Ants are a highly warlike race, defined by their deep-rooted love of their colonies - massive, self-sufficient superstructures they construct - and utter dedication to the rarest of the four castes: gyne. Isolationist to the extreme, most Ants live and die within their own colonies, supporting one another in warring against their rival colonies to "steal" gyne for reproduction and spoiling.
Despite their harsh reputation as heartless murderers, Ants are highly social among their colonymates and deeply dedicated to each other, forming massive social networks and deep-rooted bonds. Woefully misunderstood by everyone outside of their xenophobic culture, they're mostly left alone to hash out their problems with other colonies - just the way they prefer, really.
There are two things that provide the pillars of Ant culture: caste and colony.
Both are decided at birth. Caste refers to one of four castes (dinergate, ergate, aner, gyne) that will provide an Ant with their job, place, and appearance within their colony. Colony is to which superstructure the Ant is born into, whose name will become their surname and for which they will dedicate their entire lives towards. Together, these two elements will guide the Ant through their life.
Highest on the caste rung is the revered gyne, the gear that turns the rest of colony culture. Gyne are needed to reproduce - they produce eggs near-continuously, allowing a colony to restock its population. Their extreme rareness, however, has turned them into coveted objects: darling sweethearts who exist to be spoiled and loved, with the entire colony tripping over itself to anticipate their needs and help them. Gyne typically range from extremely haughty brats to good-natured but naive innocents. A gyne's word is law, even if their requests are absurd or impossible. All gyne are naturally immortal, but can be killed through means other than age.
Aner follow up after gyne, providing the male gamete to the eggs. They make up the leader caste of society, taking on the mantle of running and managing a colony in all aspects - construction, raids, defense, cleaning, gyne care, law enforcement, medicine, research, maintenance, agriculture, finance, etc. It is upon their shoulders that the burden of running colonies falls, and they bear the weight with a resilient, but stressed smile; easily exhausted and burnt-out, aner overwork themselves usually and struggle to self-care. They make up for this by caring extensively for one another and gyne, forming extremely powerful bonds with one another and spending time with gyne to destress and relax.
Worker ants are the ergates, who are the domestic branch of colony life. While the aner may direct construction or medicine, it is the ergates who actually carry out the work, helping sort and create supplies, manage money, and obey the aner's word as law. Easily-flustered and rather shy, ergates admire and adore the upper two castes, fawning over the respectable, intelligent aner, and adorable, cutesy gyne. They're always eager to help and make themselves useful, throwing themselves into their work as much as possible. While they name themselves, most aner that don't work directly with ergates are unlikely to distinguish between individuals. Ergates stay within Internal Management.
The lowest caste is the dinergate, which are the main soldiers of the colony. While they make up the majority of the colony, their turnover rate and short life expectancy (thanks to war) means that their numbers don't overwhelm the other castes and they're often gone as soon as they're here. Most dinergates don't even choose to name themselves once they turn adults, instead keeping their designation or being known by whatever infamous stunt they've pulled. Depending on the overall vibe and culture of the colony, dinergates may be quiet and reserved, aware of their fate but accepting it - or rowdy and loud, enjoying the short lives they experience to the fullest. Dinergates are a part of External Management.
Ants' colonies are highly socialist and highly communal. Private property exists (generally being considered to be personal belongings, typically stored in an Ants' assigned dorm) but resources, supplies, etc., are all considered belonging to the colony at large. No concept of money or bartering exists - if an Ant asks for it, they may have it. This includes food, water, entertainment, housing, electricity, etc. The entire colony works together to provide and protect for one another, providing emotional support and caring for their sick and injured. This is done with the unspoken expectation that the colony would care for them, too, should they fall ill or require help.
Colonies are broken into two major branches that work in tandem: Internal Management, which keeps the colony running: mouths fed, beds tucked, water running, electric on; and External Management, who defends every individual of the colony from invaders and raids others to collect gyne. Various jobs exist on either side of the division, and there is a (large) chart of these branches here.
Colonies may be led by a single colony leader, or a group of individuals serving as a committee instead. Typically, the named positions of that chart are filled by aner, but very rarely can be filled by especially bright or exceptional ergates.
They form extremely elaborate, strong social networks - usually through memorization of other Ants' personalities and behavior. They are highly attuned to each other and cannot stand isolation - most Ants can barely manage to be in a room alone for half a day before slowly breaking down emotionally and mentally. Ants can descend into panic if their close friends are injured or close to death, and will do anything in their power to protect their fellow colony mates.
Duels are seen as the proper way to settle most intense intercolony disputes, although normally the only thing dueled over is leadership of the colony. Duels are not to the death; they are to either unconsciousness or forfeit. To kill during a duel is to murder a colonymate, a crime of the highest decree, nearly on the level of harming a gyne (which is nigh unspeakable).
While highly rare, it is not unheard of for Ants to leave colonies altogether or change allegiances. To do such a thing, an Ant must appear in front of the leader(s) of the colony and slice their palm open, letting their blood drip to the floor as they declare their new colony. They then must be allowed to gather their personal belongings and leave for their new colony.
