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Ants are common insects, but they have some unique capabilities. More than 10,000 known ant species occur around the world. They are especially prevalent in tropical forests, where they may comprise up to half of all the insects living in some locations.
Ants look much like termites, and the two are often confused. However, ants have a narrow "waist" between the abdomen and thorax, which termites do not. Ants also have large heads, elbowed antennae, and powerful jaws. These insects belong to the order Hymenoptera, which includes wasps and bees.
Ants live in structured nest communities that may be located underground, in ground-level mounds, or in trees. Carpenter ants nest in wood and can be destructive to buildings. Ant communities are headed by a queen, whose function in life is to lay thousands of eggs that will ensure the survival of the colony. Workers are wingless females that never reproduce, but instead forage for food, care for the queen's offspring, work on the nest, protect the community, and perform many other duties.
Male ants often have only one role—mating with the queen. After they have performed this function, they may die.
Ants communicate and cooperate by using chemicals that can alert others to danger or lead them to a promising food source. They typically eat nectar, seeds, fungus, or insects. However, some species have diets that are more unusual. Army ants may prey on reptiles, birds, or even small mammals.
The cockroach is considered one of the most unpleasant of household pests. This brown or black insect can be found in houses, apartment and office buildings, ships, trains, and airplanes in many parts of the world. Domestic cockroaches, which are also called roaches, have a disagreeable odor. They live in warm, dark areas. Their broad, flat bodies permit them to crawl in narrow cracks and along pipes. They hide in the daytime, coming out at night to feed. The diet of the cockroach, which includes both plant and animal products, ranges from food, paper, clothing, and books to dead insects. Although cockroaches can be difficult to eliminate entirely, a variety of common poisons and traps are effective in controlling their numbers. Cockroaches are believed to be able to transmit several different human diseases.
Cockroaches are among the oldest living insects. Fossil cockroaches that resemble today's species are commonly found in Coal Age deposits from more than 320 million years ago. About 3,500 species have been identified. Although the most notable varieties are those that infest households in the temperate regions, most species are tropical. Some reach lengths of several inches, and many are colorful.
The cockroach has long, powerful legs and can run very fast. Long antennae on the head are used for feeling in dark places. Most species have two pairs of wings that are larger in the males. The female cockroach carries her eggs in a leathery capsule called an ootheca. Females of some common species lay 16 to 45 eggs at a time. The eggs take from 4 to 12 weeks to hatch. After the female deposits an egg case, soft, white young called nymphs emerge. After exposure to air, the nymphs harden and turn brown.
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