Ants Maintain ‘Toilets’ in Their Nests

The first in-depth look at ant bathroom habits has found that some of the insects maintain “toilets” in their intricate underground colonies.

Scientists studying black garden ants discovered thaAnts Toiletst the bugs pile their waste in dedicated corners of their nests. This makes sense: With thousands of ants confined to such a small space, organization is key.

What’s more, feces can foster bacteria, transmit diseases, and generally put the colony in danger.

“Ants are indeed tidy creatures, but we must be careful not to anthropomorphize,” cautioned study leader Tomer Czaczkes, a postdoctoral research fellow at Germany’s University of Regensburg.

“They are not tidy because it brings them satisfaction, but rather because there must be a selective advantage to being so.”

When Nature Calls

Czaczkes and his co-authors studied 21 small, lab-grown colonies of black garden ants (Lasius niger), a species found in large parts of the world.

The team selectively fed the insects a sugar solution colored with food dye. Some ants got red, while others got blue.

When a blue ant defecated, its feces was also blue. This showed the scientists where the ants deposited their waste—technically called “frass.”


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