Do ants have feelings?

Thursday 7th February 2013
Submitted by Susan Blackmore
Kevin McGrath, by email

Ants don’t have complex emotions such as love, anger, or empathy, but they do approach things they find pleasant and avoid the unpleasant. They can smell with their antennae, and so follow trails, find food and recognise their own colony. Their exoskeleton has sensory hairs on the outside but they probably cannot feel damage on the inside, which is why parasites can destroy them if they can get in without touching the sensors.

Each ant’s brain is simple, containing about 250,000 neurones, compared with a human’s billions. Yet a colony of ants has a collective brain as large as many mammals’. Some have speculated that a whole colony could have feelings.

If everyone stood together what area would we cover?
previous qanda Article
How much power do the biggest cities use?
next qanda Article
Q&A Tabs

Phlegm is the mucous secretion of the respiratory passages. The cilia cells that line these passages are continually driving the phlegm upward to the throat, where it triggers the swallow reflex...

Water has a very high volumetric heat capacity. Raising the temperature of a cubic centimetre of water by 1°C takes more than 3200 times as much energy than you’d need to heat the same...

Astronomer Fred Hoyle was the first to point out that if you could drive a car upwards at 95km/h (60mph), it would only take about an hour to get into space. To get to the Moon would take a little...

There are two possible explanations why dogs find it hard to hear or recognise your voice over Skype. Firstly, Skype (and voice telephone systems in general) are optimised to transmit frequencies...

Beard hair is quite different to head hair; it is coarser, curlier and doesn't fall out as we get older. Comparatively little work has been done on the genetics of human hair colour, but it is...

All female mammals have a clitoris, the sole purpose of which is to react to sexual stimulation, and presumably this stimulation has evolved to be pleasurable for most species. But establishing...

To create a sound, we have to set matter - whether it's a gas like air, a liquid or even a solid material - in regular motion, creating a wave of specific frequencies, which we hear as a sound of...

Mirrors don’t reverse left and right either – that’s just our interpretation of what happens. Your reflection in the mirror is actually reversed front to back – if you have...

Discovered by an American student named Gary Flandro in the mid-1960s, the slingshot manoeuvre usually involves spacecraft briefly 'coat-tailing' a planet orbiting the Sun, extracting some of the...

The ice disappears because the wind blows away water molecules that have evaporated or 'sublimed' from the ice, so the ice slowly shrinks in size. The molecules that escape are those with the...

We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here