By Joe Pinkstone For Mailonline
Published: 05:00 BST, 8 October 2020 | Updated: 05:00 BST, 8 October 2020
Ants are known for their teamwork and incredible strength, but they also have another evolutionary weapon, they can use tools to survive when in danger.
The insects have been seen for the first time using grains of sand to get liquid food out of a tub if the threat of drowning is too high.
Using tools is seen as a sign of animal intelligence, mostly observed in primates and some birds.
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Ants are known for their teamwork and incredible strength, but they also have another secret evolutionary weapon, they can use tools when in danger
Study co-author Dr Jian Chen, of the United States Department for Agriculture, said: 'We knew some ant species are able to use tools, particularly in collecting liquid food; however, we were surprised by such remarkable tool use displayed by black imported fire ants.
'Our findings suggest that ants and other social insects may have considerable high cognitive capabilities for unique foraging strategies.'
Black imported fire ants, Solenopsis richteri, are native to South America, but are an invasive species in the southern United States.
While their repellent exoskeleton allows them to float on water, they still run the risk of drowning in nectar and honeydew, some of their favourite foods.
Researchers looked at how many ants drowned when given a 2.5 cm (one inch) wide container of sugar water.
The water's surface tension was reduced over time to increase the risk of drowning, to see how the insects reacted.