Can Ants See in the Dark? (All You Need to Know)

We are all familiar with the human vision and vision of many large animals. But some animals are so small in size that it makes us wonder, ‘how do they see the world around them?’ One such tiny creature is the ant.

Can ants see in the dark?

Yes, some species of ants can see in the dark. Ants have night vision. This specific kind of vision helps them see in low light or no light at all. They have compound eyes. The structure of the eyes on an ant consists of specific adaptations and structures that allow them to see in the dark.

There are a variety of species of ants. Despite their tiny structure, there are innumerable species of ants. It is a matter of great wonder.

Some ants are harmless, and they exist for their survival. But, some ants are very harmful. There are deadly ants as well.

The interesting part of the structure of an ant is in its vision. That is, how they see through their tiny eyes or ocellus.

The size and number of ommatidia determine their eyesight. They cannot see the full resolution of objects. They can only see parts of images through different parts of their eye units.

Ants that are night wanderers see better in darkness. And these ants work even alone and in groups to collect and store their livestock.

There are diurnal ants who work in the light. And there are other different kinds of ants. Whatever their nature, ants are unique creatures.

What is night vision? Do ants have it?

The ability to see in dark or low-light conditions is known as night vision. Night vision is biological in many animals. It is also possible through technological means. This phenomenon happens due to a combination of sufficient spectral and intensity range.

The radiation of light from any source happens in the form of waves. The spectrum of light is a factor in the working mechanism of night vision.

The lightwave that has the shortest wavelength has the highest energy. Out of the visible light or optical spectrum, there is an infrared spectrum. Thermal infrared does not reflect from an object but emits from it.

This emission does not fall under the visible spectrum of sight. Through advanced technology or biological night vision, the emission is visible.

Night vision works on the combination of eye parts like the retina and pupil. Some animals have a special eye structure that enables them to see in dark or low-lighting.

On the technological level, night vision is possible through the optoelectronic and digital image enhancement process.

Ants are animals that have night vision. Not all ants can see in the dark. Some ants are blind and cannot see at all. There are night as well as daylight ants.

They have a compound eye structure that enables them to see in the dark. Eyesight in ants depends a lot on their sizes as well. Smaller ants have poor eyesight compared to the bigger ones.

Also, due to the poor resolution of their sight, they cannot see clear pictures or images of objects. The quality of their vision is blurry.

Ants that can see at night have unique features in their eyes. The anatomy of their eyes is larger than other ants. These ants find their food and other stockings at night and live in dark places.

How do ants see in the dark?

Some ants have night vision. That is, darkness or low light does not affect their vision.

The structure of the eyes of ants with night vision has different units in it. They have facets or ommatidia units in a large number. The shape of the numerous ommatidia is similar to domes.

The eye units perceive different parts of an object and then combine the whole image as different parts. That is, they see a segmented image of an object rather than the full image.

The diameter and number of these ommatidia determine the quality of the image. Apart from this night vision, they use a pheromone to communicate with each other. Pheromone is a special kind of hormone. But these hormones are scarce in night ants.

Night ants that forage in the dark are single members. Photoreceptors play a significant role in their vision rather than hormones.

The unique adaptation in the eyes of ants their night vision and help them move freely. There are even photoreceptors in their eyes. Photoreceptors like rhabdom in ants are very important. It ensures their perception of colors.

Some ants can see more colors than humans as well. And they can see them even in the dark. It helps their eyes to identify landmarks in dark places.

The resolution of their eyesight is poor. Yet, ants can see in the dark owing to the chemicals and receptors in their eyes.

Three kinds of photoreceptors in ants’ eyes help them to recognize more color. They can see UV, green and blue colors.

What ants can and cannot see in the dark?

Ants are miniature animals. There are different species of ant in the entire world. Some ants work or forage at night and some at daytime. That is, not all ants have night vision. Some can see in the dark, and some cannot.

Flying ants:

There are different species of flying ants. Alates, carpenter ants, wing pavement ants, etc., can fly. They fly at their mature stage. The male ants and queens can fly at the later stage of their life.

Flying ants like alates are of two types. The ones that are night-flying ones and the others are day-flying ones. Their structure of eyes differs in size.

The size of ommatidia, ocellus, facet diameter, etc., of night flying ants, differ in these two species.

So, not all flying ants can see in the dark. The ants that take their flight in the daytime cannot see in the dark. But the ones that travel at night can see in the dark. That is, they have night vision. 

Sugar ants:

Sugar ants originate from Australia. These ants are small in size, and they do have three ocelli that are small in size.

These ocelli or simple eyes help them see in the dark. That is, these ants have night vision and can see in the dark.

Black ants:

Black ants are the common ants. They are found almost everywhere around the globe. They work hard to collect their food.

The worker ants of this species are large-scaled. They can range from 6-16 millimeters as well. Their color is jet black, and they have large eyes.

Owing to the characteristic nature of ants’ eyes, the ones with big eyes have more ommatidia in their eyes. Thus they can see in the dark. So, we can assume that black ants with large eyes can see in the dark.

Carpenter ants:

Carpenter ants’ night vision is of poor quality than other species of ants. These ants can see in the dark but in low resolution. Spatial memory and antennae of carpenter ants help them navigate at night.

And they leave a trail for the members of their colony.

How far can ants see in the dark?

Humans have eye lens in their eyes. The focal length of human eyes determines the distance it can cover or can see. There is no lens and retina in ants’ eyes. That is why we cannot determine the focal length of their vision.

The resolution of their vision is very blurry. So, it is not even that important that how far it can see. The spatial accuracy of smaller ants is lower than large ones. Big ants have better vision than small ones. And they can spot objects more vividly from a greater distance.

Ants that have more ommatidia can see and perceive objects from a far distance. Their eyesight covers a large area.

Why are ants more active at night?

Ants are animals of various species. You can find around 12 thousand species of ants in the world. And this amount increases if you include the sub-species of ants in it.

We cannot determine their nature based on one kind of ant. The nature of various ants is different. There are nocturnal, diurnal, and various other types of ants.

Diurnal ants are active and collect their food in daylight. Nocturnal ants forage in the dark. Some ants work over day and night.

Nocturnal ants are thought to be more active at night because of their characteristics, nature, and body structure. Their vision is also suitable for darker light conditions. They can even see in no light.

Final thoughts

Low light conditions or darkness is not a deciding factor for the vision of some ants. They have larger ocellus or ommatidia in numerous amounts in their eyes. They can see different parts of an image in segments. The nocturnal ants have better night vision.