Why Do Ants Commit Suicide?

Suicide. Is that something an animals other than humans do? The answer should be a NO, right? However, you definitely didn’t know that A massive Blue Whale can eat an impressive 500,000 calories in a single mouthful, so you probably didn’t know that ants do commit suicide. Well, you’ll find many such mind boggling facts on Moonjis.

why do ants commit suicide

But why do ants commit suicide?

There’s a cost to following those in front of you blindly. Take, for example, army ants. Since they’re following the leader, these violent insects have a dangerous propensity to commit mass suicide. A tendency to commit suicide? Why? Have you heard of an Ant Mill? This would definitely answer your question about why do ants commit suicide.

An “ant mill” is a strange phenomenon in which ants loop around and around until they all pass out from exhaustion. It’s also known as a “ant death spiral” in simple terms. 
So, what’s causing them to act so irrationally, and most importantly, why do ants commit suicide? It’s all connected to what makes them evolutionary distinct, where their advantageous traits often help to produce at least one drawback.

Blind Leader

What if I say that the leaders of the ant community are responsible for ‘why do ants commit suicide’?

So how and why do ants commit suicide? Army ants, unlike most other ant species, are blind  They also don’t have any permanent nesting areas. Instead of settling down in one place, army ant colonies are constantly on the move in search of food. When the first ant in line moves forward, it leaves a pheromone trail for other ants to detect and track. When this mechanism is functioning properly, foraging parties are able to lead larger groups back to food.

When that doesn’t work, the ants pursue the pheromone trails as they flow back into each other, eventually creating an infinite loop that leads to their death. They would almost certainly never be able to escape unless the circle is broken for some reason.

Ant Milling

Why do ants commit suicide can be explained in this paragraph. Ant milling has most likely existed for centuries, but it was first recorded in 1936 by ant biologist T.C. Schneirla, who discovered a mill of several hundred ants that lasted an entire day. And a torrential downpour couldn’t deter them.

The majority of them died the next day, though a few continued to circle, weakly, on the verge of death. In a 1944 paper detailing the experience, he wrote about the mill and its aftermath. “On the site of yesterday’s phenomenon, there is little to no circling. The bodies of dead and dying ants are scattered throughout the area.

Just about three dozen of the survivors form a thin… and very irregular circular column in which they plod around slowly, counterclockwise.” Other nearby ant species took advantage of their fallen comrades: “various small myrmecine and dolichoderine ants of the neighborhood are busy carting away the dead,” according to the report.

While the largest ant mill ever seen measured hundreds of feet in diameter, the majority of ant mills are just a few inches or feet in diameter and contain just a few dozen ants. Alex Wild, a well-known insect photographer, wrote about the phenomenon on his blog a few years ago.

“When I lived in Paraguay, I saw ant spirals all the time, not just in the region. Army ants have no hesitation about invading rural homes, and I’d come home to find ant circles whirling around on top of my plates in the kitchen, or an intimate ring of 5-6 ants on a coffee mug. Objects that aren’t naturally round, for the most part.”  Small swirls like this, he writes, are lethal for individual ants but useless for the colony as a whole, which can number in the hundreds of thousands.

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Army Ant Species Have A Lot In Common

Despite the fact that army ants exist in over 200 species on both sides of the globe, genetic evidence suggests that they could have shared origins and have maintained their evolutionary advantages and disadvantages for over 100 million years. Individual ants are unable to live on their own because of their morphological and behavioral similarity.

Although evolution provided the ants with a good strategy for group survival, it may also have left them with residual behaviour, such as “pathological” behavior that can be seen “as the footprints left by the evolutionary course in which these ants have been trapped.”

It’s the end of the line when the trap often traps them in a death spiral.

So you now know why do ants commit suicide. They build their own trap and die.

If you have any other facts like this one that would blow anyone’s mind, do let us know by commenting below. We would do a detailed research and write an article on that too.