Does Attacking Ants Really Attract More Ants?

Every year around this time, when the doors of my house open, we begin to feed on the fresh spring air through our window screens, and the children feast on watermelons and popsicles daily (attracting many tiny six-legged invaders), I wonder: Is it true that stepping on ants attracts more ants? Because as the head kitchen cleaner in my house, I am by default the main ant killer.

Every spring, when I start smashing ants on the spot, I wonder if the old adage about critters somehow knowing when one of their brethren has fallen is true. I have heard this potential myth somewhere along the way and have never verified it. Can these pests with tiny brains know when one of their buddies is dead?

To my surprise, yes they can. (Ants run a complex organization.) According to Accurate Pest Control , “Ants are brilliant creatures. They usually send teams to investigate. When you crush an ant, the liquids release pheromones that signal danger to nearby ants. When the investigation team stumbles upon the dead, they return to the hive and pass on important information.”

What exactly is the information? Well, that someone they know is dead, and – you know – they need to deliver their corpse to the cemetery – stat. Not a cemetery with tombstones and flowers; a type of critter called a bunch , which the Misfit Animals website describes as “ant dump and grave”.

Wait, so ant colonies have undertakers ? Again, yes. (We told you—complex.) Ants engage in a biological process known as necrophoresis, ” sanitary behavior ,” by which social insects such as ants, bees, wasps, and termites move the corpses of their colony elsewhere to prevent disease or spread of infection throughout the colony. If you’ve ever looked closely at an anthill, you may have noticed the activity of the coffin-carrying insects.

That’s why when you squash an ant and walk away, you’re essentially setting off a metaphorical flare that screams to all your victim’s friends and family, “Hey! The dead ant is here. Come and get it!”

So don’t do it. Instead, if and (to put it bluntly) when you squash the ant on the spot, be sure to remove the smell so that the deceased can’t tell their team of their demise. Spruce recommends using either vinegar, a paste of baking soda and water, cinnamon, or, if outside, drawing a thick line around the presence of the ant with chalk. (I prefer to dispose of the body with a quick spray of vinegar and water, then dry thoroughly with a paper towel to remove evidence.)

If you have to deal with multiple visitors, try one of these methods we wrote about earlier to get rid of an ant infestation.

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