Scientists studying black garden ants discovered that 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.
“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.”