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Rikfrog via Flickr/Creative Commons.

The ants come marching, one by one, up the kitchen wall; it’s a sure sign of spring. These are the worker ants, females all, tasked with delivering food to the colony. Male drones remain in that colony, on call for their one role in a very brief life: mating with a fertile female destined to be a new queen.

All ant species work all the time for the survival of their colony. The first ant species evolved from wasps some 120 million years ago, shedding wings for a terrestrial life—for the most part.But back to those kitchen ants, single file and single purpose.When an ant finds food she lays a pheromone or chemical-scent trail on her way back to the colony that communicates "This way to the food!"Other scents communicate the wide range of information needed for colony survival.

Ants have evolved to inhabit just about every niche available, with new species being discovered regularly. And did you know, the weight of all ants on earth is more than we humans and all our fellow vertebrates combined.

Leading ant authority, Dr. E.O. Wilson, calls ants that enter houses "pavement ants," in from the outdoors to find food, warmth or moisture. “Eradicate them? Never! Study them,” says Wilson. Interrupt their pheromone trail and see how they react; or watch them touch antennaes as they trade pheromone messages. Here in our northerly latitude, it's easy to add another cause for appreciation: Ants! I guess spring really is here.

Chris Martin has worked for New Hampshire Audubon for over 31 years as a Conservation Biologist, specializing in birds of prey such as Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and Peregrine Falcons.

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