Ant Anatomy

Like all insects, ants have six legs. Each leg has three joints. The legs of the ant are very strong so they can run very quickly. If a man could run as fast for his size as an ant can, he could run as fast as a racehorse.

Ant body
Three main areas of an ants body

Most insects have three parts to their body and ants are no exception. These three parts are called the Head, Thorax and Abdomen.

The abdomen of the ant contains two stomachs. The ant stores food for itself in one stomach while the second stomach holds food which is shared with other ants. Like all insects, the outside of their body is covered with a hard armour this is called the exoskeleton.

Ants have two eyes that are called ‘compound eyes’. This means that each eye is made up of many smaller eyes (like a fly or bee).

Diagram of an ants eyes
Diagram of an ants eyes

Ants have antennae which are used for not only to touch, but also for their sense of smell. Their heads have a pair of large, strong jaws. The jaws open and shut sideways like a pair of scissors. Adult ants cannot chew or swallow solid food. Instead they swallow the juice which they squeeze from pieces of food. They throw away the dry part that is left over.

An ant brain has about 250,000 brain cells. A human brain has 10,000 million so a colony of 40,000 ants has collectively the same size brain as a human.

Ants usually lose, or never develop, their wings. Therefore, unlike their wasp ancestors, most ants travel by walking. Some tend to develop literal paths, the tiny equivalent of deer trails, or create unseen paths using chemical hints (Pheromones) left for others to smell.

The more cooperative species of ants sometimes form chains to bridge gaps, whether that be over water, underground, or through spaces in arboreal paths.

Among their reproductive members, most species of ant do retain wings beyond their mating flight; most females remove their own wings when returning to the ground to lay eggs, while the males almost invariably die after that maiden flight.

Some ants are even capable of leaping. A particularly notable species is Jerdon’s Jumping ant (Harpegnathos saltator).