Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by Tanya Latty, Senior Lecturer, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

Curious Kids is a series for children. Send your question to curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au. You might also like the podcast Imagine This, a co-production between ABC KIDS listen and The Conversation, based on Curious Kids.

Do ants have blood? – Sita, age 4, Murwillumbah

Great question, Sita! The short answer is ants have something similar to blood, but scientists call it “haemolymph”. It is yellowish or greenish.

In vertebrates (animals with backbones such as humans, cats, dogs, snakes, birds and frogs) blood’s main job is to move important things around the body. It moves stuff like nutrients from our food, wastes, and oxygen from the air to where it needs to go to make your body work properly. Your blood is red because it contains lots of tiny, tiny packages called “red blood cells”, which carry oxygen around your body.

Ants and other insects also have a liquid inside their body that moves nutrients around. Although this fluid does some of the same jobs as blood, it is more correctly called haemolymph.

Read more: Curious Kids: how do ants make their own medicine?

Curious Kids: do ants have blood? haemolymph is the greenish-yellowish fluid inside an ants body that does a lot of the same jobs that blood does in a human’s body. Flickr/Faris Algosaibi, CC BY

An important difference between blood and haemolymph is that haemolymph does not move oxygen around the insects’ body.

The reason insect blood is usually yellowish or greenish (not red) is that insects do not have red blood cells. Unlike blood, haemolymph does not flow through blood vessels like veins, arteries and capillaries. Instead it fills the insect’s main body cavity and is pushed around by its heart.

You might be wondering how insects move oxygen around their bodies without the help of red blood cells. The answer is that insects get oxygen to their organs in a very different way than humans do.

In humans, oxygen gets in to our bodies through our mouth or nose and then goes to the lungs. The lungs pass oxygen on to red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body.

Insects, on the other hand, breathe through little holes on the side of their bodies called “spiracles”. Each spiracle leads to air tubes called trachea which branch through the entire body. The air tubes bring oxygen directly to the insect’s organs without needing the help of red blood cells.

Curious Kids: do ants have blood? Insects breathe through tiny holes in their sides called spiracles. The oxygen is moved around their bodies via special tubes. Shutterstock Curious Kids: do ants have blood? In this photo, you can see the spiracles on the side of a beetle’s body. Shutterstock

The insect’s breathing system doesn’t work very well in larger animals because oxygen cannot travel far enough down the tubes to reach the organs. That’s why insects are usually small.

About 250 million years ago when there was much more oxygen in the air, some insects did grow to amazing sizes. One type of dragonfly, for example, had wings that stretched almost a metre in length. That’s about the distance an average adult covers in a single step!

The Age of Giant Insects, PBS.

Some insects use their haemolymph in unusual ways. When threatened by a predator, blister beetles can squirt haemolymph from their knees! This might seem like a silly way to defend yourself, but it is very effective because the haemolymph contains poisonous chemicals that can hurt or kill predators.

Blood and haemolymph are both amazing liquids that keep different types of animals alive.

Read more: Curious Kids: is it true dogs don't like to travel?

Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au

Curious Kids: do ants have blood? CC BY-ND Please tell us your name, age and which city you live in. We won’t be able to answer every question but we will do our best.

Authors: Tanya Latty, Senior Lecturer, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney

Read more http://theconversation.com/curious-kids-do-ants-have-blood-108925


The Conversation


Closing the Gap Statement to Parliament

Mr Speaker, when we meet in this place, we are on Ngunnawal country. I give my thanks and pay my respects to our Ngunnawal elders, past, present and importantly emerging for our future. I honour...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Alan Jones

ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Alan.    JONES: I was just thinking last night when we're going to talk to you today, you must feel as though you've ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Prime Minister Bridget McKenzie press conference

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon everybody. The good news is that the Qantas flight is on its way to Wuhan and I want to thank everybody for their cooperation, particularly the Chinese Government as...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Top 5 Green Marketing Ideas for Your Eco-Friendly Small Business

According to studies, about 33 percent of consumers prefer buying from brands that care about their impact on the environment. This is good news for anyone running an eco-friendly business. It’s a...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Choosing the Right Coworking Space For Your Business

As the capital of Victoria in Australia, Melbourne is inhabited by millions of people and is known as one of the most liveable cities in the world. The latter is due to the city’s diverse community...

Sarah Williams - avatar Sarah Williams

What Should You Expect from A Carpentry Apprenticeship?

Those wanting to pursue a career in woodwork, whether it be to make furniture, construct buildings or repair existing wooden structures, will have to first commence a carpentry apprenticeship. This ...

News Company - avatar News Company


Travelling With Pets? Here Is What You Should Know

Only a pet parent can understand the dilemma one experiences while planning a vacation. Do you leave your pets at home?  Will you get a pet sitter or someone to take care of them while you are away?...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Be a Smart Frugal Traveller

You are looking through Instagram, watching story after story of your followers overseas at a beach in Santorini, walking through the piazza in Italy, and eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel ...

News Company - avatar News Company


Graduation is the stage of life when a student receives the rewards of hard work of years. It must have taken sleepless nights and tiring days to achieve the task. Now, as you have received your cov...

News Company - avatar News Company