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Worker division, interpersonal communication, and the capacity to solve difficult problems are all features of ant societies. These analogies to human societies have long been a source of inspiration and research. Ants are used in food, medicine, and rites in many human cultures. Some species are valued for their ability to control biological pests.

However, ants may come into conflict with humans due to their ability to harm crops and invade buildings through their ability to exploit resources. Some species, like the South American red imported fire ant Solenopsis invicta, are considered invasive in other parts of the world because they grow in areas where they were accidentally introduced.

A few primitive ants lived widely on the Laurasian supercontinent, which is in the Northern Hemisphere, during the Cretaceous period. In comparison to the populations of other insects, their representation in the fossil record is poor, with only about 1% of the insect fossil evidence from the time period represented.

At the beginning of the Paleogene period, adaptive radiation led to the dominance of ants. Ants had grown to account for 20–40% of all insects found in major fossil deposits by the Oligocene and Miocene. About one in ten genera of the species that existed during the Eocene era still exist today. 56% of the genera found in Baltic amber fossils (early Oligocene) and 92% of the genera found in Dominican amber fossils (apparently early Miocene) are still alive today.