Thursday December 08, 2022

How many ants are on Earth? 20 quadrillion, study says

September 20, 2022

WASHINGTON: There are at least 20 quadrillion ants on Earth, according to a new study that says even that staggering figure likely underestimates the total population of the insects, which are an essential part of ecosystems around the world.

Determining the global population of ants is important for measuring the consequences of changes to their habitat -- including those caused by climate change. Ants play a significant role, dispersing seeds, hosting organisms and serving as either predators or prey. Some studies have already attempted to estimate the global ant population, but they resulted in a far smaller number than 20 quadrillion, which is 20 million billion. For this new attempt -- published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) -- researchers analyzed 465 studies that measured the number of ants locally in the field.

The hundreds of studies used two standardized techniques: setting traps that captured ants passing by during a certain period of time, or analyzing the number of ants on a given patch of leaves on the ground.