Why Do Ants Curl Up When They Die?

Ants change their body shapes and curl up under unfavorable conditions. At the same time, some insects like ants and spiders pretend to be dead and bend their legs inward.

You can see the rolled-up bodies of ants in your kitchens or bathrooms that are dead or about to die.

Why Do Ants Curl Up When They Die? Ants curl up when they die because they have less tension in their legs, which reduces stability. The legs bend inward toward the belly due to muscle contraction, and their bodies start shrinking. In addition, all the metabolic processes stop and provide less energy to these insects, so their bodies become stiff and lose the strength to maintain their balance. As a result, ants lie down with exposed bellies and raise their legs. The ants pretend to be dead when they detect danger around them. Furthermore, they can change their body shape during hibernation and death. 

Many people have seen the curled-up ants in their kitchens, washrooms, and at the entrance, but very few people think of the reason behind it.

It is not so easy for ants to curl and uncurl their bodies. The curling up can be deadly because some of these insects cannot turn their backs and stand upright. There are great chances of predator attack when these insects are lying with exposed bellies.

What causes ants to curl up when they die? 

Some insects change their body shapes and bend their bodies when they are about to die. I will explain the factors responsible for the rolling in ants’ bodies.

Lose stability

Insects like ants and spiders cannot maintain tension in the muscles of their legs when they are dying.

Moreover, it decreases their ability to stand upright, falling on their backs. Finally, after some time, their legs start curling and rolling up.

Similarly, the ants curl up their legs and heads after death. They fold their bodies after acquiring a relaxed position.

In addition, gravity has a role in reducing the stability of ants. The heavy back and abdomen hit the ground, and the legs are lighter that remain above the ground.

Contraction and shrinking

Ants roll up their bodies when there is less water and restricted body fluids. 

It results in the contraction of the body muscles and curling of the legs. As a result, the legs fold inward towards a heavy body or abdomen.

The legs contain hemolymph fluid and extensor muscles that extend them outward. However, the body contracts on death, and the hydrostatic pressure toward limbs decreases.

Less energy

The curled shape indicates lesser coordination among the organs. This is because the metabolic system of ants does not function properly and gets seized when they are dying.

All the organs inside the body start losing their function because the body systems cannot provide sufficient energy to the legs that help in standing upright.

The legs are thin and weak, which lose energy when the body is not coordinating correctly. They fold their legs towards the abdomen and lie straight on the floor.

Body stiffness

The legs do not contain muscles and are not tough like the other body parts. The soft legs become stiff and lose their softness when the ants are about to die.

The ants find it challenging to maintain synchronization in the legs with a compromised system when there is lesser coordination in the body systems.

When do ants curl up?

Ants change their body position in different situations, like when they find a threat or danger around them. In addition, the body curls up during hibernation and when they are going to die.


Some ants pretend to be dead when they sense a threat around them.

They curl up their bodies and look like dead insects to deceive an attacker. The danger can be an attacker or any interference in their way.

I put a pencil around the ants and examined how the ants change their body shape by folding their legs inward. They can recognize vibrations and run out of the dangerous area or curl their bodies.


The ants hibernate to protect themselves from the cold air when the outside temperature is low.

These insects can crumble up their bodies during the hibernation period. They roll up their bodies and fold their legs inward to attain a curled shape.

When the weather becomes suitable, they unroll their bodies and walk on the ground. Ants cannot remain in a curl position for a long time and hibernate themselves for a shorter time.

They restrict their movement in a harsh environment that can be cold or hot. As a result, some insects die in hibernation because they cannot regain their relaxed position.

The ants reduce their activities in unfavorable conditions and hide. As a result, they can not get back on their legs, and any delays can lead to their death.


Various internal and external changes occur in ants’ bodies due to death.

For example, the metabolic processes cease, and the fluid stops circulating in the body, which results in the curling of the legs.

They lose coordination inside their bodies, and the disturbance occurs in the nervous system, and it loses its function. For example, I have seen many curled ants in a washroom some days ago, and all were dead.

How do ants curl up their bodies?

The ants can curl their bodies when they find any danger and maintain their position in a relaxing posture on the ground. Some of the dying insects fall on their backs due to gravity, and their legs suspend in the air.

The legs bend inward and come up in a curled shape. You can consider the ants as dead when their bodies appear rolled up.

Some of the ants bend their legs in a forward direction after sensing danger with their antennae. After that, they put their head down on the ground and push their abdomens to the front side.

Then, they maintain their balance on the antenna and took up their legs from the ground. Finally, ants bend their hind legs and curl up their bodies.

Do all ants curl up their bodies when they die?

All ants curl up their bodies when they are going to die and attain a relaxing position. 

 They behave smartly in a situation when there is a threat to life. 

Some ants bend their bodies to seek attention from the colony of insects and uncurl their bodies quickly. The rolled-up shape of the ants gives a message to other ants that it is dead.

So, all of these insects immediately remove the dead ants from their colony to avoid the spread of infection.

The dead insects can be infectious to other insects and contaminate a whole colony. Therefore, other ants remove the dead one for their safety.

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