If you have ever seen ants in your home, perhaps you have made attempts to squash them. A few hours after doing so, perhaps you have also noticed a swarm of ants surrounding the body of their fallen comrade. If so, you are likely wondering what it is about dead ants that seems to attract more ants. In truth, the answer is not at all what you might think. There is an interesting science behind an ant’s attraction to a dead ant.
Creatures of Scent
Ants have a strong sense of smell. It is because of their strong sense of smell that an ant can detect food and travel so far to get to it. Also, because they rely so heavily on smell, ants release pheromones when they travel between their nest and a specific destination. So as not to lose their way, the ants use the scent of the pheromones to find their way to and from.
When an ant is dying or has already died, it releases oleic acid. Live ants detect the scent and immediately rush to it. Therefore, when you squash an ant, you will likely see a swarm of live, active ants rushing to the carcass. Some people mistakenly believe that live ants will eat the bodies of dead ants, but that is simply not true.
Instead, ants, like human, will “bury” their dead. Of course, it is not an actual burial, but rather they create piles of dead ant bodies, which are called middens. The middens serve as cemeteries for dead ants. That is not to say that ants mourn their dead. In fact, the reason ants dispose of dead ants in middens is to protect the rest of the colony.
The oleic acid released from an ant carcass can potentially contaminate a colony and create sickness among the ants and the queen. If they are to survive and avoid contamination, ants must remove the carcass as far from their nest as possible. Therefore, swarms of ants will come to collect the body of a dead ant as a method of self-defense.
The reason many people mistakenly believe ants eat the bodies of dead ants is because of an alarm mode. Sometimes the scent of a dead ant will trigger a scented alarm. It causes ants to enter into an attack mode of self-preservation. Therefore, the ants will sometimes swarm the body and tear it apart ferociously.
To avoid attracting more ants to your home, it is best not to squash ants. By squashing them, you are triggering a scent that will simply attract more. Instead, contact a professional ant control service for assistance. A pest control expert can identify the type of ant you are dealing with, and remove the nest and the entire colony from your home quickly and with great effectiveness.