Ants Know When To Quarantine

Black garden ants (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

One of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic is our poor ability to quarantine to stop the spread. This summer’s COVID-19 surge in Pittsburgh was sparked by travelers who returned from vacation (Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, Florida, Raleigh, Nashville) but did not quarantine for 14 days.

Perhaps we could learn from ants. An April article in Treehugger described how social species avoid each other to stop the spread of disease. This includes black garden ants.

Ants are very social creatures, always working together to feed and protect the colony. Nurse ants stay inside the nest and tend the larvae; workers forage outside for food. A study of black garden ants found that when workers contract a fungal infection they know to stay outside the nest and avoid contact with other ants. Meanwhile nurse ants move the larvae deeper inside the nest to avoid infection. Ants basically quarantine themselves.

We could learn a lot from ants.

Read more at “How other species handle social distancing when someone is sick.”

p.s. The article also describes other species that practice social distancing including bees, mice, monkeys and bullfrog tadpoles.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)

3 thoughts on “Ants Know When To Quarantine

  1. I knew someone who worked in an office with a woman who got sick every winter but would never stay out of work because she didn’t want to “cause trouble”! They (everybody else) finally got together and told her to “stay the heck at home when you’re sick, cause we don’t want to catch it too”!

    1. My dad, retired teacher, said that the healthiest he ever was was when he retired and was no longer exposed to those “snot nosed kids”.

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