New iOS Ant Emoji Enrages Entomologist

A guest post by Joanie King.

I am antsy over the new ant emoji (iOS 11.2). Yes, I am restless and agitated. This is no ant. I am all for cartoons: the previous ant emoji (iOS 11.1) was a cartoon, but it did not suffer from such a horrible morphological representation. It was simpler.


Ants are a major part of our world. Knowing who they are can help us know what roles they are playing. Knowing who they are starts with a basic understanding of morphology. What does an ant look like? Certainly not like the spider mimic-looking 11.2 version emoji – with its tarantula-like legs, lack of petiole, half-effort bent antennae, and huge wasp-like eyes (though, this would work if they were going for a Pseudomyrmex sp. look). The only thing that 11.2 has over 11.1 are the bent antennae; however, they appear to bend and slightly curve, rather than be elbowed (which entomologists call geniculate antennae). All ants have elbowed antennae. This is exemplified by the image below (which is from a blog post I wrote on Ask an Entomologist about ant mimics):


In addition, many aspects of the 11.2 version appear to be spider-like: the puffy legs (see picture of tarantula below) and swollen abdomen. A defining feature of ants is that their abdomens are divided into two parts: a petiole and gaster (i.e., petiole + gaster = abdomen). A friend of mine pointed out that the 11.2 version looks somewhat like a Meranoplus sp.; however, even those ants have a petiole. Plus, they have super cool spines. This emoji does not have such spines.

Tarantula spider photo for visual reference. Doesn’t this new emoji appear to have legs like this critter? Photo: Joanie King in Big Bend National Park, 2017.

Other entomologists aren’t happy either. Check out this chat:

Both Nancy and Stephane granted permission to share this discussion!

Indeed… why fix something that isn’t broken? As an ant enthusiast, the iOS 11.2 ant emoji greatly saddens and disappoints me.

24740727_10155968887661810_1422741333_nJoanie King is currently a Ph.D. student in Dr. Ed Vargo’s lab at Texas A&M University and part of the Ask an Entomologist team. She holds a B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Central Florida and a M.Sc. in Entomology from the University of Georgia. Her research interests are: ant behavior and genetics, parasitoids, the evolution of eusociality, and science communication. Her hobbies include sewing, cosplay, running, and nature photography (especially of arthropods!).