How Many Legs Do Ants Have?

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We’ve all seen these bugs scurrying about in lines that keep going in a disciplined direction. In fact, we’ve probably also spotted them going pretty fast for their size, carrying something that is twice the size of their body. How do they do that? How many legs do ants have? How do these legs help them?

In this article, I’ve answered not only the question of how many legs these bugs have but also discussed a few other facts about how ants use these legs! Keep reading to find out more!

How Many Legs Do Ants Have?

How many legs do ants have?

Ants have six legs attached to their thorax. This is the part of their body that connects to their head and abdomen. These legs are affixed to their bodies in three pairs.

Ants have fascinating anatomy when it comes to their legs. Their legs have multiple anatomical sections that allow for movement and stability.

For example, the tibia, femur, and tarsus, all of which are joints that even human beings have, makeup three of the joints in an ant’s leg.

Ants are able to move quickly and easily through the many joints in their legs. Further, the way ants move their legs is essentially in an alternating fashion. In scientific terms, this manner of walking is referred to as the ‘alternating tripod gait.’

In this type of gait, the forelegs and hind legs move at the same time as the middle leg on the opposite side. This allows them to travel long distances and navigate their way around obstacles.

That said, ants don’t start their lives with six legs. In fact, after they hatch from their eggs, ants emerge as larvae. Now, much like the larvae of all other insects, ant larvae are only worms without legs. These larvae will simply eat till they can develop into pupae. 

When these larvae are finally ready to pupate, they begin the process of metamorphosis. Except, unlike butterflies, ant larvae emerge as adult ants. One crucial development that takes place in the pupa stage of their development is the growth of three pairs of legs!

What Purposes Do Ants’ Legs Serve Them?

Ants use their legs for multiple reasons.

It goes without saying that an ant’s legs serve a multitude of purposes. It would make no sense for nature to simply fix six legs on their bodies otherwise, would it? Below, I have talked a bit about how ants use their legs.

Basic running and locomotion

It is worth remembering that ants are foraging insects. Therefore, they need to keep moving in order to forage for food and other resources.

Typically, they use their legs to move around and get from place to place. Their legs are specially adapted for running, and they can move very quickly over short distances.

Ants primarily use their front two legs to carry food and their back two legs to store resources. However, there are some ants in an ant colony that are blessed with wings.

The queen ant and some male ants use their wings for locomotion, but the vast majority of the worker ants in a colony depend on their legs for the same!

Ants can also climb walls using their legs.

Interestingly, ants can also climb walls. This is an important way for them to get food, as walls are an important source of food for them.

They have, over time, developed feet that allow them to grip onto surfaces, even if they are vertical. This allows them to travel up and down walls, as well as across ceilings.

Ant legs double up as limbs that can build structures.

Ants have six legs that they use for locomotion, but those same legs can also be used to build complex structures.

Ants essentially use their legs and mandibles to build their nests, hold onto each other, and grip surfaces. The combination of these two features allows them to construct their nests quickly and efficiently.

Ants use their legs for sensory perception too.

Ants also use their legs for sensory perception, which helps them navigate their surroundings and find food. Their legs are covered in tiny hairs that can sense touch, vibrations, smells, and tastes.

Interestingly, ants that use their antennae the most are usually the ones that are specialized for sensing objects and creatures. This allows them to navigate their way around and find food.

But, their legs also play a role in sensory perception as they help them grip onto surfaces and maintain balance.

Ants also groom themselves using their legs!

Ants have a variety of interesting features, one of which is their grooming habits. They use tiny brushes on their legs to clean off their antennae, which helps them stay clean and smell good.

This is important for ants because they rely on communication through scent to navigate and find food.

Ants often use their legs to communicate with one another.

Ants use their legs to communicate with each other in a variety of ways. One way they do this is by tapping their legs together as a form of communication. This helps them relay messages and signals to one another.

Ants also communicate with each other by rubbing their legs together. This process, called stridulation, makes a loud noise that can be heard by other ants up to 100 feet away.

Different ant species stridulate for different reasons, such as warning others or establishing dominance over other ants. For example, when a fire ant is disturbed, it will give off a shrill sound by rubbing its legs together to warn the other ants of the danger.

Can Ants Grow Back Their Legs?

No, ants can't grow back their legs.

When ants grow, they go through a process called molting. This means that they shed their old skin in order to grow a new one. During this time, they also lose other body parts, such as legs.

The good news is that ants can regenerate these lost limbs; they will just need to wait until their next molt to do so.

If an ant loses a limb, it will not grow a new one. Ants have six legs, and if they lose one, they are unable to walk or feed themselves. They will eventually die due to a lack of mobility.

When an ant is injured and cannot walk, another ant will help it carry its injured comrade back to the nest. There, the wounded ants will be able to recover and eventually go back out into the colony to work.

How Do Ants Climb Walls?

Ants can climb practically any surface, even glass and steel, which appear to us to be too smooth to grip. They accomplish this by employing a variety of ingenious ways.

They have pretarsal adhesive pads, which are wet suction cups on their legs. A liquid fills the cup when the pad is placed against the surface, and the ant sticks due to capillary action.

They have a lot of stiff hairs that operate as a supplementary attaching mechanism in addition to their sophisticated suction cups. Finally, they have a set of forward-facing claws that can latch onto minor surface defects.

With so much going on, it’s no surprise that ants can run across your ceiling like they’re on the floor. Even ants are unable to conquer some man-made surfaces, such as Teflon.


Therefore, the six legs that an ant has have a multitude of uses apart from just running or walking. So, the next time you see a line of ants on the ground, be sure to appreciate just how versatile their legs are in terms of functionality. Once you’ve done that, take some measures to get rid of these bugs from your house!

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.