Study: Ants Rarely Get Sick Because They’re Masters of Cleanliness

posted: 06/05/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
bridge of ants

A new study from the Institute of Science and Technology Austria reveals surprising information about ants: the small insects are masters of cleanliness, and proactively take steps to prevent the spread of disease within their colonies.

"We know of practically no diseases capable of killing entire ant nests or ant populations. This is incredible, considering that ants live so close together, share the same genetic background, and are in such frequent contact with each other. So you'd think that disease would spread pretty quickly though a nest," explains study lead author Dane Line Vej Ugelvig.

Ugelvig and her team dropped non-lethal amounts of fungal spores into an ant colony, and observed how the ants immediately sprang into action, cleaning all traces of the spores from their infected comrades:

"The other ants start cleaning the infected ant even before it has become ill and before the fungus has grown into the body. We believe it's this early discovery of a disease that is decisive in preventing it from spreading through the nest," Ugelvig said.

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