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Desert Diary

Insects/Army Ants


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An army is marauding through the desert; those in its path run for cover! But this army of thousands of soldiers is not a human army, but an army of ants. What? Army ants in the desert? Surely we would have seen them! But the army ants of the Chihuahuan Desert are not active during the heat of the day. They do their drills and marches at night, or in the evening or early morning.

To this deadly force, other species of ants are tasty morsels. When army ants attack, the victim ants work quickly to evacuate their nests. They try to rescue their queen, the most important member of the community. They also race to carry the developing ants—and themselves—to safety. Anyone left behind will be captured and eaten!

Although army ants are usually found in damp climates such as tropical rainforests, this group has adapted pen and ink to our desert by being active only at times when it is cooler and the air is moist.


Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: William Mackay, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio, University of Texas at El Paso.



Gotwald, W. H., Jr. 1995. Army Ants: The Biology of Social Predation. Cornell Series in Arthropod Biology, Comstock Pub. Assoc., 302 pp.