Various ant species have different body sizes, but they do not get bigger than their standard size. There are no giant insects in the world because they cannot survive in this environment.
Why Can’t Ants Be Bigger? Ants cannot get bigger due to rigid exoskeleton, genetic limitations, tracheal respiration, and vulnerability to predation. Moreover, they can face several problems if their body size increases, like the disruption of colonies, hindrance in resource exploration, reduction in weight-carrying abilities, and adaptation.
You cannot expect ants to become equal in size to humans because their bodies are naturally designed to reach only a few millimeters in length at maximum.
Why ants cannot get bigger?
Every living organism has a distinct body shape and size that cannot exceed drastically from the original size because their bodies are genetically designed to reach a particular size.
Accordingly, ants can reach only 8 to 10mm body length at maximum, while fewer species can attain a little bit more body length, but they cannot exceed size limits for different reasons.
They have rigid exoskeletons that restrict their body growth after a certain limit.
The waxy exoskeleton is harder in texture and resistant to moisture, which protects their soft bodies from physical damage and prevents water loss.
In addition, their bodies can grow until the muscle fibers touch their outer skeleton layer and stop growing beyond it. These insects shed their exoskeleton during molting but get a newer one.
Furthermore, their exoskeleton cannot help them grow bigger, but their muscular bodies have extraordinary strength to resist stress.
Vulnerability to predation
Smaller bodies of ants facilitate these insects to hide from the preying eyes of predators as they can quickly hide within narrow spaces.
They can get inside the wall spaces, sneak through broken seals of the windows, and hide in the soil by digging deeper into the ground.
They become vulnerable to predation if they become equal in size to larger animals and humans. This big size poses difficulties in hiding in smaller spaces and even under the ground.
Furthermore, there will be an increased risk to their population when they become visible to predators from a distance, so they cannot survive with a large stature.
They do not have lungs or other complex respiratory organs for breathing and rely on the spiracles or tiny openings in the exoskeleton.
These tiny openings are connected with tracheal tubules, providing a passage to oxygen molecules by capturing them from the air and releasing them into the body.
Accordingly, these tiny insects can survive without oxygen because they store oxygen molecules in tracheal tubes and consume them for almost a day.
However, their requirement for oxygen increases if they get bigger, and the stock of oxygen will end up quickly, creating problems for their survival.
Disruption of colony structure
Ants are social creatures that usually live in groups and form larger colonies based on hundreds or thousands of members. Division of labor, cooperation, or coordination is common in these insects.
They can easily adjust to living in one spot due to their smaller bodies without requiring a large surface area for accommodation. However, the colony structure gets disrupted when they get bigger.
However, they need more space with larger bodies, and these insects can’t live in one place. They have to survive individually or in smaller groups.
So, colony disruption is not suitable for their survival as they are born to work together and perform specific tasks. The workers cannot reproduce, and queens cannot collect food.
Hindrance in resource exploration
They can explore outdoor and indoor places for food as they do not need open doors of the building to get inside the room or kitchen.
Their smaller bodies allow them to pass through small spaces under the doors and sneak through holes around the wires of the air conditioning system.
Moreover, they can easily move through closed cabinets and storage containers if they find a small hole and space to pass through it.
You can easily understand that they face problems exploiting resources if they get bigger because they can easily move inside the building.
In the same way, they cannot reach flower nectaries, small sap-sucking insects, seeds, and even the compost bins after gaining size, so it is not considered suitable from their survival aspects.
Furthermore, their nutritional requirements increase if the number of body cells increases because they need nutrition to produce energy and perform tasks.
Reduction in weight-carrying ability
Ants can carry almost 10 to 50 times their body weight due to smaller bodies having a lesser force of attraction from the ground. They can carry heavy leaves and other objects on their smaller abdomen.
However, they cannot lift larger objects after gaining size and weight because humans can lift only 2 times their body weight.
So, this change in body size affects their foraging behavior and reduces their ability to carry heavy weight efficiently.
Face problems in adaptation
Ants have remarkable adaptation abilities as they change their lifestyle if the external conditions are not favorable for their survival.
These insects hide under the ground by digging several feet in depth to protect themselves from cold winter, as they cannot survive in cold conditions due to the risk of freezing.
However, some shift their nests and find warm places inside buildings to avoid contact with cold air, and they even need protection from the hot sun.
So, they face problems in adaptation if their body size increases as they cannot live deep under the ground. Similarly, they cannot share a place with humans if they become equal in size to humans or dogs.
Can ants grow big?
Ants are smaller creatures belonging to a group of insects that can be easily seen with the naked eye. However, you cannot differentiate their body structure when seeing from a distance.
They are only 2 to 10mm on average, while some species can get bigger and reach almost 20 to 25mm in body size. However, it is still relatively smaller than many other living organisms.
Their genetics determine body size as they get height genes from parent male and female ants.
In addition, a favorable environment can support some variations in their body size, but it cannot help make a significant difference from their parents.
Moreover, their bodies are organized in a distinct shape, and the organs are impressively arranged in a small space, and these simpler organs cannot work well in bigger bodies.
What types of ants are bigger than others?
Some species of ants are bigger than others due to genetic makeup and evolution. Carpenter ants have big bodies and reach almost 0.25 to 0.5 inches in length.
Accordingly, the black ants belonging to the carpenter ants category and American field ants are the larger species among thousands of ants with the same body size.
The slave-making and western thatching ants are smaller than the above two and are almost 0.3 inches in length.
However, pharaoh and little black ants can only reach 0.083 inches in length, while acrobat and odorous house ants are approximately 0.125 inches in body length.
In addition, you can also see variations in a colony as queen ants are bigger than male drones due to their larger abdomen, while drones are larger than sterile workers.