Even though ants are excellent scavengers and can lift 20 times their body weight, the life of an ant isn’t exactly easy – especially when they’re a primary source of food for many animals. Sometimes, a fight is necessary in order to ward off predators and when this happens, many ants become injured.
In most species of ants, the injured often don’t make it, but a recent discovery shows that African Matabele ants actually heal those that are injured. When an ant undergoes an injury like a torn limb, other ants in the colony address the issue by licking the wound for several minutes up to an hour. Miraculously, this technique seems to work. In fact, more than 90 percent of wounded ants recover after they receive treatment.
In an article by Science Alert, scientist Erik T. Frank from the University of Würzburg in Germany says, “We suppose that they do this to clean the wounds and maybe even apply antimicrobial substances with their saliva to reduce the risk of bacterial or fungal infection.”
Not only is this type of treatment unique in the animal world, but African Matabele ants have also been found to carry their injured colony mates. When an ant becomes injured, it will secrete a chemical substance that sends out an “SOS” signal to other ants. The other ants will then attend to the ant and bring it back to the nest in order to treat it.
In another interesting observation by University of Würzburg scientists found that if an ant is injured severely enough, it will actually resist aid. For instance, if an ant is missing one leg, it will likely lay still and wait for transportation help from its colony mates. However, if an ant is missing five or six legs, it will thrash around so that it cannot be helped.
“In humans in cases where a triage system is necessary, the decision [about] who will receive help is made by the doctor: a top-down regulated system,” says Frank. “In the ants, it’s exactly the opposite.”
So… while ants may seem like small, simple insects, they can actually be more complicated than we believe. Nevertheless, if you discover an ant infestation in your home or office, don’t hesitate to contact our Florence, Columbia, or Charleston pest control company.