Yes ants do poop. Ants have an excretory system that allows them to release waste from the body through pooping. In fact, not only do ants poop, they have even developed toilet habits with some creating their own toilet areas within their nests.
In this article we’ll further discuss ant poop as we discuss why, where, and how ants poop, what their poop looks like, and if their poop is dangerous or beneficial. Before all that however, a brief description of what pooping is exactly.
What Is Pooping Exactly?
Pooping or in more technical terms, defecation, is the process that occurs after digestion in which animals release waste material called poop or feces from the digestive tract through the anus. It is a necessary process to make space for the digestive system and to expel undigested food and metabolic waste products from the body.
Why Do Ants Poop?
Ants poop for the very same reason that we humans and other animals poop, to remove waste from the body. It is through pooping that ants remove excess food, water, ions, and more importantly, nitrogenous waste such as toxic ammonium ions from their hemolymph (the ant equivalent of blood).
How Do Ants Poop?
Ants poop through their excretory system which consist of the Malpighian tubule system. This system, as the name may imply, makes use of long branching tubules that extend throughout the ant digestive tract. These tubules serve as excretory organs which filter the hemolymph and absorb different substances including solutes, water, and nitrogenous waste to form the pre-urine.
Once the pre-urine is formed, it is then passed along to the hindgut where it merges with undigested food. While there, special cells embedded in the walls of the rectum selectively reabsorb water, and ions such as potassium and sodium from the pre-urine through osmosis.
By the end of it all, the rectum would have reabsorbed 90% of the water from the urine, leaving the rest of the waste material, including uric acid, to form solid pellets which are to be ejected out through the anus. These pellets are what we know as poop or feces. In more technical terms though, this poop along with other solid excretions from insects such as ants are referred to as frass.
All in all, the ant excretory system is a highly efficient system which allows them to remove waste from the body while preventing water loss which otherwise may lead them to drying up.
What Does Ant Poop Look Like?
Unlike other insects that may produce liquid frass, ants typically produce solid poop that look like tiny pellets. They’re typically black to brown in color and may appear as stains or patches on a surface.
In the following video, ant poop is described to look like a build-up of old coffee grounds.
Where Do Ants Poop?
While one would imagine that ants simply poop wherever they want, in reality ants are in fact quite particular with where they poop. Many ants, for example, create dumping sites called middens where they deposit poop and other waste.These middens can either be inside a specialized nest chamber or fully outside the nest.
Some ants, such as the common black garden ants (Lasius niger), have also been discovered to create toilet areas within their nests. These toilet areas are mostly found in the corner of non-specialized chambers distinct to that of the aforementioned middens. They are characterized by spatially defined, distinct dark patches of fecal matter and the absence of other waste material such as uneaten food or corpses, which suggests that these areas are exclusively used for pooping.
Is Ant Poop Dangerous?
Poop, in general, is usually considered dangerous because it may contain disease causing pathogens. Ingestion for example, may lead to the infection due to bacteria, viruses, and parasites that may harm the body.
However, the fact that some ants keep their poop inside their living quarters suggests that ant poop may not be dangerous, and possibly even beneficial.
Benefits of Ant Poop
While we may generally view ant poop or any other poop for that matter, as disgusting and potentially dangerous, it does provide some benefits not just to the ants themselves but to plants and us humans as well.
For example, leaf-cutter ants have been shown to use poop along with the plant material that they gather as fertilizer for their fungal gardens. Through both, they’re able to cultivate fungi which they feed on.
The same agricultural benefit can potentially be applied on a bigger scale. In the previously shared video, ant poop was shown to pack quite a bit of nutrients. When compared to the surrounding leaf-litter, ant poop had four times more nitrogen, six times more potassium, and an astounding sixteen times more phosphorus.
With those nutrients, seedlings that were applied with ant poop were shown to grow two to three times higher than those without, suggesting that ant poop could be excellent fertilizers and possibly help grow the very food we eat.
Do Ants Pee?
Ants don’t technically pee. While ants do form urine and release metabolic waste such as nitrogenous waste from their bodies, they do so through pooping to prevent unnecessary water loss. Ants simply, don’t have the resources to expel a significant amount of water in order to release waste.
Do Ants Fart?
While there are yet to be comprehensive studies on the matter, it is highly likely that ants do fart. They have or produce the three necessary components of farting namely the intestines, gas, and an anus. Possible evidence of farting in ants has been shown through preserved gas bubbles around the anuses of ants that have been trapped in amber.
Summary: Do Ants Poop?
To summarize, yes ants do poop. Their excretory system consisting of Malpighian tubules, filter out waste in the body to produce tiny fecal pellets that ants expel through the anus. These pellets are solid and include different waste material from undigested food to nitrogenous and other metabolic wastes.