How many ants are crawling the earth?

You already know approximately how many ants are crawling through your outdoor lunchtime get-together or making a beeline to the sugar spilled on your kitchen counter, but how many ants are there everywhere in the world?  It is like one of those ‘guess the number of jellybeans in the jar’ games at your local school fair–cubed.  Previous estimates of the number of ants on Earth were “essentially educated guesses” and they were not very close.  Now, however, researchers have employed a new scientific method for offering a much better estimation of the busy critters…

Scientists compiled data from 489 studies that measured ant densities in different parts of the world using standardized methods. They extrapolated this data to estimate there are approximately 20,000,000,000,000,000, or 20 quadrillion, ants* across the globe. 

* This is still an estimation as most ant counts have been conducted on the ground, rather than in trees or underground–or in your kitchen.

Journal reference: Patrick Schultheiss, Sabine S. Nooten, Runxi Wang, Mark K. L. Wong, François Brassard & Benoit Guénard, The abundance, biomass, and distribution of ants on Earth, PNAS Journal, September 19, 2022, 119 (40) e2201550119.