Is it normal for ants to scream when I use water to get rid of them? Well, ants don’t “scream” because they only communicate using pheromones or certain sound signals.
What most people consider as “screaming” in ants is a type of chirping sound that’s known as stridulation.
Is It Normal for Ants to Scream?
While this might appear to be a strange question, it’s actually normal for these insects to “scream”. Well, some asked if, in fact, these insects produce sounds because whenever they use water to eliminate them from their patio, they hear screeching sounds.
Literally, we can say that she heard the ants “screaming”. But how true is such a statement? Well, comprehensive research reports indicate that the squeaky sounds that some people often hear when they try to eliminate ants by using water is what is called stridulation. Yes, you heard it right.
This is a type of a high-pitched and rasping sound that is produced when two surfaces are rubbed frequently or rapidly against each other.
Stridulation mainly occurs in animals, especially katydid, cicadas, and crickets. In some instances, scientists have reported that it can also occur in sea animals such as catfishes.
Historical Facts about Stridulation
In ants, the aspect of stridulation has been around for over a century. Data reports indicate that stridulatory sound production has been known by human beings since the late 19th century.
However, it’s clear that such a faculty has evolved over the years. This is because stridulatory sound production can now be found in around five subfamilies.
Even in ancient times, this type of sound production wasn’t associated with vocal cords but rather dorsoventral movements that occur in the gaster. During this process, the distal border that’s in the ant’s 3rd abdominal segment tends to act like a scarper on the insect’s stridulatory file.
It should be noted that this file is made of well-aligned rectilinear and parallel tegument ridges found on the edge of the 4th abdominal segment.
The ridges have chirps with pulses that perfectly correspond to similar movements produced by the scarper. This eventually creates sound signals which are them air-transmitted over a distance that covers a few centimeters.
Understanding the Context of Stridulation
Some reports indicate that the context of stridulation can only occur when a large number of ants are buried or restrained. So, in the case of using water to get rid of them, ants might actually scream.
While an old hypothesis indicates that this type of sound production originally started and evolved over the years in order to alert the other members of the colony of the collapse of the nest or tunnel wall.
Note that when the nest collapses, the members of the colony are buried hence this type of response might be triggered. Besides that, the “screaming” could be as a result of predation.
The members of the colony have to effectively alert the conspecifics regarding a newly perceived kind of threat. It’s also worth noting that this kind of noise was also used to warn the predator of a possible attack.
But there are flaws with hypotheses drawn from such scenarios. They simply don’t give enough evidence or the information we are looking for.
Well, if you look at the “screams” in-depth, you will realize that it’s not an effective mechanism that can help other members perceive the severity of the threat.
It should be noted that in the first place, not all ants in the colony are capable of stridulation. So, if you are going to use water to eliminate the ant colony, possibly, only a few members will be able to produce this kind of sound.
Besides that, research studies indicate that many of these species that are capable of producing such sounds are quite small in size.
The Logical Fact behind These Ant Screams
While these insects don’t literally scream, they actually produce sounds. Scientifically speaking, there are several species of ants that normally stridulate.
These are shrill and repetitive sounds that are produced when the ants strike their body parts on certain areas of their colonies.
This mechanism can also be found in other insects such as grasshoppers and crickets. To effectively produce such sounds the ants used part of the abdominal segment with their legs.
That abdominal area contains a strong type of chitinous tissue and when it’s rubbed together with the legs, the sounds become audible enough for human beings to hear.
Besides the abdomen and legs, ants can also use their antennas to stridulate. In a natural setting, stridulation is used to communicate with the other ants in the colony.
It’s one of the most effective defense strategies that these insects apply when they want to protect themselves and their colonies.
The effectiveness of such a communication system is enhanced by the social life of ants. These insects have an organized and hierarchical society. There are workers who do the most work when it comes to collecting food.
There are also soldiers who protect the colony as well as drones and queens who are responsible for the expansion of the colony.
Other Factors that May Make You Think Ant’s Scream
We have established that ants actually produce sounds even though they are not screams. Well, these sounds could also mean something else.
Could you have been confusing it with another reaction?
Well, actually if the ant nest is located in a wooden area, then it could be the patio wood reacting with the water.
Alternatively, when water penetrates a warm and dry concrete under pressurized or compressed conditions, then it tends to produce some form of shrill sounds.
This could be what some people relate to ants making noise because these insects also live in between concrete cracks.
To determine if this is true, you can try it in an environment that doesn’t have ants. We can guarantee you that you will get almost the same results.
The Anatomy of Ants and Why They Can’t Scream
The ant’s body consists of the head, thorax, and gaster. In between the gaster and thorax, there is a node that joins the two parts and it’s called the pedicel.
However, our main concentration is the gaster that is made up of several distinct segments. It should be noted that one of these segments comes with a ridged patch.
This patch has a neighbor that has a feature that resembles a rasping widget. Under a telescopic view, this view, the segments have the appearance of nested tubes.
So, can you imagine what sound would be produced when these raspy edges scratch when they move inwards and outwards?
The funny thing is that those who live in places that are highly infested with ants get to hear their “screaming” concerts often. for instance, research that was done in the southwestern United States indicates that residents often hear such stridulatory sounds frequently, especially when they pick the red desert ants.
Apart from that, Myrmica ant species that is common in the North-East region also produces audible squeaks. Even though it’s less common, when you pluck it with the human hand, you will definitely hear something audible.
Generally, research studies indicate that about four subfamilies of ants usually produce some forms of audible noises.
To fully establish if these insects can scream, we have to look at its anatomy. Scientifically representation of ants indicates that they don’t have vocal cords. This means that there is no way they can produce screaming sounds.
Secondly, we thought they probably scream because they are afraid of water or water causes a restriction and, therefore, these insects might actually think that they are in danger.
As a matter of fact, it’s clear that ants aren’t afraid of water hence they won’t panic (but if you are using hot water you will definitely kill them.
The thing is that if you are going to use water then these insects are used to it. It rains all the time they are outdoors in their nests and they hardly panic. So, we can guarantee you that water won’t cause them to behave in such a manner.
If You Want to Eliminate Ants
Instead of using water to eliminate ants which may not be an effective technique, you can use other alternatives. For instance, you can use a vinegar solution, glass cleaner plus liquid detergent, or peppermint spray among others.
The Bottom Line
Generally, it’s clear that ants produce sounds. However, this is under some form of behavioral context. It could be when they have spotted an enemy or during food recruitment.
However, you need to understand that these insects don’t have vocal cords.
The “screaming” sounds that people hear are often what’s called stridulatory sound production. It occurs when the abdominal area and the legs of the ants rub to produce a sound.
The frequency of sound sounds usually varies depending on where the nest is and the members of the colony. Note that there is still the need to understand stridulation as a mode of communication in ants and why it’s not highly effective.
If you want to learn more about various insects, then checkout our site categories, we have a bunch of articles there that are totally worth reading:
That’s it for this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it and if you think it might be useful for someone else then please share it on social media, email or your own website! It really encourages us to write more content and grow the site!
All the best
Have you seen a stink bug hanging around in your home – or possibly smelled one? These brown, shield-shaped bugs are often to be seen in US households and you might come across them from time...
Life is a diverse and fascinating mystery populated by a rich tapestry of organisms—from unicellular bacteria to insects and even you and me. As different as all these lifeforms are, though, we...