Ants Are Able To Smell Death

Grace Higgins | February 2nd, 2019

One incredible characteristic that stands ants apart from other insects is that they nearly immediately bury their dead. Of course, this is to reduce the risk that the whole colony is infected by a disease. Many theories have been put forth about how they know the ant is dead immediately but the bottom line is that ants can smell death.

The initial theory was that dead ants release a chemical that signals their body is decomposing and needs to be buried quickly. This is a way that even during death the ant is able to signal to his colony what needs to be done. However, new research from a team in Argentina has shown that dead and live ants both possess this chemical simultaneously. What does this mean?

Ants differentiate live ants and dead ants simply by smell. They can differentiate dead chemicals and live chemicals almost immediately and never make an error. Basically once a live ant dies, its live chemicals quickly disappear living behind only the chemical that ants associate with death.

So when an ant dies it does not actually release a new decomposing chemical as initially thought. The reason that the colony quickly carries it off to their graveyard is that it no longer smells like a living ant.

Dong-Hwan Choe a researcher from the University of California, Riverside has been studying Argentine ants that are vicious fighters. This has allowed him to focus his research on the life and death of ants & how they get rid of the bodies. Due to being such territorial creatures, Argentine ants regular fight wars with termites and therefore, Choe has witnessed many ant burials during his time studying the ant fighting.

The study is essential for developing new pesticides that are more environmentally friendly, recently having been highlighted on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Choe hopes to receive the necessary funding to continue his research into the death of ants. By understanding the death process of ants, scientists are able to create pesticides that achieve the same results without as many environmentally damaging chemicals in them.

Next Article
  • Dog With Arthritis Gets Special Cart

    A dog named Kaylee loves nothing more than to spend every moment with her family. But now that she is 13 years old, she cannot keep up with them as much as she did when she was a younger dog. Sara Morris, who is Kaylee’s owner, says Kaylee has trouble walking now due to the...

    Read More
  • The Secret Atlantic U-Boat Attacks Of World War II

    On January 13, 1942, German U-boats began their campaign on the Eastern Seaboard of North America, targeting merchant ships and oil tankers. And for the next seven months, they dominated the waters off the East Coast. German U-boat captains loved to be assigned to this region as it was an easy place to rack up...

    Read More
  • Humans Are Not The Only Species That Likes To Get Drunk

    Veterinary doctors around Northern Australia are used to the giant influx of parrots found on the streets being brought in for check-ups periodically throughout the year. They have dubbed it the drunken parrot season. A period of the year when the Red-collared lorikeets decide to get completely intoxicated and tipsy off natural brews. They are...

    Read More
  • Puppy Born With Mustache

    A stray dog, a shepherd mix, and her eleven puppies came to the Dallas Animal Services facility in Texas back in July of 2019. When the mother dog and her litter arrived, the staff noticed there was something unique about these little dogs. All dogs are born with hair on their faces, some even having...

    Read More
  • Broccoli Is A Man-Made Plant And Is Never Found In The Wild

    Ever walked through nature and said wow that's beautiful broccoli growing over there. No, you never have, and never will do. That is because you will simply never find broccoli growing out in the wild. Never has anyone walked through a forest and gazed upon rows of wild broccoli. And the answer lies in its...

    Read More