any of the 2,500 insect
species constituting the family Formicidae of the order Hymenoptera, to which the bee and the wasp also belong. Like most members of the order, ants have a "wasp waist," that is, the front part of the abdomen forms a narrow stalk, called the waist, or pedicel, that attaches to the thorax. The wings, when present, are also typical of the order; the small hind pair of wings is attached to the rear edge of the front pair. The head has two bent antennae, used both as organs of touch and as chemosensory organs. In most species there are two compound eyes. The jaws are of the biting type and in some species are used for defense. Some ants have stings, and some can spray poison from the end of the abdomen. Most ants are black, brown, red, or yellow. Metamorphosis
is complete. A soft, legless, white larva hatches from the egg; in most species it is completely helpless and must be fed and carried by adults. In some species pupation occurs within a cocoon. Ants are cosmopolitan in distribution.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.