Ants eat toenail clippings

The weather is warm, my back garden is inviting so I decided to cut my toenails on my back lawn. In any case it is brighter outside so I can see more clearly. All-in-all it makes sense to cut those damned toenails outside, on the grass, in my back garden. And don’t be squeamish. They’re just toenails. Why are people squeamish about toenails?

As soon as I had stopped clipping, I noticed ants busily taking the bits away. They arrived quickly. It looked great because my toenails were being recycled! What I saw was good for the environment. But what was going on? Toenails are made of keratin. Keratin is protein. My immediate thought was that the ants wanted these bits of toenail for two possible reasons (1) food as they are made of protein and/or (2) construction materials for their nest.

Ants taking away toenail clippings for food?
Ants taking away toenail clippings for food? Photo: MikeB.

I decided it was the former although my research came up with an inconclusive answer. One website said that ants don’t eat toenails! Another said that they do because although they are difficult to eat, they are made of protein. It depends upon the species of ant as to whether they do or don’t eat the stuff.

I cut my toenails about five hours ago and I would bet my bottom dollar that there is not one fragment of toenail left on the grass in my back garden. The clippings have all been stored away in a big ant pantry where they can nibble on the pieces for the next six months. Either that or they’ve used them to shore up their tunnels like The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen. I am very pleased. I’ll be doing it again.

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Post Category: Insects