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

At the manufacturing stage, when juice from oranges has been extracted and the pulp removed, the product is processed into two forms: not-from-concentrate (NFC) or bulk frozen concentrated orange...

We do, although you'd barely notice. There are two effects, both due to the spin of the Earth. 'Centrifugal force' due to the spinning lowers your body weight by about 0.4 per cent at the equator...

Head hair doesn’t change colour all at once, but many men have grey hair when their eyebrows are still dark. All kinds of body hairs change colour when ageing hair follicles stop producing...

Both fats and oils are molecules shaped like a capital E with a glycerol spine and arms made of fatty acid chains. In animals, the carbon atoms in the fatty acids are saturated with hydrogen atoms...

It's rare to see a dead bird on the ground, but it is also rare to see a dead mouse or rat - which are generally much more numerous. We don't question this because we don't see rodents much when...

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