Where I come from, ants smell like grape jelly

What accounts for the smell of crushed ants?

Carpenter ants in Northern California, to be specific. Camponotus laevigatus, I believe.

When we were kids, my neighbor, Jake, found it quite entertaining to periodically remind everyone that the carpenter ants often found scampering along the beams of his family’s wood house smelled like grape jelly when you squished them. I can only offer my anecdotal testimony that it was indeed true, and assure you that I never encouraged said carnage.

The adults always offered the explanation that they must be feeding on the grape plants in Jake’s family’s garden, but I never bought that as an explantion. I admit that this was one question that I neglected to find a legitimate answer to in my susequent years of studying Biology and Zoology.

So thanks, Cecil, for clearing up a lingering mystery from my childhood.

The article in question is actually a Straight Dope Staff Report written by SDSTAFF Doug and not a Straight Dope Column by Cecil. So I’ll move this thread to the Comments on Staff Reports froum.

moderator CCC


Whoops. Thanks Doug!

I wanted to thank Doug! I found an ant wandering around the house yesterday night, and my SO freaked out and started super-cleaning the area and complaining about bacteria. I said, “No, they just covered it in the SDMB, and ants are pretty clean.” He said, “Really? Show me the link, I’m not sure I believe that.”

So, I did a search and pulled up the staff report, and he was convinced. It was very convenient to easily be able to find the relevant report. Thanks, Doug.