With more than 10,000 cataloged species and often confused with termites, ants are insects with different hierarchical levels within a colony (eusociality). They are divided into castes according to their functions. The castes comprise workers (sterile females), fertile males and queens (fertile females).
In the colonies, individuals have morphologies adapted to their functions. The larvae develop according to the food they receive, turning into breeders or workers. Females and winged males are the individuals responsible for breeding. The workers are sterile and wingless females who are responsible for all other functions, such as cleaning the nest, feeding, protection and attack.
Generally, ants' nests consist of a system of interconnected tunnels or passages also connected to the outside. Depending on the species, nests can be built under tiles, door frames, floors, holes in tree trunks and/or directly in the ground.
They are present almost everywhere on the planet, not being found only in the polar regions.
Saúvas (Atta spp) and quenquéns (Acromyrmex spp) are known as leaf-cutting ants for cutting various types of plants that they use to grow the fungi on which they feed. They can cause big economic losses in several crops such as sugarcane, pasture areas, reforestation areas, among others. Some species of Atta, for example, are able to defoliate an entire orange tree within 24 hours.
They preferably consume foods rich in fat or sweet substances, and for this reason are also known as sugar ants. These ants have a habit of moving in well-defined lines and can build their nests in holes in domestic environments, such as inside walls or under floors. It is a potential risk to public health because they are mechanical vectors of bacteria and can cause infections when they infest hospitals. Due to the rapid growth of the colony, this is one of the most difficult species to control.