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Do Ants Have Brains? (Explained)

Brains are complex organ that controls bodily functions and sends information across the body. Even though brains play a very important role in the central nervous system, there are some animals, like earthworms and leeches, that don’t have a brain at all.

Do ants have a central nervous system or a brain? If ants do have brains, how do these brains work?

Do Ants Have Brains?

Ant on green leaf
Ant on green leaf

Ants do have brains, but these nerve clusters are much tinier than human brains. A human’s brain has over 100 billion cells, but ant brains only have around 250,000 neurons. Although ant brains are small, they have large brains for insects.

This allows ants to communicate with each other and process information. The exact size of an ant’s brain can vary based on its species. The smaller an ant is, the smaller its brain is likely to be. Some species, like leaf ants, have much larger brains than other ants.

This may be because leaf ants specialize in tasks like foraging food and defending the colony. In addition to the brain in an ant’s head, ants have nerve clusters in their bodies called ganglia. 

These clusters are connected to an ant’s brain and control some bodily functions, like movement. This is why an ant can continue to move around even after its head is removed from its body.

An ant’s antennae function as a part of its brain. Ants store information in their antennae and use their antennae to sense chemicals that have been left behind by other ants. When an ant’s antennae are covered, it may not be able to recognize the other ants in its colony.

Are Ants Intelligent?

Ants colony
Ants colony

Ant intelligence is very different from human intelligence, but ants are one of the smartest insects. In studies, ants are able to use tools and solve problems. This research suggests that ants have the ability to learn and reason.

In addition to these abilities, ants have memories. An ant can remember the location of a food source and return to gather more food. Ants are also able to remember routes and can even show other ants the routes that they’ve discovered.

When ants work together, they’re able to accomplish all kinds of tasks. In fact, ants have shown behaviors that are usually only seen in mammals. Ants can communicate with each other, take care of their young, and live in colonies that have a complex social structure.

Do Ants Have Feelings?

Flying ant on white
Flying ant on white

Ants aren’t able to experience complex emotions like humans, but they do have some feelings. An ant’s brain has neurotransmitters, such as octopamine, serotonin, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters allow ants to experience pleasure, displeasure, and aggression.

Ants are also able to recognize the other ants that are a part of their colony. When an ant eats a sweet food that it enjoys, its brain produces dopamine. When ants behave aggressively towards other insects, it’s because their brains produce octopamine.

Research also shows that ants may be able to use serotonin to communicate with each other. If an ant discovers a food source that it wants to share with other ants, it can release chemicals called pheromones.

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These pheromones can create a trail that other ants are able to follow. Ants are naturally drawn to move towards things that they find pleasant and away from things they think are unpleasant.

Do Ants Have a Hive Mind?

Pyramid ants
Pyramid ants | image by Judy Gallagher via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Ant colonies don’t have a shared brain, but that doesn’t mean that an ant acts as an individual. All ants are able to deposit chemicals to communicate information to other ants. Instead of acting as individuals, an ant makes decisions on behalf of the colony.

While individual ants may behave in simple ways, ant colonies are incredibly complex. Ants base their behavior on the information they get from the chemicals that other ants release. Even after an ant in a colony dies, the other ants in the colony still have access to that ant’s “memories” thanks to the chemicals it’s left behind.

Worker ants in most species live for about a year, but an ant colony can live for as long as 20 or 30 years. Older colonies have access to more information, and ants may make choices that are based on the experiences of ants that they’ve never met! These behaviors are why ants are often described as being a part of a hive mind.


Ant brains may be tiny, but those small brains are capable of a lot! The ant is a smart insect that’s able to learn, observe, and even solve problems. Ants are also able to communicate with each other and share memories with other ants that are a part of their colony.

Not only do individual ants have brains, but an ant colony functions in a way that’s similar to a brain. Each ant has a brain that’s able to process external and internal information, and those ants use those brains to benefit the colony. Thanks to the way that ants cooperate with each other, these small insects can accomplish some amazing things.

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