Think colony ants are the last word in insect industriousness? A recent study published by the Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Journal and reported on in PC Mag and Science Magazine states that colony ants are lazy slackers.
Over 70% of Colony Ants are Inactive
While colony ants have always enjoyed a solid reputation for efficiency and dedication, it turns out many ants that live in colonies may not do much of anything at all. A group of researchers studied five separate colonies, marking all of the members with spots of colored paint, each with a specific color code. Then, the research team set up a camera to record the ants in five minute segments, six times a day over the next two weeks, and sat back to watch what happened. The researchers learned that so-called worker ants were actually inactive over 70% of the time! Additionally, just about a quarter of all the ants were not recorded working at all. In fact, only about 3% of the ants were consistently active at all during the recorded segments. But what does this mean in the bigger picture? Since the ants aren’t watching Netflix or playing on tiny smart phones, why are they so inactive?
Lazy…or Labor Distribution?
Ant inactivity isn’t news to researchers. While previous studies have shown that the lethargy of the ants might be temporary and due to the influence of circadian rhythms, this new information seems to imply that time of day has nothing to do with the laziness of the ants. However, the scientists suggest that the inactivity of the ants may have something to do with the way a colony distributes labor, possibly allowing the ants that are either too young or too old to stay inactive, while the healthier ants do the brunt of the work.
In a recent interview, one of the lead researchers on the project confirmed this theory of labor distribution, stating that it may be a critical part of the colony’s organization, potentially having something to do with an overabundance of ants, not all of which need to be working at once.
Dealing with Ants
No one wants to share a home with ants – industrious or otherwise. If you think you’ve got an infestation of either active or inactive ants, give us a shout.