ants, insects that know how to heal themselves

If the ants inspire us to create new machines, autonomous robots or algorithms to guide usthey also have a lot to teach us about health.

Luc Will Pass is a myrmecologist, he has been studying ants for more than 50 years and for him, there is no doubt that the ant is an insect that cares about disease.

When ants heal

Ants carry metapleural glands on the thorax. They secrete substances that allow these insects to get rid of pathogenic bacteria or fungi. These glands are useful for them to heal themselves, but also to treat their larvae. Regularly, by licking them, they will protect babies from potential infections.

The way the ants die is also remarkable. In small colonies, “sick ants come out on their own to die outside, in order to keep the infection away,” explains Luc Passera. If one of the ants dies within a large colony, it is evacuated quickly, to preserve the health of society, by preventing the bacteria from the corpse from spreading.

Finally, today we find fragments of resin in the nests of ants. This resin is an excellent protector for the bronchial tubes and is used by ants to prevent disease. They know how to use nature in prevention. This is why nature and biodiversity are important to preserve, according to Luc Passera: “We don’t know what we will need tomorrow”.

When the ants heal us

Garden ants, recognizable by their black color, could well save our lives. To live in society, ants recognize each other by smell. We have therefore taught ants to be attracted by such and such an odor, in this case by cancerous cells whose odors are not or barely perceptible to humans.

After 30 minutes of training, facing two pots, the ants will circle around the one that contains cancerous cells. An exercise already tested with dogs, for example, but which takes much longer. “We learn day by day and we don’t yet suspect how much biodiversity could help us”, explains Luc Passera.

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