Despite the fact that the main protagonist in the animated film “A Bug’s Life” is an ant, ants are actually not bugs. While they are both classified as insects, slight differences classify them into two different orders.
In this article, we’ll look into how ants and bugs are defined and how they differ. We’ll also clear up a common misconception with the term “bugs”, particularly with how it’s often incorrectly used.
What Are Ants?
With more than 10,000 identified species across the globe, ants are the most common insect you’ll ever come across. Despite their small size, they’re highly complex animals often known as models of hard work and members of the most ideal and harmonious social community systems in the animal kingdom.
Falling under the class Insecta from the order Hymenoptera (like bees and wasps), all ant species are collectively from the family Formicidae. Their bodies are divided into three major parts; the head, thorax, and abdomen, the typical physiology of insects.
Ants feature two compound eyes, a chitinous exoskeleton, and a pair of antennas. And their mouthparts, known as mandibles, are rounded and razor-like, typically used for biting, cutting, chewing, and carrying large food.
Ant Life Cycle
Ants undergo complete metamorphosis that begins from an egg which will later turn into a larva once it hatches. A few weeks later, the larva will yet again undergo metamorphosis to turn into a pupa. From there, the pupa will change from white to brown and an adult ant will eventually emerge.
What Are Bugs?
People often use the term bugs to refer to all insects. But they don’t actually have the same meaning. Insects refer to a whole class of organisms under the Kingdom Animalia. They are the most diverse animals on the planet and have the most catalogued known species, with over 1,000,000 different types located almost everywhere.
The term “bugs” on the other hand, actually refers to a specific group of insects, more commonly referred to as true bugs. These true bugs are classified under the order Hemiptera, which is composed of over 80,000 different species, including bed bugs, cicadas, planthoppers, leafhoppers, shield bugs, and aphids.
These are not to be confused with fake bugs such as lady bugs or June bugs which carry the word “bug” in their common names but aren’t actually from the order Hemiptera.
Bugs carry the general features of insects, but what separates them from the rest is their unique mouthpart known as proboscis,which they use for piercing and sucking nutrient-filled fluids from plants (sap) and other insects or small animals (blood).
Bug Life Cycle
Unlike most insects, bugs undergo an incomplete metamorphosis. A type of life cycle which skips the pupal stage, and consists of nymphs instead of larvae. These nymphs are immature insects which resemble adults in which both have compound eyes, developed legs, and visible wing stubs. They do not undergo physical change as they develop to maturity.
Are Ants Bugs?
With all those facts in mind, it’s clear as to why ants are not bugs. As mentioned, ants are from the order Hymenoptera while bugs are from the order Hemiptera. Despite both orders being under the class Insecta, they vary not only in some of their physiological features but also in how they feed and the type of metamorphosis they undergo.
Are Ants Animals?
Yes they are. Ants are members of kingdom Animalia because they possess the necessary characteristics. They’re eukaryotic multicellular organisms capable of movement, are heterotrophic or consumers, respire aerobically, and possess specialized sensory organs.
Are Ants Arthropods?
Ants are also classified into phylum Arthropoda, a phylum under kingdom Animalia which groups together animals with exoskeletons, segmented bodies, and specialized jointed appendages. They’re joined in this phylum by other animals including spiders, crabs, scorpions, and even bugs.
Are Ants Insects?
As mentioned, ants are insects and classify under the class Insecta, a class under the phylum Arthropoda. Along with bugs, ants are members of this class due to their tri-segmented bodies, three pairs of legs, and in some cases wings.
Differentiating ants from bugs may seem trivial; however, it’s still valuable knowledge, especially for us interested in science. So, the next time you encounter an ant, remember to think twice before calling it a bug.