Should I Clean Up Dead Ants – Well It’s Complicated

By Magdalena Smyczek - Own work, CC BY 4.0,

Should I Clean Up Dead Ants?

What does all this mean about whether you should clean up dead ants? Here is the scenario.

If you kill the few ants you have discovered in your home or near the foundation of your home, then just wait before you try to clean them away.

When dead ants fall where they die, the pheromone chemical that is emitted from their bodies will sound the alarm to the colony. If you want to know if you have ants hidden in your pipes, wires, walls, etc., you will soon find out.

As soon as live ants detect the chemical cues from the dead or dying ant, they will swarm out of their hiding place in and around your home to collect the body. How long does this take? How about two days!

Yes, if you can leave the dead ants on the floor or ground for this long, you will soon see live ants arrive to carry the carcasses away. Ants can appear at any time. However, if you are looking for an infestation nest, watch and wait.

Remember that as active as ants are, they are most active during the day and at night. If you watch the dead ants for those two days, you can soon learn where the nest is located. A mass colony of ants will arrive to remove the carcasses. This means their colony is nearby.

Do You Have Indoor Ant Nests?

Trailing or tracking ants to a nest inside your home is vitally important. Their existence within your home means structure damage and contamination of your water and food products.

According to exterminators and entomologists, here are a few tips in finding ant nests. There are small signs that can look for that will lead you to where they live, such as the following:

Look for a pile of dead ants near windows and other openings. As we have learned, live ants form a pile of their dead ants so that the bodies will not contaminate the nest.

Carpenter ants like to nest and eat the wood that they inhabit. Look for small mounds of wooden shavings from parts of your home that are made from wood. Yes, other insects eat wood also like termites and bees. However, finding any insect nest is worth the search.

Ants need water. Look around your pipes, especially pipes that are leaky or water pipes that you use often like the outside faucet, etc. to see if you have any earth mounds.

You can then quickly treat that area where their nest is. When this occurs, you can then seal up holes and cracks in and around the home. Repair or replace doorways and screens to keep ants from coming into the home. Also, fix the foundation from cracks and holes especially those formed from wiring or cables that lead into the home.

Ants Are Beneficial Pests

Who doesn’t want to control ants whether they naturally form a nest pile near your home or if you are a myrmecologist who owns a formicarium (ant farm). Ants are commonly considered a pest around our homes, but to their benefit, they are very socially structured and are eco-beneficial.

Farmers do not always destroy ant nests in their garden. Ants digging deep to create their chambers are helping to release soil nutrients and oxygen to feed plant roots.

In traditional gardening, ants aerate the soil – digging tunnels that carry water, oxygen, and nutrients to plant roots. And they also speed the decomposition of organic material, such as leaves and dead insects, thereby fertilizing plants.

Ants also eat or mulch dead insects that harm a garden. The ants carry small bits of plants and animal remains into their nest. This is nutritious for the soil. Ants carry these bits of seedling nutrients to other soil areas of the nest.

These plant and animal fertilized seedlings that land in other parts of the garden will eventually produce healthy plants that will grow up through the soil.

What Is An Ant Nest?

A queen ant ensures the growth of the ant colonies. Their underground nesting community consists of tunnels and chambers. These tubular chains can be up to 3 feet deep and 4 feet wide.

They can extend across acres of land depending on the size of the colony. Therefore, when you see the dirt-piled nest appearance above ground, underneath is a massive tunnel of activities.

The domestic ant nests you have in your yard or that are trying to enter your home, are made up of a queen, workers, and scouting ants. Depending on the ant species there are other roles that ants play according to assigned duties for the well-being of the community.

Types of Ants Within the U.S.

 Each state within the U.S. features a mix of ant species. For example, in the southern states, “fire” ants are more prevalent. There is also a common household ant pest which is the “odorous house ant.” They are tiny in size and they want to eat any food product you have lying around.

The odorous house ants are prevalent in the northwestern states. Entomologists have reported that there are over 1000 ant species in the U.S. The 3mm inch black ant and the 14 inch black Carpenter ants are also common home and yard intruders. Carpenter ants also enjoy making nests in rotten wood.

Many ants discovered in the home can easily crawl in and around pipes and wires causing damage and infestation problems. As we can see, all ants do not make nests in the ground. They will not only enter the home or near the foundation of a building, they will also make nests in between pavement cracks.

But the ground is the preferred nesting place of choice. Nesting beneath the earth gives ants food, protection, and a place to grow the colony without much interference. The U.S. ant species within the U.S. include the following:

  • Argentine ant
  • Black or Yellow house ant
  • Carpenter ant
  • Fire or Field ant
  • Harvester ant
  • Odorous house ant
  • Pharaoh’s ant
  • Sugar ant
  • Thief ant

Army Ants

What we should be glad about is that we do not live in parts of Africa, Asia, or Central/Southern America where there are “army” ants. When they are on the move as a vast army, they eat everything in their path. If you stand still when they approach, you may survive.

Army ants are blind. They travel in a colony of over 15 million ants. Any movement is what draws their attention. They will eat animals on the ground and in the trees as they migrate. There is no army ant controlling method, just move out of their way!

Bull Ants

The aggressive “bull” ant in Australia is not a large black ant that you want to chase from inside your home or outdoors from around your home. They do not care who or what tries to disturb their nest, they will chase you. Their bite can send you to the hospital.

You can tell that you should be wary of the bull ant because its colors denote danger. They are dressed in bright red or orange coloring both on their heads and on their abdomen. Bull ants love to forage in residential communities of Australia, as well as woody areas.

Do You Need To Clean Up Dead Ants?

Speaking of controlling ants there are methods that will help defer ants entering your home or if you want to destroy their outdoor nesting mounds. There are insecticides you can buy over the counter, you can call your local exterminator, or you can use a variety of DIY products.

Either way, do you want to clean up or remove the dead ants? It seems that the best answer, oddly enough, is no! Let me explain. Ants communicate via chemicals. When an ant dies, a chemical hormone scent called “oleic acid” is instantly released.

Pheromone – Oleic Acid

Depending on what is occurring in an ant’s activity, pheromones can signal sexual desire, food is found, time to move the next, or it can signal death. So, you are walking around the house or outside and you step on an ant.

Its body continues to release this death hormone. Live ants from its nearby colony can detect the oleic acid and will rush to the body of the dying or dead ant. Live ants rush to its defense. Interestingly, they know that the dead ants are nothing more than a colony member that needs to be removed.

Almost all ant species keep the interior of their colony nest meticulously clean. Ants get rid of their dead by burying them in a special location or they pile them up away from the rest of the colony in piles known as “middens.” The purpose of live ants removing dead ants from the colony is to keep the colony clean from contamination.

If you’re enjoying this article then why not check out the Ants section of school of bugs:


Finding An Ant Nest

When homeowners kill ants, yes we want to rid our home of them, but trying to find their nest requires a great deal of patience. Following the new ants that you see on your shelf or kitchen floor is challenging.

Ants are challenging to track. They sneak in and out of the smallest spaces. Also, ants do not travel in one straight line when they leave their nest. They search and search for the nearest food sources which usually wind up in your home and in your yard.

Ants leave pheromone trails indicating food for the worker ants to following. If you see a mass of ants around your home, follow the ant mass to eventually help lead you to their nest – if you are lucky!

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:






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All the best


Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page

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