Ambience: Ants We’re listening to the sounds of some of the unofficial members of the New York City sanitation department ants! I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Youngsteadt: In this study we wanted to know what happens when you drop some food crumbs when you’re walking down the street. We thought ants would have an important roll dealing with dropped food garbage, because they are such important scavengers.
Elsa Youngsteadt is a research associate in Entomology at North Carolina State University. She and her team carried out an experiment to find out how effective pavements ants are on removing the food waste from the streets of New York City.
Youngsteadt: We actually went and dropped some food garbage around New York City, very scientifically. We used potato chips, vanilla wafers and hot dogs. We pre-weighed pieces and took them to about 20 different street medians and 20 different sites and parks and set out our known amounts of these foods and put them under a little cage so that only ants could get them. We put a similar set of foods outside the cage so anything could get at it.
We left it for 24 hours, came back to get the leftovers and then of course we weighed those too to see exactly how much was eaten in all these different places. We found out that ants were eating a lot.
We estimated that the ants on the west side of Manhattan living in those medians could clean up about a ton of food every year, which would be equivalent of about 60,000 hot dogs or a couple hundred thousand cookies. Their nibbling away at crumbs can really add up.
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