Many insects have antennae on their heads, including ants that are divided into almost 12 segments and contain sensory receptors to detect environmental changes.
What happens if an ant loses its antenna? An ant cannot survive if it loses both of its antennae, as they are essential for multiple functions, including communication, mating, and detecting smell. Moreover, they cannot sense vibrations, become vulnerable to attack, and are lost without feelers. Furthermore, they cannot detect food trails and becomes unable to identify nest mates, weather changes, and obstacles without it. Ants can survive with a single antenna but cannot regrow a lost one.
Ants can fix the broken antenna having no prominent effect on the sensilla performance, but adult insects do not have a regenerative ability to regrow the lost feelers.
Can ants survive with only one antenna?
Antennae are involved in chemoreception and mechanoreception that help regulate complex behaviors in an ant colony.
Moreover, they are sensitive organs and control different behaviors of an ant, like aphid farming to get honeydew. Therefore, it can help sustain life by facilitating these insects to detect food sources easily.
It is also essential for the continuity of life and helps identify the mating signal to fertilize eggs.
In addition, it can also help prevent death as they can sense the presence of predators at a close distance and run away.
Therefore, an ant can’t survive without feelers because they are crucial organs of the insect body due to multiple functions.
However, damage to a single antenna would not affect its function to a maximum extent, and it can survive.
It can survive with a broken feeler that can grow back but cannot regenerate a completely lost organ. Any damage to the delicate hair on their antenna can affect their ability to identify the nest mates.
What happens if an ant loses both its antenna?
An ant has no chance of survival if it has lost its antenna, as it cannot perform its functions efficiently without the sensory organ that helps them touch, smell, and feel the changes.
Loss of communication
They are used for communication with their nest mates while searching for food. For example, one of these insects goes out to find a food source and releases a signal to call others on the same spot.
The nest fellows detect the signals using their sensitive organs on the head and move in a particular detection.
Their sense of smell is strong, which can help them detect chemical signals from a long distance away from the food source.
So, they cannot communicate with each other in the absence of feelers because the leading ants cannot release a chemical, and the others cannot detect it.
Ants cannot identify their friends without their antenna
It becomes difficult for ants to identify their friends and foes without antennae because every colony has a particular smell that helps them differentiate the foreign insects.
This sensitive organ is used to detect the body smell of the organism present at a close distance to get an idea about their nest mates.
Moreover, a broken antenna can still distinguish the smell, but it can lose its efficiency after severe damage to short hair having sensory receptors.
Vulnerable to predators
It is an essential organ due to its high sensitivity to objects, vibrations, and smells.
It can be challenging for these insects to smell their predators without feelers and feel their movement when they come toward them.
In addition, these segmented and elbow-shaped antennae have olfactory receptors that can detect vibrations on the ground.
Furthermore, these feelers help them run away quickly to protect themselves from predator attacks when they find a spider at a close distance.
Unable to detect obstacles
The ants cannot detect obstacles on their way without an antenna because it allows them to touch the object and feel its nature.
A large obstacle makes them change their route and go through an alternative route, but they can quickly crawl over a smaller one.
The feelers help them detect the size of obstacles and make appropriate decisions accordingly, whether it needs to be avoided or walked over.
In the same way, they choose an alternative path when they find plenty of water because they cannot swim and begin to float over it.
Loss of a food trail
You can see ants marching in a single line, or sometimes two lines are seen when one of the two rows is going toward food and the second one is coming back with food particles on their backs.
Moreover, a leading insect sends a signal to other members to follow the trail by detecting the chemicals left on the ground.
An ant without a sensitive organ cannot detect these chemical signals as its chemoreceptors are not sensitive to chemicals.
Furthermore, it leads to the loss of a food trail when they cannot function in food collection and become somehow useless for a colony.
Unable to mate
The female ant releases a signal in the form of a particular smell of their chemical secretions recognized by the male feelers, and they engage in a nuptial flight.
The males cannot recognize the mating signal when they have no feelers or are damaged. Accordingly, it can affect their sexual receptivity because there are no receptors to sense the signals.
In the same way, males can also release pheromones to entice females to breed, which are perceived by queens. So, the absence of feelers can reduce the possibility of mating.
Poor detection of weather
Antennae have specialized receptors to detect the changes in weather, like the humidity level, so they can prepare themselves for rain or winters.
Moreover, they can detect environmental pressure and know the storm is expected to come in a few hours due to highly sensitive sensilla.
In the same way, you can find them moving inside the house or other safe places as they can predict rain and hide in safe areas where they have no risk of flooding.
Risk of getting lost
They follow a pheromone trail using feelers to reach a food source and get back to their nests. In the absence of feelers, it is not possible for these insects to find a way back to their nests.
Accordingly, they can get lost in the areas outside the territory when they cannot detect any smell, even if their fellows are moving around.
Therefore, damaged antennae reduce their ability to identify the nest location and pose a risk of being lost somewhere outside the territory.
Changes in speed
A visible effect is seen in the speed of ants having no antennae on their heads compared to those with only one feeler that can sense the changes in the environment to some extent.
In addition, each antenna plays a different role, as the right one helps perform different functions compared to the left one.
You can see them moving at a different speeds when they have both structures, as they are quick and fast enough to reach their destination.
However, the insects with only one left feeler are usually faster than those having only one right feeler.
It means left antenna plays a crucial role in their movement because they move fast with a missing right feeler.
So, it indicates that antennae are essential for these insects to maintain their speed and avoid predators by running quickly.