As insects, ants have three body parts, the head, thorax, and abdomen, along with jointed legs and a pair of antennae. They also have a hard exoskeleton, which is made of a material that is similar to human fingernails. The exoskeleton helps to protect the ant, especially because it is so small. It’s not always easy to see the distinct body parts of the ant because of its small size, but take a closer look to see what purpose each part serves.

Abdomen

Near the tail area, you’ll see the segmented abdomen of the ant. This important body part contains the heart, reproductive organs, malphigian tubes, and much of the digestive system, including the foregut, hindgut, and rectum. The abdomen is protected by the exoskeleton.

Antennae

Image via Flickr by James Niland

If you’re trying to tell the difference between ants and other types of insects, the antennae can help. Ants have elbow-shaped antennae attached to the front of their heads. The shape allows the ants to move the antennae both in front of and behind the head. Ants use their antennae to smell, feel, and touch what is ahead of or behind them as they crawl. They can also use the antennae to communicate with other ants.

Head

Image via Flickr by Sam Droege

The head of the ant houses muscles that provide power to the mandibles, which are used for cutting, fighting, digging, and holding. The ant’s head also contains the compound eyes and connects the antennae. Ants actually have surprisingly poor eyesight, so the antennae are critical in helping them determine what is ahead.

Jointed Legs

Image via Flickr by The Manic Macrographer

These jointed legs, attached to the thorax of the ant, are flexible and strong. Ants have six legs coming out of their bodies, along with claws at the ends of each leg. The claws are used to grasp food and other items they need to carry. The ant can use its front legs to clean the body and touch objects as well.

Thorax

Image via Flickr by Sam Droege

The thorax of the ant sits between the abdomen and the head. All six of the ant’s legs are attached to the thorax. Additionally, queen ants have wings that they use to fly and find a mate. The wings are attached to the thorax as well. After mating, the queen will shed the wings, as she no longer needs them. Upon closer inspection, you might be able to spot small scars where the wings used to be attached to the ant’s body.

Other Parts

The compound eyes of the ant are small and set close together. Ants have many eyes, but they still don’t have very good eyesight. The higher number of eyes allows them to see movement closely in front of their heads. Certain types of ants also have stingers. The stinger is attached to the back of the ant’s body and is used to inject formic acid into its victims. This acid weakens the victim, allowing the ant to carry it back to the colony to give to the queen.

If you spot an ant on the sidewalk, it’s likely a worker ant since they do most of the work. Ants are very small, so it’s not easy to spot the various body parts, but looking under a microscope can help you view the anatomy of the ant.