Living With Insect Cleaning Supplies

Insects that walk in the soil will get dirty and need cleaning. For ants, their antennae must be kept clean because it is used to detect odors of all sorts- from food odors, to pheromone trails and nest odors. To clean its antenna, an ant needs a brush. Fortunately, ants have a brush built into their front leg. Between the tibia and the tarsus (leg segments) of the front leg is a spur that arises from the tibia. The spur is covered with bristles. Opposite the spur, the tarsus also has bristles. When an ant grooms, it will lift its front leg and place the antennae into the gap between the tibial spur and the tarsus. As the antenna is pulled through the bristles, it is brushed clean of dirt and other particles.

The ant cleans the brushes on its leg by passing the leg and the dirty bristles through its mouth for a spit shine.

Antenna “Brush” on Front Leg of an Ant

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Living With Insect Cleaning Supplies

  1. Anonymous says:

    I never knew this about insects, specifically the ant. I noticed that my cockroach has these too. Although I did not read anything about these antenna being used for cleaning purposes, I did read that they have some important purposes such as feel and smell the world around them.

  2. Anonymous says:

    A post that interested me was how insects, like ants, walk on soil and then need to be cleaned. An ant’s antenna must be kept clean because their antenna is used for detecting odor. Ants clean their antenna with a brush that is built into their front leg. This also interested me how the ant cleans the brushes on its leg because they get dirty from cleaning the antenna by putting the leg and the dirty bristles through its mouth to spit on it and clean. I never knew that ants kept clean because we constantly see them outside in dirt and soil. Also in class we learned just about them using their antenna’s for smell, not cleaning.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It utterly amazes me the God could create such a creature that had its own “cleaning utensil” attached to its body. This is ingenious. Its crazy to imagine that million of people, educated people, all over the world truly believe that this amazing creature could have derived from a single atom over millions and billions of years—in no way or circumstance could this be possible. It is clear that someone, greater than us, had a clear design when creating this organism. God obviously knew how important that this insects antennae where kept clean, so he made sure that they could efficiently accomplish this.

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