Elimination Information: Do Ants Poop?

Written by Kristen Holder
Updated: November 14, 2022
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Anything that eats and drinks must produce waste. Since ants eat, they must pass something. So, do ants poop?

Yes, ants poop. They have an excretory system that allows them to get rid of the waste produced through digestion. Like humans, an ant’s body uses what it needs, and the leftovers come out as poop. Even in insects, waste poses a danger. It can be full of pathogens and parasites, so communal insects like ants have evolved to deal with that danger. They practice hygienic defecation behaviors.

This article will discuss how ant poop is made, how they dispose of it, and a few other facts about ant poop. Let’s get started!

How is Ant Poop Formed?

red ant isolated on a white background

Ants have an excretory system that makes poop.

©Andrey Pavlov/Shutterstock.com

Ant poop is a result of their digestive process. Their digestive process is very different from that of humans, but the result is the same. Food enters their body in their mandible, travels down their body, is digested in two stomachs, and the waste then goes through a tube where missed nutrients are absorbed. What’s left is poop.  

No one is exactly sure how the final act of making an ant poop happens because ant defecation has never been studied. No human has ever seen an ant take a dump. The final process of an ant pushing out poop is done through an anus which is a process with which we are familiar.

Do Ants Fart?

Ants probably fart, though there’s no scientific way to determine if they make noise while they do it. Because ants are so small and ubiquitous, no one has tried to study gas expulsion in ants.

Most insects fart, so it’s safe to assume that ants do. Two components of farts, methane and nitrous oxide, were detected in quantities well above normal around a leafcutter ant’s nest.

Do Ants Pee?

No, ants do not pee. In fact, most insects don’t pee. All the waste that needs to be expelled comes out of one hole as one waste. Their poops aren’t wholly solid, though, because there is a moistness to them due to liquid content.

Ants don’t pass uric acid in the same way as humans. Because ants are so different from humans, the nutritional requirements between them and us are significant. Ants process uric acid until it is almost solid, and most of their poop is made from it.

Does Ant Poop Have a Name?

Carpenter ant, Camponotus vagus, isolated on white background.

Carpenter ants defecate frass as they consume wood they can’t digest.

©Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

Regular ant poop that’s stored in their nests doesn’t have its name, but there is a name for a special kind of ant poop that strikes fear into homeowners’ hearts. Ant poop by ants that consume debris as part of their daily lives is called ant frass. Poop isn’t the only thing that comes out in frass, as ants that consume non-digestible materials will pass the material along in their stool.

Specific ants like carpenter ants, who depend on wood all day to build tunnels, consume lots of stuff that doesn’t nourish their bodies. They leave tell-tale frass behind that pest control experts look for when doing an inspection.

If you see any signs of frass in your home, act immediately. There are at-home remedies you can try, and there are pest control companies that know what to do to get in there and solve the problem.

Do Ants Eat Poop?

Ants don’t eat their poop because it’s the toxic waste of their kind, but a few will eat the poop of other animals. Sometimes you might catch them creeping on a litter box or finding dog dumps before you do.

Ants that need more protein than average in their diet tend to be attracted to poop. Some of these ants are the acrobat ant, the Pharoah ant, the red imported fire ant, and the little black ant. However, most other ants will steer clear because they can get just as sick from animal waste as they can from their own.

Leafcutter Ants Garden in Their Poo

Leafcutter ants don’t eat the leaves they harvest. They garden with it.

©Millie Bond – Copyright A-Z Animals

Leafcutter ants grow food in the form of fungi, and they source their manure from their excrement. These ants cut leaves for the specific purpose of feeding a fungus, which is really what they eat, not the leaves. They’ve been observed using their excrement as a means of fertilizing these gardens.

Some Ants Build Toilets

Common garden ants were studied and shown to make waste storage areas. These areas are used by the entire colony, and almost all nests have only one bathroom area with the waste neatly contained. While only one experiment has been done on the topic, other scientists have chimed in to say that the ants they’ve studied have behaved the same way.  

What’s wonderful about most ants building toilets in their nests is that they aren’t pooping all over your house when you find them in the cereal again. They’re too tidy for that, and the pheromone trails they use to follow their colony’s paths would be ruined by feces. Carpenter ants are an exception to the rule and will leave their frass everywhere they go.

Ant Poop Creates an Identifying Cologne

The poop that ants store neatly in their nests is believed to impart the characteristic scent of that colony onto the ant. It’s like an ant cologne, so outside the nest, members of the same colony can recognize each other.

Ants rely on scent trails to access food sources, so they need their comrades to have a stink to them so that these scent trails are left. That isn’t to say that fecal matter is the only way that these scent trails are created, and it’s important to remember that if an ant defecated on one of these trails, it would be ruined.

Ants emit pheromones while they’re outside the colony to help others get back to the location that they were at. A large portion of their scent trail relies on pheromones. That’s why ants know to form the tell-tale line we all dread seeing on our kitchen counters.

What is a Kitchen Midden?

Kitchen middens are piles of non-fecal waste that ants stack up outside of their homes. Nobody knows exactly why the fecal matter is kept in the nest, but garbage and dead ants are disposed of outside.

The term “kitchen midden” is a borrowed term that archaeologists and anthropologists used to describe ancient piles that are found near prehistoric dwellings. While they don’t contain human waste, just like an ant’s nest, they do contain discarded remains of animals, utensils, and other artifacts that interest modern scientists.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © wnarong/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Kristen Holder is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics related to history, travel, pets, and obscure scientific issues. Kristen has been writing professionally for 3 years, and she holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of California, Riverside, which she obtained in 2009. After living in California, Washington, and Arizona, she is now a permanent resident of Iowa. Kristen loves doting on her 3 cats, and she spends her free time coming up with whimsical adventures geared toward exploring her new home.

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