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Topic: Any Entomologists?
Message: Posted by: Josh the Superfluous (Sep 22, 2007 04:29PM)
For the past week, my daughter has had an active ant farm. When the harvester ants arrived a third of them were dead. Since then, the other ants have been very involved with their bodies. They've set up cemeteries in several locations, moving them every couple of days or so. Whenever we feed them, I've noticed them taking the deceased, one at a time, and placing them on top of the food, and then taking them away. Today I put some food in a location that was difficult for them to reach, and they still scaled slippery plastic with the dead. Is this normal?
Message: Posted by: Bill Hallahan (Sep 22, 2007 04:44PM)
From [url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE6D71339F934A15752C1A966958260]The New York Times Archives[/url]:
Q. What do ants do with the dead ants you see them carefully carrying away?

A. "They eat them," said a spokeswoman for the Entomological Society of America in Lanham, Md.

There are no ant burial grounds, and most species do not waste the nutritional value of their dead compatriots because of any squeamishness about cannibalism, she indicated.
Message: Posted by: Josh the Superfluous (Sep 22, 2007 04:53PM)
Ha! Wrong lady. Good find Bill. And I usually side with the scientists. :)
Message: Posted by: balducci (Sep 22, 2007 04:57PM)
I'm not so sure you can judge the lady scientist wrong so quickly. The ants may be willing to eat their former compatriots, but prefer the regular ant food you are still supplying.

Try not feeding them for a week or two or three and see if they start dining on the ant corpses.
Message: Posted by: Josh the Superfluous (Sep 22, 2007 09:52PM)
True, I'd think any living omnivore probably would. But they do seem to bury them together, and they seem to be caring for them by placing them one at a time on the food.
Message: Posted by: MagicSanta (Sep 22, 2007 10:24PM)
What you observe is what is going on in the farm. If they are using the bodies as ways to build up their lil' world then that is what they are doing. Have fun with the lil' guys.
Message: Posted by: leapinglizards (Sep 23, 2007 07:05AM)
It occurs to me that perhaps, gross as this may sound, they were using the food you provide as, uh, "dipping sauce."

Or maybe they are trying to see if the other ants are sleeping. And if they don't eat within a week or two, they become dinner?