Oct 30, 2012 – Can’t We All Just Get Along?


Why do ants carry other ants when the other ant is still alive? I've seen carpenter ants carrying other carpenter ants and I've also seen nuisance ants carry other nuisance ants. Why do they do this?


Ants just don't get along with each other. Argentine ants are well known for having a friendly attitude from one Argentine Ant colony to another Argentine Ant colony, but they may be the only ones. Most other species of ants have colonies that would be aggressive toward other colonies of the same species, so this might explain why you see carpenter ants hauling other carpenter ants around. Perhaps one colony invaded the other and what you see is the spoils of war. Ants are carnivores, as we know, and an enemy ant could be just as useful for food as a cricket or caterpillar. 

Another possibility is that a colony is simply cleaning house. Worker ants may live for a few months to maybe a year, so in a colony of tens of thousands of worker ants there will be a constant die-off of workers. These may just be gathered up by other workers and tossed out of the colony without any special recognition or memorial for all the work those dead comrades have done. It's a thankless job being a worker ant. 

Another possibility is that some ant species are highly territorial and aggressive about it, and they may invade colonies of other ants that are competing for the same food resources. I have seen pavement ant colonies overrun by Argentine ants, and the Argentines were bringing all the dead pavement ants out and dumping them on the ground above. Perhaps they had decided to use that handy pavement ant gallery system for their own colony and did not want all the dead bodies of the other ants laying around. 

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