Do Dead Ants Attract More Ants | The Play-Dead Phenomenon!

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You might have noticed some of the live ants are carrying the remains of their deceased comrades back where they came from. It worries you that these dead ants are only a sign of a bigger problem.

So, do dead ants attract more ants? Dead ants are likely to attract more ants but only for the purpose of disposing of them. Oleic acid is released when an ant has died, which has the potential to contaminate a colony and cause illness. That’s why when live ants discover this scent, they rush to it, carry the dead bodies, and dispose of them.

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about ants. From why they are entering your house, what they like, amazing facts about them, the difference between red and black ants, and information about dead ants that attract more ants.

Why Do Ants Enter Houses? 

Why do Ants Enter Houses

Generally speaking, ants enter houses in search of food and water. So, if you discover an ant infestation inside your house, they most likely have found a good source of food or access to water.

Contrary to what many people think, ants are attracted not only to sugar or sweet foods. They are attracted to any kind of food and standing water. Among the foods that ants find irresistible are fruits, honey, meat, fats, rice, bread, leftover foods, and wrappers that have been used in these foods.

So, if you forgot to clean your kitchen and dining table or did not clean them properly at night, expect to see a long line of busy ants in the morning doing the job for you.

Related: What Attracts Ants | Ultimate Checklist

Why Do Ants Walk in a Straight Line and Bump into Each Other? 

Why Do Ants Walk in a Straight Line

Once worker ants leave their nest, they release scented chemicals called pheromones. Once the ants smell this scent, they will follow the trail. Therefore, they form a straight line, sometimes bumping into one another.

Form of Communication

Once the ants find food and go back to their colony, they will leave another trail of pheromones. Meanwhile, ants that see other ants walking towards them usually stop and bump into each other as a form of communication.

Although you might not be able to see their exact actions, they have several ways of communicating with each other.

  • Ants don’t have ears, so they use their antenna to inform others that they found food. They also rub their legs on the other’s body to pass a signal.
  • When an ant bumps another ant, it lets the other one smell the unique scent, thus, informing it about the good news.
  • If an ant wants another ant to taste what it has eaten, it will create a jaw reflex.

What Kind of Weather Do Ants Love?

Ants are cold-blooded insects, so they love warm weather and location, which is why you usually see them in warm areas such as in deep soil, under the bark of trees, under the rocks, and even in electronic appliances. They are not fond of too much heat. In the winter or colder months, they love to hide.

Once the cold season starts, the body temperature of ants reduces dramatically, so they tend to search for the warmer part inside a house, such as under the carpet.

Ants are very good at hiding during winter, and they hibernate when the weather is too cold for them. They only come out if they are hungry and their stock of food is already consumed. 

Related: Do Ants Poop? | Facts and Myths Explored

Are All Ants the Same?

Technically speaking, not all ants are the same. There are three different kinds of ants in a colony: the queen, the males, and the female workers. Additionally, ants also differ in size, appearance, habitat, and the damage they cause.

Facts About Queen Ant

The queen ant is the biggest in a colony. She has wings and can live up to 30 years. Her only job is to lay eggs—millions of them! Some species have more than one queen ant in their colony.

Once the queen dies, the entire colony may only survive for a few months because the queen is rarely being replaced. Because ants are social animals, a single colony may have millions of ants.

Ants also attack each other over supremacy. If a colony is defeated, the new ants of the remaining eggs shall serve as “slaves.”

Facts About Male Ants

Male ants, like queen ants, have wings. They are smaller than the female workers and have longer antennae. Their only job is to mate with the future queens to produce more ants. Also known as drones, male ants are developed from unfertilized eggs and usually die about 2 weeks after mating.

Facts About Female Workers

Female workers also serve as soldiers. They have no wings and are smaller than the queen. Female ants are developed from fertilized eggs and could live up to 3 years.

Aside from protecting the colony, they also build and repair the nest, and take care of the eggs. More importantly, they are the ones that search for food.

Amazing Facts About Ants

  • Ants can lift 20 times heavier than their body weight. It’s like a second-grader being able to lift a car!
  • They have no lungs. Instead, they breathe oxygen through the very tiny holes on the sides of their bodies called spiracles. Interestingly, these are also the same holes where they release carbon dioxide.

Can Ants Swim and Survive in Water?

Can Ants Swim and Survive in Water

Some ant species can swim like a dog and can even survive in water for up to 14 days without drowning. Ants enter into a torpor-like state and lower their metabolism so they can float in water. The colder the water, the less oxygen they need to survive underwater.

Some ants also form an air bubble around their abdomen to help them get oxygen while being underwater. Polyrhachis sokolova, an Australian ant species, was known to have survived a flood in 4 hours by building air pockets into their nest.

