Monday, February 25, 2008

Ants and Humans

Ants can be both harmful and beneficial to humans. Pest species include ants that harbor and protect homoterans that in turn damage plants. Atta leaf cutter that defoliate entire trees and pose a threat to tropical agriculture, harvesters that can strip rangeland of vegetation and thus promote erosion, carpenter ants that can damage wooden structure, and the red fire ant, which inflicts a painful sting. On the other hand, Chinese citrus growers have for centuries used pedacious ant Oecophylla smaragdina in mandarin orange trees to destroy insect pests, and other ant species have been similarly used to protect crops elsewhere.

Classification and Origin

Ants from a single family, the Formicidae, in order Hymenoptera. They differ from other Hymenoptera in processing a pair of metapleural glands. Although the function of these thoracic glands remains unclear, it has been suggested that they produce an odor that distinguishes one colony from another.

Ants probably evolved from wasps resembling the present day family Tiphiidae. In the fossil record, ants known almost exclusively from Tertiary fossils, the oldest of which is of the Eocene Epoch (approximately 53 to 37 million years ago). These fossil ant are similar to contemporary ants.

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