July 24, 2020

What ants can teach us about fighting off pandemics

The little buggers are surprisingly good at containment.

Humans are the most advanced species in the world, yada yada. But we just got absolutely owned by some ants.

Like us, ants face rough odds in limiting the spread of disease. Some colonies are as crowded as NYC. Yet ant epidemics are rare.

Why? 

The little buggers are surprisingly good at containment, scientists found. The findings suggest social behavior doesn’t necessarily doom species exposed to pandemics.

Some of the ants’ antics sound familiar:

  • Social distancing: It’s not just for humans. Ants limit their interactions, especially with the queen of the colony.
  • Medicine: Tree resin has antimicrobial properties. Some species spread it around their nests. 
  • A+ hygiene: They groom one another frequently, collect waste, and dispose of dead bodies.

Others… not so much:

  • Self-made hand sanitizer: A few ant species secrete their own germ-killers.
  • Cannibalism: Some termites eat their young to eliminate vulnerable populations in outbreaks. 

Probably not something the CDC would recommend.

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