By K. Nepsa
I recently read an article about a child who put a few pieces of the cereal Trix into his ant farm. He observed the ants’ strange behavior and his parents were sure to write about his experience. Supposedly, the ants proceeded to dig up their dead comrades throughout the farm and pile them on top of the Trix. Why would they do this?
Scientists in the group of amazingly smart people responded that the cereal Trix, contains oleic acid, which is a naturally occurring chemical in sunflower and canola oil. Oleic acid is also released by ants when they die. So, basically, it’s the “dead ant smell.”
When the ants smelled the oleic acid on the Trix, they responded, ‘oh, dead ant pile goes here’, where they proceeded to pile all their dead onto the Trix. The ants will also treat any live ant like it is dead if they smell like oleic acid. So, if the acid gets rubbed off onto a live ant while working in the graveyard, the other ants will keep dragging the live ant back to the pile until the live ant can furiously clean itself off of the acid.
Again, the oleic acid is naturally occurring in the oils used to make the cereal. It’s not some deathly chemical used in our cereals that causes this behavior in ants. But, if you have Trix in your pantry and happen to have an ant farm in your house, it could be an interesting experiment for the kids!