You can see ants getting aggressive or running away when they detect a threat, but a few of these species can also play dead.
Ants have a strong sense of smell and vision and detect the possible dangers in their surroundings by analyzing the vibrations.
Can Ants Play Dead? Ants can play dead whenever they feel a threat in their environment, as the young ones are not strong enough to fight larger insects. Moreover, their exoskeletons are soft, and their bodies are weaker in defending against predators. Therefore, they curl up their bodies and become motionless to appear dead until predators go away.
Most probably, they are dead when you see their bodies in a curled position, but it is also possible that they can be playing dead.
Why do ants play dead?
Some animals and insects play dead when they become motionless to fake out the predators and ensure their survival.
It is easy for larger predators to attack and eat the tiny ants, so they have developed defensive measures to protect themselves from attack.
Moreover, a few ant species are good at playing dead when they have a risk of attack and detect danger, while others are not smart enough to change their behavior quickly.
It is not a common sight to see an ant playing dead because it rarely happens, as most of the time, they use stingers and pincers to fight and kill the attackers.
The exoskeleton of young insects crawling on the ground is not strong like the hard exoskeleton in older ones that have thick outer shells.
These hard shells can help avoid the attack of insects and protect their soft bodies.
However, the young ones have to find other tactics to avoid the predators; otherwise, they have to lose their lives due to weaker bodies.
Furthermore, they have less attacking power due to their small and weak bodies, which makes them vulnerable to attack and makes them die quickly. Like, ants can live without their head, but they choose to act smart.
Therefore, they choose to play dead instead of fighting, as there are fewer chances of winning the battle when fighting with strong and larger organisms.
How do ants play dead?
Some ants have better mental capacity and quickly respond to danger after recognizing it. They have to change their body shape to deceive the predating insects quickly.
There are different reasons for these insects to curl up their bodies: they can enter a hibernation stage and death phase and detect environmental threats.
Most commonly, they usually curl up their bodies when they are dead because their legs lose stability and their bodies begin to contract in size.
They do not feel energetic and move their legs inward due to lesser food consumption, which can deprive their metabolic process of essential nutrients.
Moreover, they can quickly change their body shape after detecting vibration. As a result, some of their species try to run out of the threatened area, while a few fight for their defense.
However, those species that can efficiently play dead fold their legs and make them stiff. As a result, they curl their bodies in an inward direction and appear smaller in size.
The attacking insects consider them dead as these insects have curled up and looked like a ball.
The attackers will go away without killing when they find these insects motionless after approaching their bodies.
What ant species can play dead?
All ant species are not efficient at faking out predators as this characteristic only belongs to a particular species. Only fire ants are known for playing dead, as they are naturally aggressive.
They enter a different territory and attack larger insects; that’s why they have to be quick enough to follow their survival strategies.
Moreover, a troop of insects from a foreign territory comes closer to investigate the new entry and kill it. Still, these intelligent insects quickly curl their bodies after detecting the troop’s movement.
In addition, you cannot see older fire ants showing this behavior as they do not have to do so.
Their bodies are stronger as they have hard and thick exoskeletons that can protect them during the fight.
However, the young fire ants cannot fight due to their weaker bodies; that’s why they have to find alternate methods for their protection.
They prefer to show this behavior when they have to give a quick response, and there is no chance to move away or fight.
It continues to fake out troops for a few minutes until they have gone and uncurl their bodies to run away from the area.
So, you can quickly identify the curled-up insects as fire ants when they are not dying but playing dead to deceive the attackers for their survival.