the nest when their construction process gets complete. In contrast, workers move to a new location and bring new larvae to get silky material.
Furthermore, these adult insects spin the pupae to cover their bodies with the lustrous white thread produced from the labial gland of larvae.
Accordingly, this spinning process releases silk-like thread that is winded around their bodies to make a thick mesh of silk.
What type of ants make webs?
Many insect larvae can produce silk when they have passed through development stages, having complete metamorphosis, like bees, butterflies, moths, and a few ants.
Weaver ants are a particular species of insects known for incredible weaving ability. These insects are also known as arboreal or green tree ants, as they live in trees and show unique behavior.
This is the only species that shows weaving behavior for building a nest by drawing larvae to the desired nesting spot.
Accordingly, every larva tries to get shelter and contributes by producing silk. This species of insect showing engineering skills commonly lives in Australia and Asia.
In addition, this webbing ability is not observed in any other species of this insect except Oecophylla smaragdina, but spiders show this unique behavior of building a nesting platform.
Is there such a thing as a spider ant?
One species of ants is known as spider ants due to their weaving capabilities and web production. However, it is challenging to visually distinguish these two insects as spiders have evolved.
These insects have thin bodies and elongated heads. In addition, their legs are longer and thinner, making them physiologically similar.
Moreover, they behave like spiders, as they raise their abdomens from the lower end when moving. They also react rapidly and begin to move fast after detecting a threat.
However, there are some prominent differences in the number of legs and eyes, as these spider-like insects possess only six legs or two eyes, while spiders have eight legs and eight eyes.
Their bodies have antennae and are divided into three segments, unlike jumping spiders having two-segmented bodies with no antennae.
Furthermore, some of them have evolved their physical appearance and behavior to become part of their colonies and kill them. They mimic chemical cues and get an entry inside the nest to attack.
Can ants walk on a spider web?
It is challenging for ants to walk on the spider web as its structural components or thread is extremely thin. These insects can get trapped within the silk network if they try to move across it.
The molecular structure of silk produced by both insects differs slightly, which changes the texture of silk, making webs uncomfortable to walk on due to their sticky nature.
The entangled insects cannot get out of the thin silk threads even after making multiple attempts because the thread wraps around the body.
Accordingly, they need help from their fellows to escape these webs and release chemicals that can help them call others for help.
Collective efforts of tiny insects can help take trapped insects out of the network. Some other insects can quickly get out of it because they have scales on their bodies, like butterflies.
However, the tiny pharaoh ants manage to reach their nest and attack their larvae, so they have to devise another strategy to keep them away.
So, adult spiders cover the fine threads with an ant-repelling chemical (2-pyrrolidinone) to prevent attack from predatory insects.
The juveniles produce thin fibers that are not easier for predatory insects to cross the network and reach them, so they do not produce such chemicals for protection.