Rival colonies are near-universally despised, usually seen as lesser than or worse than one's own colony. Most Ants have no qualms about brutally murdering other colonies' Ants (save for gyne), but do hold back to some extent - they don't normally methodically murder one another, and most raids are more akin to small hit teams of experts and dinergates as distraction rather than full-on battalions and warfare. Still, the nonchalance Ants have with injuring one another and murdering their fellows is enough to shake most other races into distrusting them.
But it's worth it, to steal back gyne from the other colonies! The most powerful around, after all, is the one that can host the most gyne and keep them as pleased as possible. Ants rever gyne so heavily that if one is carrying a gyne, rival Ants will no longer attack them, for fear of scaring the gyne or, stars forbid, accidentally maiming them. It's a sign of major humiliation to watch as a team of Ants carry away stolen gyne to their own colony, practically invincible.
Children Ants are born from eggs, and spend the first twenty years of their lives being instructed by the education department. Young Ants are highly intelligent, rarely cry as babies, and mature extremely rapidly. By mid-teenagehood, their intelligence and physical prowess is comparable to adult humans. They are sorted into their recommended careers at 20 (but can change their job later).
Children are given a designation depending on year born and what number their egg was when hatched. They may choose a given name when they come of age, at 20, but have nicknames for each other until then.
When children are born, their palms are pricked to check their blood and caste. This is usually painless.
Ants generally harbor great mistrust towards non-Ants, but begrudgingly deal with them in most Universes. A division of External Management is dedicated to tending to outside laws and politics, ensuring the colonies are safe from any outside of their bubble. These individuals are usually the public faces of their colonies, and are what most people think of when the term "Ant" is brought up.
They spend the most amount of time outside of the colonies, and often pine after precious vacations at home. Most long to return back to colonies, and take any chance they can get to head there - the outside world is not as friendly to such an overtly social species that can't stand being alone or isolation in any forms.
It's seen as a grueling, but needed and highly respected job.
This section is NSFW. Please do not read if you are underage.
Ants are oviparous, with the aner and gyne castes being capable of reproduction. While ergates and dinergates can have sex and produce fluids, they are infertile and incapable of impregnating or being impregnated. Gyne carry eggs and are fertile year-round, while aner fertilize said eggs. Both are required to produce a single clutch, which varies from 10-20 individuals.
While most would consider gyne "female", they do not carry the ovaries and uterus of other an/binary races. Instead, gyne have a uterus-equivalent pouch where they store sperm - upon this pouch being full, their bodies will then proceed to produce a clutch of eggs. The eggs gestate inside of them for approximately two weeks, and upon exiting the gyne have soft to the touch shells and are small. They harden quickly, and grow to the size of ostrich eggs before hatching into young Ants. Gyne do not experience menstruation or infertile periods; their bodies will produce eggs continuously unless they take a form of birth control (usually hormonal). Laying and producing eggs is painless. Typically, a gyne lays ~20 clutches a year, but this number may vary.
Gyne lactate continuously, but do not usually breastfeed their young (it's simply unfeasible, with only two breasts and up to twenty children). Babies are usually bottle-fed for the first few months before transitioning quickly to solid foods. Gyne usually don't raise their children, nor do most aner - there are specific divisions of Internal Management for egg caretaking and education.
Ants have an extraordinary rate of mutations, most of which are fairly safe thanks to Magninium's DNA-checking side effects. This helps offset the issues of inbreeding in small colonies, as well as erase any possible repercussions of defects. It's nearly impossible to tell the father of most Ants, as most children look completely dissimilar to their parent(s).
Ants are an especially tall and foreboding race, sporting four arms and heights typically above the average of seven feet. Most outsiders wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the four castes just by sight alone, but to the Ants, the caste differences are incredibly stark (then again, maybe the introductory pheromones everyone gives off helps them out).
All castes have four arms and a small, bunched furred tail. They also all have antennae (or "feelers") on the top of their head - sensitive nubs used for pheromone communication. Length of the feelers varies by caste, but it's not a hard and fast rule: some individuals may have unusually-shaped feelers for their caste.
Gyne are the tallest, at 10'-11'. Their blood is of a deep blue color. They have pronounced canine fangs and extremely long feelers, as well as bug-like wings on their back. They're too heavy to fly, but their wings do buzz if they're excited or emotional. By virtue of sedentary lifestyles, most gyne are chubby (and this is viewed as a very good thing).
Aner stand at 8'-10', with teal-colored blood. Their mouths are exclusively full of sharp, serrated fangs, which grow back if yanked out. Their feelers are fairly short. Aner are the strongest caste physically and magically, and can easily overpower any one of the other castes, even if they're considered weak by aner standards.
Ergates come next at 7'-8', and highly resemble gyne - they have pronounced canines and long feelers (although shorter than gyne's), but no wings. They're physical pushovers, easily bossed around or shoved out of the way. Still, they boast a surprising amount of defense, and it's hard to actually break their bones or permanently maim them.
At the bottom of the rung sit dinergates at 6'-7', and they resemble aner, with shorter feelers and extremely sharp teeth. They're fairly hardy and can take a beating, but usually have short lifespans due to their casting as fodder. Their bodies are almost tank-like, built to withstand hits and shield the inner lines during raids.
