Can ants feel pain?

Well, the ants invaded the pantry again and I just spent the last hour laying waste to the little bastards. Watching their frantic death struggles, I couldn’t help but wonder if ants and insects in general have the capacity to feel pain. If so, is it as intense as the pain felt by humans and other complex animals? Also, what is the simplest organism that can feel pain?

  • JB

The active ingredient in most insecticides attacks the central nervous system. Specifically, they inhibit cholinesterase, which allows the synapses to shut down and cease movement. The “death struggle” you describe is the result of the nervous system over-firing. The little guys literally jitterbug themselves to death.

Whether it’s painful for them, I dunno. I doubt they have a sophisticated nervous system that registers pain. Definitely not as sophisticated as verterbrates. Then again, as a professional pest control technician (or “hired killer”, as I like to refer to myself), I’ve been trained to not care. You can’t let yourself get sentimental about the lives of the jillion or so innocent insects you’ve snuffed. As Arnold Schwarzeneggar said, “But zey were all bad.”

As far as the simplest organism that can feel pain, my guess would be junior state senators.

Then there’s the other end of the scale:

On one movie, only already-dead insects could be fed to an animal, because to feed it live ones would be cruel to the insects. This was mandated by some watchdog group.

Ah, I found the reference:

From the Internet Movie Database, Trivia for “The Shawshank Redemption”

Which brings the question: where were they when they used a real horses head in “The Godfater”?

"[W]here were they when they used a real horses head in “The Godfater”?

I’m guessing they used the head of a dead horse.

“a maggot that had died from natural causes”

Isn’t being eaten by a bird a natural way for a maggot to die? Jeez, cruelty to maggots??? :rolleyes:

“Can ants feel pain?”

I don’t know. But after the Hell I went through growing up in South Louisiana being alergic to insect bites, I hope that fire ants can feel pain!

I doubt if ants feel pain. To have pain, you have to have sensitive nerves in the skin. Ants have no use for sensitive nerves in their skin because they do not use the sense of touch in finding food, or for anything else for that matter. They have pretty much no use for pain sensing nerves. Their sensory lives are run on sight and smell, and they don’t seem to suffer for the lack of tactile information.

I’m sure that they sense injury, but not actual pain, or even necessarily disomfort. I have seen bugs lose a limb, shrug it off, and go back to what they were doing. I think that the struggles that you see whilst killing them come from the insect’s instinct to flee rather than agonized writhing.

As a slight hijack, where were those people who objected to using a live maggot in The Shawshank Redemption last night on Survivor when the live beatle larva were eaten by the show’s contestants?

And I’m not being masochistic about this. The ability to feel pain is protective - we have more of a tendency to be careful if dangerous things we do hurt like hell. Limbs and digits, eyes and noses stay around a little longer. We grow a little older due to not dying of gangrene or blood loss. Pain is good - it keeps us alive. (There is a devastating disease where the victim does not feel pain, and they end up running around on ankles that break and they don’t realize this. Feet flop to the side. Yikes. Can’t remember the name.)

Do nonvertebrates feel pain? I suppose if endorphins were present in their system, then they would. Would it be perceived like ours? I don’t even know how any of you feel your pain; perception as personal experience is a closed phenomenon. I suspect insects have some type of pain system. And they do have nerves that receive tactile information. One is called the trichoid sensilla and it is basically a hair located on various body parts (antenna, legs, the feet or tarsi). It can respond to being bent or to vibrations. (The vibratory ones are generally located in the prothorax or the genitalia. Stop smirking.) Some hairs respond to the direction they’re hanging (gravitational?). Some insects taste with their feet, some have compound eyes, and so on. I guess the point of this is that these are complex organisms and it shouldn’t be surprising if they do feel pain.

Does having pain perception make them more “worthy” as an organism? Hey, they’re all worthy. Pass me a maggot and pass the salt.

I read that Coppola used a horse head from a nearby slaughterhouse for the final shot. He rehearsed it with a dummy head.

No, Lissa, I explained in my earlier reply that the insecticide messes up their central nervous system. It just keeps firing signals and there is no way to shut it off. Their “struggles” are not struggles at all. They have no control over their movements. Ant behavior when fleeing is different. If you don’t believe me, next time you see an ant, tickle it with a blade of grass. Then you’ll see what fleeing behavior is.

I don’t know if their writhing is agonized, but it is similar to a grand mal epileptic seizure that never ends. Eventually, that would kill a person, and it sure as heck kills the insects.

I doubt very much ants can feel pain. There brain (if they even have one) is not nearly complex enough to percieve pain.

You know I think if I had to choose rather to eat a live maggot or a dead one. I would probally eat a live one… How do they know it died of natural causes? For all we know the maggot could have caught some virus or something :eek:


Spam reported.

Gotta say, there were some really stupid answers given in 2000. The site really has improved.


The responses: ‘A Group complained about X, why didn’t they complain about Y’ are particularly puzzling.

Maybe the group hadn’t heard about Y.

And, one can’t address every issue.