There are 10,000 known species of ants, which make up the family Formicidae in the order Hymenoptera, and it is estimated that there are between 20,000 and 30,000 species that exist throughout the world. Various types of ants are often grouped by the many different ways that they live out their lives, for example by what they eat, how aggressive they are or how they colonize. These insects also can vary greatly in size, some being as small as 1/25 inch and others being over one inch long.
The size of the colonies also differ between the many different types of ants, with some containing a dozen ants and others that have over a million members. The structures of these colonies are very similar, however, usually containing at least one egg-laying queen and many workers. The jobs of the wingless female worker ants include building nests, searching for food, caring for the young, and defending the colony. The job of the male in most types of ants is simply to mate with the queen, and both the males and the queens usually have wings.
The first of the many types of ants that often comes to mind is the carpenter ant, which can grow as large as 1/2 inch long. These types of ants make their home in living or dead trees, and sometimes within decaying wood inside buildings. They feed on protein, sugar, living and dead insects, and human food supplies such as meats, sugar or jelly. Carpenter ants are incorrectly thought to eat wood, which they only displace as they dig through it and create tunnels.
Army ants are particularly aggressive types of ants that prey on spiders, insects, and other ants, and have an extremely painful sting although they are not usually hostile towards humans unless provoked. Most army ants can be found in tropical regions of the world, while a few species live in cooler climates in North America. These types of ants live in massive colonies that can contain several million members and live in temporary nests called bivouacs.
Worldwide, there are over 280 species of fire ants, another aggressive kind of ant that, in groups, can kill a small animal with their toxic sting. Mostly, however, fire ants feed on plants, seeds and other insects, and make their nests in the soil, sometimes constructing mounds that reach heights of over a foot high. Colonies of fire ants can begin with a single queen and expand to thousands of ants rather quickly.
Ghost ants are types of ants that got their name because their small size, light coloring and erratic movement can make them difficult to see. These ants are common pests throughout southern and central Florida and sporadically throughout the world, and are known to seek out sweet foods. Their colonies are highly mobile with several queens, and can be particularly difficult to get rid of.
Thief ants nest near and sometimes within the nests of other types of ants, and steal both food and larvae from them. They are highly adaptable when building nests and in the variety of food they eat, which can include honeydew, fruits, breads, dead animals and packaged foods. Thief ants travel along set paths and will often use electrical wires to travel.