There is a claim falsely attributed to David Attemborough:

If you collect 100 black ants and 100 fire ants and put them in a glass jar nothing will happen. But if you take the jar, shake it violently and leave it on the table, the ants will start killing each other.

The origin of this urban legend is possible this part in the novel Cat's Cradle of Kurt Vonnegut:

"What he was doing was spooning different kinds of bugs into the jar and making them fight. "The bug fight was so interesting that I stopped crying right away--forgot all about the old man. I can't remember what all Frank had fighting in the jar that day, but I can remember other bug fights we staged later on: one stag beetle against a hundred red ants, one centipede against three spiders, red ants against black ants. They won't fight unless you keep shaking the jar. And that's what Frank was doing, shaking, shaking, the jar."

Since this is only a novel, not a scientific paper, we cannot be sure if it is possible or not in the real life. Some people argue that ants can identify each other by means of pheromones and automatically start to fight if an "enemy" is identified. But they are also not biologists. Is this argument correct?

I'm also not a biologist so please forgive me for the poor quality of my question.

  • $\begingroup$ This seems like it would be a very simple hypothesis to test, regardless of whether you're a biologist. Gently combine separate containers of the two kinds of ants, see if they start fighting within a minute or so. Then, combine another two separate containers and immediately shake it vigorously, then monitor for commencement of fighting. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Jun 14, 2021 at 3:14
  • $\begingroup$ I've found an article in Scientific American that states that newborn ants of different species mixed together do not harm each other. $\endgroup$
    – mma
    Jun 14, 2021 at 6:36


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