Are Ants the Smartest Insect? | It depends!

Written by Thomas Matthews | checkbox Reviewed by Articles on Pest Samurai undergo a rigorous evaluation process by our Science Editors. Each article is scrutinized prior to publication and upon significant updates. Learn more about Pest Samurai Editorial Process. George Climer

Ants may be found almost everywhere and they are well-known for being well-organized and their ability to work together as a team. Despite their tiny size, they are extremely strong and also intelligent. 

Are ants the smartest insect? There is no conclusive answer to which specific insect is the smartest as it all depends on what we measure. If not the smartest, ants are definitely among the smarter ones.

How smart are these hardworking little ants? In this article, we’ll go over the different kinds of ants, talk about their intelligence, and determine how smart they are.

Are Ants Intelligent Species?

Are Ants Intelligent Species

The ability of ants to build complex and well-organized nests is one of the few signs that they are smart and intelligent. This enables them to live and thrive almost anywhere in the world.

How Smart Are Black Ants?

Black ants are one of the most common ants in the house, feasting on sweets and food waste that is easily accessible. They can wander far away from their nest and can still navigate and find the quickest route back to it.

Additionally, they have the ability to learn from previous experiences. This allows them to develop complicated navigational skills that they use whenever they venture far from their nests in search of food.

Related: How to Get Rid of Black Ants: A Complete Guide

How Smart Are Carpenter Ants?

Carpenter ants are commonly found in woods. They feed primarily on dead animals or insects, which provide them with sugar and protein. Also, they drink juice and liquid produced by plants, such as nectars and honeydews.

Carpenter ants demonstrate their intelligence by constructing their nest inside the woods with the orderliness and craftsmanship of the tunnels. The structural designs can be extremely complicated but very effective to be their nest.

Related: How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants | Effective Strategies and Natural Solutions

How Smart Are Fire Ants?

Red ants, often known as fire ants, are common underground soil nesters. Fire ants, like carpenter ants, can construct complex underground tunnels and nests using only their mandibles.

A colony of fire ants can have up to 20,000 members. It’s incredible how a large group can be so well-organized and efficient. These intelligent ants are natural architects and engineers.

Related: How to Get Rid of Fire Ants | Proven and Effective Solutions

How Smart Are Worker Ants?

Each ant species has worker ants, who are the colony’s most important members. Worker ants are the ones who make up a large portion of the colony’s members. They do the majority of building nests and finding food.

Worker ants can become more intelligent over time. They learn new things through experience. The best example is their navigation skills. When they travel, they keep track of their location and surroundings. This allows them to retrace their steps if they find themselves on unfamiliar routes.

Even without managers or supervisors, worker ants can number in the thousands and still be well organized and efficient. Worker ants are intelligent enough to cooperate and do their part as individuals.

Do Ants Have Brains?

Do Ants Have Brains

Despite their small size, ants have brains. According to studies, the ant brain can contain up to 250,000 brain cells. Ants are said to have the biggest brains of any insect.

Are Ants More Intelligent Than Humans?

It’s impossible to argue that ants are smarter than humans. The human brain has around 86 billion neurons compared to 250,000 brain cells in the ant brain.

However, there are several characteristics that humans lack that ants possess. Most people find it difficult to fully cooperate and work in a group setting. According to certain studies, ants are more rational than humans. In comparison to humans, ants perform things more rationally.

Are Ants Smart Enough to Avoid Poison?

Ants have developed methods to avoid being poisoned. Older worker ants in each colony taste food to assess if it is poisonous.

Ants are intelligent enough to learn new things through trial and error. They remember the taste, smell, and appearance of potentially dangerous food and will avoid them in the future.

Do Ants Teach and Communicate?

Do Ants Teach and Communicate

In general, ants can communicate. There are multiple ways how ants communicate. Here are some of their methods:

  • By scent: Ants communicate with other ants through chemicals called pheromones. Ants use their antenna to detect or smell the pheromones, determining if food is available.
  • By touch and body language: Ants communicate by touching others with their antennae and forelegs. If they are communicating at a distance, they may utilize body language such as raising their abdomen in the air.
  • By sharing food mouth-to-mouth: Trophallaxis, or mouth-to-mouth food exchange, is a popular technique for ants and other insects to interact. It is a method of sharing meals and delivering important information.

Do Ants Cooperate and Exhibit Teamwork?

Do Ants Cooperate and Exhibit Teamwork

Ants are the best example of cooperation and teamwork. They live in huge colonies, and each one of the members does their part.

A queen ant’s role is to lay eggs. Male ants are for reproduction. Lastly, worker ants, are hard laborers that search for food, build nests, and take care of ant eggs. These ants demonstrate teamwork by performing their jobs, and worker ants assist one another in all tasks.

Carrying food is the most common scenario in which ants work together. Several ants will assist in carrying a large amount of food back to their colony.

Are Queen Ants More Intelligent Than Workers?

Are Queen Ants More Intelligent Than Workers

In terms of intelligence, worker ants and queen ants are the same. They simply have different roles and responsibilities. Queen ants do not govern or give orders to worker ants even though they are queens. Worker ants work and perform their duties naturally.

Related: Queen Ant Unmasked | Incredible Facts (with Pictures)

Are Ants Smarter Than Bees?

Are Ants Smarter Than Bees

According to some research, bees are smarter than ants. However, comparing the two insects is difficult because they are different species with different needs and lifestyles. In general, both insects are among the most intelligent of their kind.

How Scientists Measure Ants’ Intelligence?

Scientists use a glass, human-made ant nest to conduct experiments and studies on ants, allowing them to see inside the nest. They will place the ants in various situations and scenarios and evaluate their intelligence based on how they respond to the scenarios.

Some of the scenarios include exposing them to various temperatures, providing different types of food, trapping ants away from the colony, and so on.

How to Get Rid of Smart Ants?

Ants are intelligent creatures that can be a nuisance if they invade your home. Fortunately, there are cheap and simple ways to get rid of ants. Here are a few examples:

  • Use odors that ants despise, such as tea tree and peppermint oil, cinnamon, and pepper.
  • Make sure all area is clean and that ants do not have access to food. All food, especially sweets, should be sealed.

Related: How to Get Rid of Ants Naturally: A Complete Guide

List of Sources

Hahn, J., Liesch, P. (2020). Ants. University of Minnesota Extension.
Mcalpine, K. J. (2020). From Ant Brains, Seeking New Lessons about Human Behavior and Society. Boston University.
Holbrook, T., Clark, R., Haney, B. (2009). Secrets of a Superorganism. Arizona State University – Ask a Biologist.

Thomas Matthews
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