The image to the right is of Fanuel, an aner from Hantel. Below are some examples of various extreme mutations. (Click through for full sizes).
There are four castes of Ants. Below are "cheat sheets" about them, although more information is described in the other sections:
Height: 6'00"-7'00" Lifespan: 500-900 years Blood: yellow Sex: Anbinary or Binary (either)
The most populous caste at around 60% of most colonies, dinergates live short and die hard. Depending on the colony's culture, the soldiers might be either wildly rowdy or surprisingly tame, accepting of their short lifespan and status as cannon fodder. Dinergates are the errandboys of External Management's division.
Height: 7'00"-8'00" Lifespan: 500-800 years Blood: orange Sex: Anbinary or Binary (either)
The domestic caste, ergates tend to the inner functions of the colony. They ensure it is well-running, making up about 40% of the population. Mostly shy and withdrawn, they're easily flustered and impressed, falling heads-over-heels to make others (especially the higher castes) happy. Ergates belong to Internal Management.
Height: 8'00"-10'00" Lifespan: 900-1000 years Blood: teal Sex: Binary (Male)
The commanders, the leaders, the managers of colonies. Aner typically make up about 10% of a colony, filling in most high-ranking positions among both branches and overseeing the colony functions. They form tightly-knit bonds with one another and with gyne.
Height: 10'00"-11'00" Lifespan: (indefinite) Blood: dark blue Sex: Binary (female)
The spoiled jewels of colonies, gyne live from birth in the lap of luxury. They want for near-nothing, with the rest of the colony bending over backwards to please them. Most act like spoilt divas, but there's a few here and there that have more sense in their skulls.
Ants almost always exclusively get rid of corpses via incineration. Teams of "fire" Ants on cleanup crew will go around an area after a raid, count up the bodies, and then burn them in usually-large piles. This is true for all castes below gyne; the death of a gyne is so severe that it can even cause temporarily colony truces as aner, ergates, and dinergates flock to the gyne's tomb to pay respects and mourn their passing. After this is done, the body is eaten.
Ants talk extremely loudly - often without realizing it. There's a lot of chatter in most colonies from how massive they are, and thus Ants are used to talking over each other. They can (and do) whisper, but it has to be a very conscious effort.
Antennae/feelers (on the top of an Ant's head) double as an erogenous zone in addition to a form of communication; Ants constantly emit pheromones that can express concepts, emotions, feelings, and ideas. These pheromones can be picked up by any other Ants in the vicinity, and can be used to communicate intent or reiterate something spoken. Touching and stroking the feelers are pleasurable for most Ants, although conversely they're also extremely susceptible to pain.
Most Ants don't tend to keep pets (although this isn't a hard-and-fast rule). They're seen, usually, as a drain on colony resources and a useless addition to the colony. (Gyne that desire a pet or warbeasts are not counted like this, of course). Ants have high pest drives and can kill most common household pests extremely easily.
Sunlight doesn't harm them, but most Ants see better in dim/low light. Most colonies are fairly dark, and almost every Ant is nocturnal. Their schedules are flipped to the opposite of diurnal races (10 pm is their equivalent of 10 am).
When not in colonies, Ants excel in artisan and skilled labor work, especially when they have teams. Most colonyless Ants can come off as clingy or needy, since their extensive social needs aren't always met outside of colony structures.
Favored foods include most high-energy sweets or raw meat, and Ants do not suffer from sugar crashes. Their metabolisms are relatively fast and it's not uncommon for most to snack throughout the day. Vegetables are pretty low on their hierarchy of preferred meals.
Aner are expected to never file down their teeth, but the other castes may file their teeth to mimic aner's. This is seen as slightly strange, but not a cause for concern.
Most Ants have issues with biting/teething, and many adults carry some sort of teething toy with them. Chewing on things is usually a source of nostalgic comfort, especially since the first thing many young Ants learn how to do is bite.
Many laws outside of colonies have Ant-exclusion clauses so that they do not apply to Ants - i.e. if a non-Ant is murdered by an Ant, if the Ant can prove that it was part of intercolony violence, they cannot be tried. Most colonies have subdivisions of lawyers/experts in non-Ant law to ensure these clauses remain untouched or added to new laws.
Most Ant "laws" are not written down, and are merely a social code that they follow and remember by heart.
Aner and dinergates commonly have missing limbs, scars, blemishes, or sustained injuries. It's seen as a sign of pride for an older member to have permanent injuries or scarring, showing how they've fought and defended their colony.
Internal Management is stereotyped as being soft and squishy, sappy little lovesick ditzes. Conversely, External is seen as rough and uncouth brutes who care more about working out than helping out. Both of these are considered as the stereotypes that they are, though, and are normally used as teasing.
Most Ants change careers once or twice in their lives, usually for a change of pace. This is considered normal and healthy.
As Ants have high rates of mutation, they don't tend to bat an eye at most weird appearances unless they're extremely out there (like different body plans/legs, or extremely large tails). The most common mutations are wings or horns in most colonies.
Ants can hold their breath for up to twenty minutes in a single gulp, but aren't great swimmers - they're a little too clunky