How Do Ants Get Water in The Desert?

Ants are active creatures and cannot remain still, which requires energy, so they need good food and water to survive. Species of ants living in the desert, like Messor, Solenopsis, and Pheidole species, suffer from dehydration due to a lack of water sources if they do not store it during rains.

How Do Ants Get Water in The Desert? Ants get water in the desert through atmospheric moisture, underground soil, and rainwater. Flower nectar and plant sap can also meet their nutrition and moisture demands. In addition, they get water from other insect bodies and fungi growing on the leaves.

They have to devise suitable strategies to avoid the loss of moisture from their bodies and store the excess water to prevent the drying of an exoskeleton.

Moreover, their colonies are at risk of slow growth and death in drought conditions, so they reduce activities and prefer to remain inside the nest to avoid water evaporation.

One of the typical desert species of ants is the Saharan Silver ant, which keeps its body cool by reducing direct contact to sunlight as they have a thick layer of silver hair on the body.

Ants have to suffer from dehydration and starvation sometimes, mainly when they are native to deserted areas because there are rare chances of getting food and water there.

However, these deserted species are adapted to survive in severe conditions by getting moisture from sources other than ponds, moist areas, and puddles. They also transport water from these sources to their colonies.

Get water from the atmospheric moisture

Ants can benefit from atmospheric moisture when there are no water sources on the ground surface as it helps them avoid death due to dehydration.

Ants follow the strategy of insects like beetles, which raise their abdomen in the direction of air by keeping their heads in the opposite direction. As a result, the moisture condenses and reaches their mouth.

Accordingly, it requires an effort of several minutes or hours to wait for the water to condense and hydrate their bodies. Therefore, they build nests in high-humidity areas to avoid drying bodies.

Insect body fluids

Ants and other insects contain a fluid in their bodies that serves as a medium for transporting nutrients to all the body parts and flows from the head to the abdominal tip.

This blood-like fluid known as hemolymph in insects contains nutrients that can help fulfill the energy requirements of the predator insects.

Accordingly, desert ants usually make efforts to look for other dead insects and suck their body fluid. Sometimes, they have to fight and kill the prey to get moisture or liquid from them.

Army ants are known for this behavior as they have bigger heads or mandibles that can be used to kill other smaller prey and get fluids.

This ant species is common in deserts, and they keep moving due to a lack of permanent nests. These migratory species are opportunistic that can grab and kill prey.

Ants chew insects and lack abilities to suck fluids, so they pierce the skin through teeth and drink the hemolymph or yellowish fluid from the body.

Ants use underground water

Some species of ants in deserts dig deeper into the ground to reach the water source. It requires great effort to reach the bottom surface, but it can help keep their bodies moist for a long.

The risk of dehydration can lead to colony death, so they have to build underground nests that can help prevent the drying of the exoskeleton by hydrating their bodies.

Accordingly, they reach several feet deeper into the soil, close to the water level, where the risk of moisture loss is also lesser because they are not directly exposed to sunlight.

Ants consume flower nectar for nutrition and water

Another potential source for insects living in the desert is the floral nectar that flowering plants produce. This nectar contains sugar and water to make a liquid juice.

Moreover, it has a sweet taste and pleasing aroma that can draw insects toward it when searching for a source of nutrition in a state of hopelessness in the desert.

They can get enough moisture content through liquid material secreted by flowers. Commonly, wingless insects or workers are the foragers that crawl upward on the stem to reach flowers.

Accordingly, they get a reward in the form of a food source after a climbing effort of a few minutes. In addition, it can help them stay hydrated for long as they can store extra nectar in their bellies.

Oxidation of fats in seeds

Most commonly, species of ants living in deserts get nutrition from the plant seeds that can provide a good content of protein and fats to them.

Seeds are a rich source of oils that can help compensate for the loss of fluids from their bodies by replacing the liquid content to some extent.

In addition, the red harvester ants particularly seek moisture from the seeds after oxidation of the fat content obtained from them. They can also feed growing larvae with amino acid-rich seeds.

The oxidation of fatty acids produces water, carbon dioxide, and a lot of energy that can be utilized for different body functions.

Furthermore, they can collect and pile seeds within their nest because they do not dry quickly. These insects can use the stored seeds for proteins or moisture to avoid dehydration.

These insects regulate their foraging behavior and collect food particles or seeds in small groups. They remain connected through a pheromone signal and inform each other.

However, these signals do not remain effective for long-distance foraging because the chemical cues can get disrupted, but it can help know if another ant has found a seed and taking it back.

Ants conserve rainwater in the desert

Most commonly, the ant species efficiently transport food and water to their nests, which can be used in the future during drought.

Moreover, they prefer to store it in their abdomens and transport the drops after rolling them down onto the exoskeleton to drop them into the nesting site.

They benefit from the natural source or rain to overcome their thirst and allow them to store it in different ways by moistening the leaves or feathers around the nest or wetting the sand.

They need to store rainwater because rains are rare in deserted regions, and they have to deal with excessive moisture loss in hot weather.

Grow fungus on leaves

Fungi are also a good water source, which is grown by these tiny creatures when leafcutter ants collect plant leaves and chew them into smaller pieces.

They reach plants and chew the leaves into pieces that their smaller bodies can easily carry. They make a pile of leaves or begin to chew before spreading them to make a platform.

The fungus grows on the platform and helps ants to meet their needs for food and moisture because the fungus growing on leaves contains around 70% to 71% water content.

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