Are All Ants Dangerous?

Generally, ants are not considered dangerous. But once they invade in multitudes, they can destroy structures and belongings as well as spread bacteria. They can also bite humans and can cause severe allergic reactions.

So far, bulldog ants are the most dangerous ant in the world because they sting in quick succession and have already caused death. However, most, if not all, ant bites are not life-threatening.

Some ant species, such as fire ants, bite very painfully, and it can cause itching, burning, and swelling. Medical experts don’t call it an ant bite but rather sting, simply because fire ants release venom when they attack humans.

Related: Ant Bites: Identification, Treatment & Allergic Reactions

Black Ants vs. Red Ants: What Are Their Differences?

Black Ants vs. Red Ants: What Are Their Differences
Black ant (left), Red ant (right)

Basically, there are two kinds of ants – the black ants and the red ants. Aside from their color, they have several differences that are not so obvious. Knowing how they differ from each other will also help you a lot in understanding how to deal with them.

1. Appearance

Some black ants are very small, while others, such as the carpenter ants, are very big. These ants come in many color varieties but are mostly glossy black. On the other hand, odorous house ants may be black or brown, while sugar ants may have some yellow on their body.

Fire ants, on the other hand, are the only known variation of red ants. Usually, they are bigger than black ants and can grow between ⅛ to ¼ inch long. They come in reddish-brown to reddish-black and have small differences only in shapes. Additionally, red ants look fiercer and tougher than black ants.

Related: Ant Size Chart | A Simple Size Comparison Guide

2. Habitat

Just like many black ants, carpenter ants live in logs and woods. They don’t eat wood but rather chew them to create a tunnel for their shelter. These tiny black ants also reside in small holes under the soil and indoors. This is the main reason why they are usually seen in homes.

On the other hand, red ants prefer to live outdoors than indoors. They often dig holes in the ground until they form a mountain-like form of shelter. And just like black ants, red ants also prefer warmer climates.

3. Risk Level

In general, black ants don’t bite humans. If they do, they are harmless since they don’t have a stinger. Instead, they are focused on building their nest, which poses a danger to properties. But although they are not aggressive, they are very hard to eliminate.

On the other hand, fire ants are known to be very aggressive and will fight back if you disturb them or attempt to destroy their territory. As mentioned earlier, they release toxins when they sting and can leave their prey with intense pain and burning.

In other words, black ants cause property damage while red ants cause severe harm to humans.

Can Ants Play Dead?

As crazy as it seems, some ant species can play dead. Recent studies reveal that fire ants play dead during an attack from other ants. In most cases, they curl up to pretend that they are dead.

The attacking colony will inspect if they are still moving. Once they leave, the fire ants will uncurl and crawl away from the war zone. But apparently, this self-defense strategy seems to be effective only for young and middle-aged fire ants.

It was discovered that ants aged 6 months to 1 year tend to lose this unique behavior. Although there was no solid explanation for this, researchers suggest that it could be because older ants have tougher bodies than young ones.

Do Dead Ants Attract More Ants?

Do Dead Ants Attract More Ants

If you observe the ants very carefully, it appears that dead ants attract more ants. When a dead ant is discovered, you could notice that its fellow ants will take the body away. But the truth is, ants don’t mourn over a dead comrade and don’t care about it.

Why Do Dead Ants Attract More Ants?

You will notice that other ants will just ignore dead ants. But after two days, the dead ant will rot and will release a chemical called oleic acid. As you probably know by now, ants are very sensitive when it comes to scent. Remember the pheromones that cause them to walk in a straight line?

Once the living ants smell the oleic acid, they will rush to the scene. Then, they will carry the dead body and will bring it to a pile of dead bodies. This is because they know that the smell of the dead bodies means that it carries bacteria that could harm their colony.

Final Thoughts

Ants invade your home in search of food and water. Fruits, fruit juice, honey, meat, fats, rice, bread, breadcrumbs, and leftover meals often appeal to them. As a result, when you see ants marching in a long straight line like soldiers, it is because they are looking for food.

In an ant colony, there are three types of ants: the queen, the males, and the female workers. There are several ant species, but the black ants and red ants are the most well-known. They are distinct in terms of appearance, habitat, and risk level.

Ants have a strong sense of smell. This is why dead ants are more likely to attract other ants. When an ant dies, oleic acid is released. This chemical can contaminate and infect a colony. As a result, when live ants detect this scent, they will go to it. They will transport the dead body and place it in a mound of dead bodies.

Related: How Strong Are Ants? | Incredible Strength Explained

List of Sources

Hahn, J., & Liesch, J. (2020). Ants.
Merchant, M. (2013). Identifying household ants.
North Carolina State University. (n.d.). Ants.

Thomas Matthews
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