Home » Ants control » Do Ants Eat Their Dead Brethren Body?

Do Ants Eat Their Dead Brethren Body?

do ants eat their dead

Insects like bees, insects, and wasps live in a colony. Among them, some species of insects have an instinct that is referred to as necrophoresis. This behavior consists of carrying the dead member of the colony to the nest. 

But do ants eat their dead members? Yes, you can find cannibalistic instincts in some species of ants. They eat their fellow dead members to ensure safety from diseases that can infest the colony. 

No, they don’t have a sense of feeling. But all they do is based on smell. They are highly sensible about the smell. This is what initiates the working mechanism between ants. So, let’s break down the science that initiates the necrophoresis mechanism and discuss how, just through smell, ants act so functionally. 

How ants use smell?

Ants have a strong sense of smell. They use smell to detect food and travel structurally. While traveling, ants release pheromones to mark their way. This helps them discover and mark a certain route for returning. Not just traveling. Pheromones help them achieve different kinds of roles. Here is how ants use smell:

Creating pathways for other ants to travel and create a trail. Ants release pheromones to mark and detect a trail. other ants use through their antenna, which allows them to navigate.

This strong chemical helps ants communicate between themselves. Like following trails to go to food sources or coordinating tasks. 

Identification is a big deal for ants. As ants are colonial insects, they prefer to act as a group. As each has a different color and behavior, it helps them identify other colonies. Also, in terms of danger, they get the hunch to fall back and defend. 

What is the necrophoresis characteristic between Ants?

Necrophoresis is a kind of sensational behavior among colonial insects. Which includes carrying their fellow member to remove them from the nesting area or vicinity. 

Ants are fairly known to do such acts. When any of their members die, they carry their bodies to a safe place to halt the spread of pathogens. They dispose of the body in their designated place to keep the colony clean. This ensures a healthy environment for the community and reduces the risk of spreading disease. 

Ants are highly structural creatures. They maintain enough integrity between the living and the dead. This is why necrophoresis plays a great deal in the ant colony. 

What do ants do with dead ones?

When ants die, they release oleic acid. Ants detect this scent through their smell receptors and follow the trails. In simple death, the time it takes for other ants to detect is longer. However, if someone squashes an ant, they can notice a huge swarm gathering in a few moments. Because a squashed ant releases more oleic acid than a normal one. And you will simply see them carrying away their dead fellows with them. 

If you think ants have a sense of emotions and judgments, well, they don’t. They simply take away their fallen brother to contain contamination. Because a dead ant releases pathogens, which is a great risk for an ant colony. They don’t have simple emotions like other living things, so they just do this on instinct. 

Where do they take the bodies?

Like humans, ants do have a place, just like a graveyard. Which is called a midden. Ants carry their dead brethren to the midden and pile them up there. But does this mean any serious concern? Yes, they do; ants tend to keep their colonies clean.  

Dead ants release chemicals when dying, which is dangerous for them. So ants carry them to dispose of their bodies. This is simply a waste ground for the ants. 

Ants do this to protect their queen and colony. So when an ant dies and releases oleic acid. It indicates others to quickly search and dispose. Even for the queen of a colony, if they die, they are disposed of like the rest. 

Do ants eat their dead bodies?

Ants are very social in terms of their characteristics. Each ant species runs on colonies. So their colony and its safety are the priorities. But dead ants pose a serious threat to the environment of the colony. Which is why removing the dead is essential. 

But do they intend to eat other dead ants? 

Yes, in most cases, if the ants are from another colony, they face cannibalism. Also, certain colonies can face this if there is a shortage of food. They feed their brethren when they require nutrients. 

Even as mindless creatures, ants still have good sense. A live ant will never go near a dead body if there is a potential danger. Dead ants release pathogens after death, which is harmful. If there is no danger, they will use the midden to store bodies or relinquish their storage normally. 

So, ants are not cannibalistic insects. They showcase this behavior if there is a need for it. However, not all the species show cannibalism. Species such as:

  • Red Fire Ants
  • Carpenter Ants
  • Army Ants
  • Slave-Making Ants

These ants are by far the most ferocious in other colonies. Their aggressive behaviors and natural signs make them predators for their species. The cannibalistic behavior is the result of food and nutrient shortages. So to relinquish it, ants do eat their brethren dead bodies . It is more like an act of necessity.


If we simply justify the act of ants, we all have to agree on how structural ants are. Their colony, characteristics, and working methods are pretty amazing. Like human beings, they also have a certain code of life. Which makes them better at organizing stuff and much more proficient than human beings. 

Ants do eat their dead brother’s body when they hit the wall. Which humans consider the last standing. So, if you ever have ants in your house, try not to squash them. Because you are inviting ants for a home tour when you least want them.