Apparently, “defecation scientists” study ant toilets.
Or so I learned in the days after a wonderful, short visit with my nephew’s family.
The morning I left we noticed that a brand new invasion of ants had gotten into a candy bag left overnight on the floor.
Dumping out the bag o’ critters we wondered why we don’t ever see a trail of ant urine or excrement leading away from a mess like that.
My nephew speculated that ants don’t live long enough to fully digest. And now his three adorably trusting kids believe that. I almost did, too. Which is too bad because it’s not the case.
Now that I’ve had time to do some research I see that house ants live plenty long enough to leave a mess. But they only excrete INSIDE their own nests, and they only do so in ONE CORNER of a nest.
This research was published in 2005 by biologists in Germany. These same defecation scientists explored ants’ sanitary behavior ten years later. Having found that ants use “toilets,” the team wondered why ants don’t chuck the waste out of the nest when they’re done wiping.
(Just kidding about the “wiping.” They don’t.)
It might be because they use the stuff. They might mine their toilets for nutrients to feed their larvae. Or the smell alone may act as a chemical barrier against certain predators. Which means that feces and waste products aren’t necessarily dangerous? Think about the implications of that, and invest, perhaps, in compostable toilets.