Ants are of the family Formicidae and have been on the Earth since the Cretaceous period. There are a total of 22,000 species of ants.
So, how do ants see the world? Is it the same as humans or even better? If you are curious to know the answer, then you’ve landed on the right page.
The answer to the question, “What do ants see,” is: Ants see the world in colorful blurry vision. The vision of ants is dependent on their size; the smaller the ants, the blurrier the sight. Like bees, most ants can perceive UV, blue, green, and some shades of red color (with high intensities and low wavelength).
However, different species of ants vary in size and complexity distinguish the world in various types.
Later in this post, we have explained every detail on how do ants see the world, along with other related queries. So, let’s begin.
How do Ants see?
Ants see the surrounding depending on their size and species. Bull ants (8mm to 40mm) have three photoreceptors in their eyes that are sensitive to UV light, blue, and green.
On the other hand, electric ants (1.5mm) have less spatial acuity in their vision.
Most ants can notice their surroundings in a lower resolution with more colors than humans. Unlike us, ants have two types of eyes: compound and single eyes.
Compound eyes comprise thousands of mini-lenses called ommatidia that are very sensitive to the surroundings. Each ommatidium helps to focus on numerous pictures of one image.
The diameter and number of these ommatidia in ants’ eyes determine sight or vision. The bigger the diameter and the larger the number perceive more light, allowing them to catch the world with more clarity.
Below we have attached the image for better understanding. Imagine you are in a thick forest where everything looks blurry. And here we are considering only black and white surrounding to comapre ant’s eye view. Reference
As justified by the image, the more significant number of ommatidia provides a better vision. Australian Bulldog ants have the largest eye size.
On the other hand, the three small single eye called shiny ocelli on the top of the ants’ head plays a prominent role in vision.
Can Ants see Color?
Ants can see color varying on their species. The eyes of ants and bees are closely related. Bees can see blue, yellow, green, ultraviolet, and polarized light more advanced than a human eye. But their eyes don’t perceive red light.
Many scientists assume that both ants and bees see the world with a similar view. However, it’s not true for all cases.
In 2004, an experiment was performed on worker Lasius niger ants which surfaced that these ants tend to behave differently in response to red light (of different intensities).
The research concluded that ants are highly sensitive to red at high light intensity (10,000 lux) but not at low light intensity (600 lux). In a nutshell, ants’ species and size determine their vision. And most ants glimpse their surrounding of 30-60 cm area in a blur and colorful pictures.
Can Ants see in the Dark?
Ants can see in the dark leaning on their species. Nocturnal ants like Carpenter and Bull ants perceive UV, blue and green even at night.
These ants are highly active at night as compared to the day. They also have a large eye structure, which can contrast polarized light and permit them to navigate in the pitch dark.
Mostly nocturnal ants wander individually; therefore, they can’t rely on pheromones because they don’t have a colony to communicate with.
Hence to navigate in the dark, their eyes evolve with comprehensive photoreceptors that grant them clear sight and perceive more colors.
It allows them to find food, recognize landmarks, and locate their way back to the nest.
Below, we have attached an image showing how bigger eyes support ants to avoid obstacles.
Smaller ants have fewer visual navigation abilities. They mainly rely on other senses like hairs and antennae to avoid hindrances. However, bigger ants can see obstacles at a certain distance.
How far can Ants see?
Ants can see an entity as far as 30-60 cm on average. However, the range is also conditional on their species and size.
Australian Bulldog Ant can see up to 3 feet. Unlike humans, they have 2000+ mini lenses that help them find objects, sense danger, and navigate direction, not focus on a distant object.
Also, some species of ants like Safari ants or Siafu are completely blind. They are totally relying on their other senses. In a nutshell, how far their sight totally depends on their species.
Ants with small eyes are either blind or can perceive any entity up to the range of 50 to 60 cm. On the other side, large eyes ants have more ommatidia (mini lenses); therefore, they have the capability to perceive objects up to the range of 3 feet.
But the sharpness of their vision is nearly the same in every family. They do not have perfect eyesight. It does not depend whether the entity is at a far or low distance; they visually glimpse it in blurriness.
Can Ants see Bacteria or Atoms?
No, ants cannot see bacteria or atoms at any distance. Their eyes cannot focus at a microscopic level and cannot perceive x-rays or electrons. They have microscopic eyes. Their eyes have less to no clarity and cannot even see the perfect shape of any insects.
The ommatidia in ants’ eyes are only sensitive to the moving objects of a specific volume. So, think in this way that they see only moving objects without any clarity. They can see shape and size and estimate the colors but cannot visually discriminate the sharpness and details of the entity. Even the ants with larger eyes and 650 ommatidia witness the world in blurry vision.
On the other, if we think that ants’ eyesight has the same clarity as human eyesight. Still, it’s impossible to see bacteria and atoms with naked eyes.
Can Ants see Humans?
Ants can see humans but are not intelligent enough to distinguish us. They see all vertebrates (humans or animals) the same.
Ants classify all living beings as “Threat” or “Non-Threat.” With their senses, they efficiently find out that something’s there, and if the object moves, they take it as a threat or otherwise try to avoid it.
Also, with their smell and sight, they can differentiate us as living beings or objects.
Do Ants sleep at Night?
Ants don’t sleep at night; they take power naps from 250 one-minute naps in one day to eight minutes of nap every 12 hours in their 50 days of life span, depending on schedule or species.
However, Queen ants sleep up to nine hours per day in their five to six years of life span.
Ant Vision vs Human Vision
|Ant Vision||Human Vision|
|Have more than 2000 mini lenses||Have only one a lens|
|Cannot see the 3D view||Can see the 3D view|
|Can see in the dark||Cannot see in the dark|
|Some species can see UV and polarized light||Doesn’t have the ability to see UV and polarized light|
Here, we conclude our article on “How do Ants see the world,” along with other related queries. We hope you enjoy reading it. We will be back with another post. Till then, stay tuned with us and read the articles below.
1 lux = 1 Lumen/m2
1 foot = 30 cm
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In an ant’s world, the smaller you are the harder it is to see obstacles | The Conversation
Monty is a founder of How It See. Being a life science student in a reputed university, he always wonders about an eclectic correlation between science and nature. After engaging in various college projects, Monty determined to share all his knowledge with you as a writer. In the meantime, he loves to research and study about the various types of colorful animals.