Ants spiral of death – how ants kill themselves

We all know that ants is one of the most interesting and mysterious species on our planet. But did you know that ants are quite suicidal?

The ants, for no apparent reason, form a spiral and run in it continuously until they die of exhaustion. The death carousel leaves many dead behind as it continues to spin until some group of ants break it and split away from the group.

This phenomenon, known as “dancing ants”, “ants circle of death” or, originally, “death mill” was first scientifically studied by an American animal psychologist Theodore Schneirla in 1944.

One of the common references to this phenomena is attributed to an American naturalist William Beebe, who saw and later described this phenomena in Guyana in 1921. The army of ants was moving in a circle with a 1,200 ft circumference. It took each ant 2.5 hours to complete the loop. The mill went on for two days until most of the participants died.

This is how it starts. Some “dumbest ant on earth” locks himself in a dead loop for no apparent reason. It looks very funny.

And here is the complete process of the death spiral formation:

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1 demesos September 24, 2010 at 8:29 pm

In some situations it even does not need a "dumb" ant. The behavior of army ants to keep in touch with their neighbours and their behavior to huddle up under heavy rainfall can lead to such circling (see… for explanation)

2 Ants invasion July 16, 2011 at 2:28 am

It’s totally crazy, need for infos on that ! Ants death circle !!!

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