Night of the living ants

Chemicals make the difference between life and death for these insects

By Stephen Ornes, 00:00 AM May 13, 2009

Ant nests have great undertaker capacity. Workers detect the dead and haul them outside to a pile of debris and corpses, often within an hour after death. Here a worker carries a young ant in the pupal stage to the refuse pile.

Ant nests have great undertaker capacity. Workers detect the dead and haul them outside to a pile of debris and corpses, often within an hour after death. Here a worker carries a young ant in the pupal stage to the refuse pile.

Photo courtsey of the National Academy of Sciences and PNAS

When an ant dies, other ants move the dead insect out of the nest. Sometimes, the dead ant gets moved away very soon — within an hour of dying. This behavior is interesting to scientists, who wonder how an...

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