Ants form colonies that range in size from a few dozen predatory individuals living in small natural cavities to highly organised colonies that may occupy large territories and consist of millions of individuals. Larger colonies consist mostly of sterile wingless females forming castes of "workers", "soldiers", or other specialised groups. Nearly all ant colonies also have some fertile males called "drones" and one or more fertile females called "queens". The colonies sometimes are described as superorganisms because the ants appear to operate as a unified entity, collectively working together to support the colony.
Antsare social insectsof the familyFormicidae and, along with the related waspsand bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolvedfrom wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceousperiod between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversifiedafter the rise of flowering plants. More than 12,500 out of an estimated total of 22,000 species have been classified.They are easily identified by their elbowed antennae and a distinctive node-like structure that forms a slender waist.
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