Ants breathe through a tracheal system. They take in oxygen through holes in their bodies called spiracles. These spiracles connect to tubes called trachea which transport gases throughout their bodies.
In this article we’ll learn more about how ants breathe as we discuss the following:
- Do ants have lungs?
- How do ants breathe?
- Why do ants breathe?
- Can ants run out of breath?
- Can ants breathe underground or underwater?
Do Ants Have Lungs?
No, ants do not have lungs. Nor do they have a circulatory system that facilitates gas transport in their bodies. They are simply too small to accommodate a respiratory system similar to ours.
That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t have one at all.
How Do Ants Breathe?
Ants respire by means of a tracheal system. This system consists of a complex network of tubes that deliver oxygen to the cells of their bodies.
In this system, ants breathe through spiracles or tiny holes in their exoskeletons. These holes allow for the passive diffusion of gas in and out of their system. It is through these holes that they take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. 
Each of these spiracles is connected directly to tiny tubes called tracheae. These tracheae branch and extend throughout the ant’s body. At the end of these tubes are special cells called tracheoles. This is where oxygen is dissolved and eventually diffused into adjacent cells.
Similarly, carbon dioxide, the waste product of cellular respiration, undergoes the same process. It diffuses out of the cell, passes through the trachea, and exits the body through the spiracles.
All in all, the tracheal system allows ants to bypass the need for blood and gas transport. It’s an energy-efficient respiratory system.
Why Do Ants Breathe?
Ants breathe to take in oxygen, an important component of cellular respiration. Without oxygen, they can’t convert fats and sugars into energy. 
They use this energy for activities such as foraging, nest-building, and reproduction. They also need this energy for cellular processes including growth and repair. Simply put, ants won’t survive without oxygen.
Can Ants Run Out of Breath or Suffocate?
It’s unlikely for ants to suffocate under normal conditions. As long as there’s oxygen in the air then they can generally respire with no issues. 
However, issues can arise when their spiracles become obstructed. Chemical exposure and physical obstruction can block their spiracles and prevent airflow. This can lead to oxygen deprivation or suffocation.
How Do Ants Breathe Underground?
Ants breathe underground the same way that they do everywhere else. The lower oxygen levels underground generally don’t bother ants as they breathe through passive diffusion. They also don’t need as much oxygen anyway due to their small size.
That said, ants still try to maximize oxygen supply. They have evolved behaviors that promote ventilation in their underground nests. For example, they dig small holes or tunnels that allow air to flow freely in and out of the nest.
Can Ants Breathe Underwater?
Ants can’t breathe underwater. When submerged, the water blocks their spiracles and prevents air from coming in. If an ant falls into water, it will struggle to breathe and eventually drown.
For ants to survive underwater, they have to close their spiracles and hold their breath. They then have to escape the water by swimming or relying on luck.
See this article to learn if ants can swim.
How Long Can Ants Hold Their Breath?
Ants can hold their breath and survive without oxygen for hours or sometimes days. If they store enough oxygen beforehand, they can live for a while without breathing.
To summarize, ants breathe through a tracheal system. This system consists of a network of tubes that directly distribute oxygen to the cells. It bypasses the need for a circulatory system and relies on the passive diffusion of gas.