Ants have no feelings like pain, love, fear, empathy, anger, etc., as they lack emotions due to the presence of simple brains and less number of nerves. In the same way, other insects, like cockroaches, are also unable to feel pain, affection,or anger. Ants do not feel happy or sad as these emotions are only present in higher animals with larger brains.
They are not independent creatures like other animals; hence, they operate in colonies. Moreover, they can feel uncomfortable after getting lost as they have no trails to follow. A single ant gets confused instead of fearful because it has lost its purpose in life after getting alone and tries to find the right direction to move.
The Ant Brain in Response to Fear
Ants can sense danger as their bodies adapt to the environment differently. For example, they have compound eyes to see objects that transfer visual signals to the brain. These signals are transferred to the brain through nerve impulses and processed to give an appropriate response.
For example, their brain commands them to move away when it is detected as a harmful object. In the same way, their antennae detect chemicals or pheromones and pass on the signal in the form of odor molecules to the brain.
Many insects lack emotions, a characteristic feature of higher animals with complex brains and well-developed nervous systems. The brain controls all body functions, from the movement of limbs to breathing processes and even the processing of emotions.
Ants do not feel fear due to a lack of emotions as they only rely on their sense of smell, touch, and vision, favored by their tiny brains. Their brains lack a particular region or component playing a role in processing sensory information and interpreting the specific information transmitted by nerve impulses.
Each ant’s brain is simple, containing about 250,000 neurons, 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. Some researchers believe that ant colonies are so well developed and interconnected that they behave as one organism or “superorganism.” Ants are social. They live, work, and forage in large groups known as colonies.
However, ants’ brains can efficiently decode visual messages, odor molecules, and mechanical stimuli to provide an appropriate response, but it does not control the emotion of fear. In addition, these insects rarely experience fearful situations as they prefer to live and move in groups, reducing the risk of attack.
Chemical Response of Ants to Fear
Ants demonstrate fear for many reasons, including against actions humans have taken. But it is not as complex as human fear is. Fear is a strong, unpleasant feeling caused by being aware of danger or expecting something bad to happen.
Ants operate in a hive mind, which means they are less independent and operate more as a colony. As a result, they don’t feel fear like humans do. Ant behavior is largely determined by pheromones. Ants themselves have over 20 different pheromone glands in their bodies.
One of the first pheromones to evolve was the “alarm” pheromone. This pheromone is released, in most cases, from the mandibular gland whenever an ant feels threatened or is killed (crushing an ant leaves the chemical out in the open). As it is a volatile compound, its chemical signal disperses very quickly and doesn’t last very long, in most cases under two minutes.
As it disperses, all other ants in the colony receive the signal in seconds. Once they do, they get “scared and run like hell,” as you put it. An alarm pheromone typically tells everyone to evacuate the colony and for the soldiers to start biting whatever they can find. Flooding and predators are good examples of events that may trigger this response.
While different species of ants do have different survival instincts, all ants have some sort of alarm pheromone that, once emitted, causes the colony to evacuate. The signals emitted by others significantly impacts the behavior of a specific ant.
Ants feel threatened when they find something unpleasant around them like they do not like the smell of a few things that can cause discomfort. The smell of cinnamon, essential oil, lemon oil, and black pepper makes them uncomfortable and creates an unpleasant situation for these insects; that’s why many people use them to repel ants.
Fear is one of the seven universal emotions experienced by human beings and many other organisms. In its simplest form, fear is a reaction to anything humans and many creatures perceive or judge as threatening to their well-being. Ants will respond to any trigger they interpret as threatening their well-being or existence to secure their spaces and safety. In such circumstances, we can conclude ants feel fear.