Tiny and mighty, ants impress us with their strength and perseverance. It is hard to imagine what is going on in these small bodies, and what they might have in common with us in terms of bodily functions. Do ants fart?
In general, it is likely that ants can fart since they possess the necessary physical components, which are an anus and intestines. It’s difficult to answer since the research on insect flatulence has not yet looked at a lot of species individually.
It is also reasonable, though, that not all gases that are produced during digestion are emitted via the anus. The exoskeleton of ants has a lot of so-called spiracles, which are tiny holes that are used for the intake and emission of gas. At least some of the gases that get produced as a byproduct of digestion are absorbed into an insect’s blood and then released via the spiracles.
Whether ants fart or not, they apparently cannot expel gases very rapidly, which some ant killers even use to their advantage by causing them to bloat up, and since ants cannot pass gas fast enough, they explode.
Do All Insects Fart Equally Much?
No, absolutely not. There are some species that have not produced detectable farts yet, whereas other species, like the termites, are famous for the amount of methane they produce with their farts. Termite farts are estimated to produce about 12,130,000 tons of methane every year!
The reason why termites fart so much lies in their diet. Insects that eat wood, fungus, or soil are all known to pass gas. A high fiber diet ensures a high fart frequency.
Do Insect Farts Smell Bad?
For humans, it is neither possible to hear nor smell the farts of insects. For other insects, though, the fart of a certain larva can even end in death. The infants of the Lomamyia latipennis, a species of lacwings, stun termites with their powerful farts to then consume them.
This small larva can immobilize six termites with one fart and then consume them, which is especially impressive since the larvae weigh about 0.07 milligram, whereas the termites they target are significantly heavier at 2.5 milligrams. The paralyzing powers of these mighty farts work with termites up to about 5 milligrams, but bigger prey often gets only slightly stunned.
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How Do Insects Breathe?
When speaking of the emission of gas, the opposite is interesting, too. Do insects breathe through their mouths, like mammals? Can they get out of breath?
Insects do not have lungs but breathe via a system of tiny tubes called tracheae. They have tiny holes called spiracles all over their exoskeleton where air enters their body, which then diffuses through the various tubes. How far oxygen can travel depends on the concentration of oxygen in the air.
This means that in eras when the concentration of oxygen was much higher, like in the paleozoic era, there might have been gigantic insects on earth!
This method of breathing also ensures that ants and other insects cannot get out of breath, because breathing is not something they actively do, it simply happens, so to say. This is incredibly useful since ants carry weights and walk distances that, if seen in proportion to their body size, would be impossible for humans.
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How Long Have Insects Existed?
Insects have been on earth for about 480 million years. The 1K Insect Transcriptome Evolution (commonly abbreviated to K1TE) is a collaborative project where researchers from different institutions and fields worked at studying the evolution of insects.
While fossil evidence only points to their existence 412 years ago, during the Early Devonian Period, the phylogenetic data – data regarding evolutionary relationships between different biological entities – suggests that the largest group of arthropods, Hexapoda (six-footed arthropods, including insects), has evolved some decades earlier.
Insects have likely evolved around the same time as plants, some say, even a bit earlier. They only developed the ability to fly, though, at about 406 million years ago, when complex ecosystems had already developed on land.
Around the Jurassic Period, about 150 million years ago, the insects we know like butterflies, grasshoppers, or dragonflies, have likely not only already existed but looked just like they do today. If you ever wanted to feel closer to the dinosaurs, maybe this fact will brighten your mood the next time the annoying buzzing of a gnat keeps you awake at night.