A video taken in a woman’s garden showing ants bringing flower petals and leaving them around a dead bumblebee is going viral for the unusual scene. In it, the ants are seen carrying pink flower petals and placing them in a circle around the bumblebee. Nicole Webinger, who posted the video to Facebook, likened it to a funeral.
“Saw this outside of my work by the garden. There was a dead bumblebee, and we were watching the ants bring flower petals and leaving them around the bumblebee. It looked like they were having a funeral for it,” she wrote on Facebook.
The remarkable scene has quickly gotten millions of views and prompted speculation as to what exactly the ants are doing. Are they really having a funeral for the bumblebee?
Most likely not. There are several possible reasons for the ants behavior. Ants have been observed building sort of “walls” around sugary spills or around any dead animal they find with rocks and sticks.
The wall of petals would not only prevent ants from other colonies from smelling the food and alerting their colonies, but also act as a road sign for their colony as to where to find the food. It also allows the ants to harvest their find in manageable pieces.
Consider it like a dam, which contains the liquid to make it easier for the ants to collect food from the resource. So perhaps they are harvesting the bumblebee’s collection of sugary pollen or the bee itself.
Another possible reason is that they are creating a trash heap.
“Bees and ants are in the same family (Hymenoptera), so their dead bodies are going to release similar pheromones once they die. Ants protect their nest, and ‘bury’ the bodies of their dead sisters as far from the nest as they can,” writes Dana N Jesse Kendall, who says she saw the information on Ants Canada.
“They also discard the colony’s trash (insect exoskeletons, hatched cocoons, poop, etc) in the same place that they move the dead bodies to. Discarding dead bodies and colonial trash in the same area cultivates symbiotic insects called ‘springtails’ and they feed on, and break down, the dead bodies and other trash, which keeps mold and bacteria out of the nest,” she continues. “As ‘cool’ as it is to imagine that the ants have some level of sentience that will allow for altruistic behavior, it’s just not possible.”
Regardless of the reason, it’s incredible to watch, and reminds us all of the wonders of nature big and small.