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How Many Eyes Do Ants Have?

Eyes are important organs that help us see and take in the world around us. The planet Earth has over 9 million species of animals, and almost all of them have eyes, including ants. If you walk outside and look down on the ground, chances are that you may see these tiny creatures walking around.

In fact, you will find these ants on every continent except Antarctica. Ants are some of the most numerous creatures in the world, but how much do you really know about them? This article will answer any questions you might have about ant eyes and their eyesight.

Key Takeaways

  • Most ants have two compound eyes, and some have a few additional simple eyes.
  • While some ants have better vision than others, they all have blurry vision.
  • Some species of ants have night vision, and some species are blind.

How many eyes do ants have?

Ant on green leaf
Ant on green leaf

Ants may not have lungs or ears, but they do have eyes. Like most insects, ants have two large eyes called compound eyes. Compound eyes are two large structures made up of several tiny lenses called facets or ommatidia that can discern some detail and movement around the ant.

Each lens sees one point in the space around the ant so the whole eye can form a picture. Some ants, such as the queens, also have three simple eyes, or eyes with only one lens, called ocelli.

Do ants have good vision?

Ant head close up
Ant head | Image by Егор Камелев from Pixabay

Ants may have large eyes with many lenses; however, their vision is very blurred compared to humans. Compared to vertebrates, most ants have poor to mediocre eyesight. The majority of ants do not have very good vision at all.

Scientists have replicated an ant’s vision by putting a thin layer of clear nail polish over a dead ant’s eye.  After it dries, they carefully peeled it off and counted the facets, or ommatidia, to estimate the best resolution at which an ant can see. The results showed that ants have pretty blurry vision.

An ant’s vision may be blurry, but their compound eyes can detect movement very well. Also, some subterranean species of ants, such as army ants and driver ants, are completely blind.

Can ants see color?

Ant eyes
Ant eyes

The images an ant’s eyes create may be blurry, but they are in color. Ants can see colors in the blue-green range. They can also tell the difference between polarized and non-polarized light using photoreceptors.

What determines the quality of an ant’s vision?

The quality of an ant’s vision depends on the number of eyes and the number of facets inside those eyes. Some ant species have a larger number of eyes.

For example, carpenter ants have 12 facets in each of their compound eyes, while fire ants only have 11. Therefore, carpenter ants have slightly better vision than fire ants.

The size of the ant also determines how many facets they have. Smaller ants have fewer facets in each eye than their larger relatives: the fewer the facets, the more blurry the vision. So, if you see a larger ant roaming around, chances are he sees a bit more of his surroundings than his smaller counterparts.

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How do ants find their way around?

Ants team work
Ants team work

Since ants have blurry eyesight, you might wonder how they find their way around. Ants often use their antennas to follow chemical trails left behind by other ants.

During this initial route, they store memories of their surroundings to help navigate and find their way back to a food or water source they need to reach again. These tiny creatures have incredible memories, and even if the images are blurry, they can store various landmarks and landscape details for later recall.

In addition to their poor site and an exceptional memory, ants also use vibrations to feel where they are going. They also use special sensors on their knees and feet to get a feel for their surroundings. Between their memory mapping, vibrations, and sensors, ants are great navigators.

Do ants have night vision?

Night vision is the ability to see in the dark or very low-light conditions. Not all ants can see in the dark, but the ones that can have larger eyes with more numerous facets.

Research has discovered that an ant’s eye structure is determined by when they do their activities. Ants that work during the day have an eye structure that is not conducive to night vision, but nocturnal ants have evolved an eye structure that allows them to see better at night.

Conclusion

Ants are tiny creatures in a big world. They make their way around very well, considering their vision is blurry. Ants have other adaptations to help them find their way in the world.

Most species of ants have two large compound eyes made up of several small lenses. Their vision depends on how many lenses are in each compound eye. Some ants, like the queen, have a few additional simple eyes that increase their vision slightly.

Overall, ants have poor eyesight but have no problem navigating around the big world in which they reside.