Ant-traction

My bloggy friend Fiona has had a very strange recurring problem: she keeps finding ants on toothbrushes. Only Colgate toothbrushes of a particular type are affected, and it doesn’t matter if the brushes are used or new. Ants seem to love the rubber on these. They’re ant magnets!

Being a rational creature, Fiona has been trying to find out why these ants love the rubber on the brushes so much. She recently ruled out Colgate’s (already shaky) explanation that it was related to toothpaste residue when she found the ants on a bunch of unused brushes. So if that’s not it, then what ? Anyone have any scientific explanations? Read both original posts and their comments for more info.

8 thoughts on “Ant-traction”

  1. Samantha Alsbury says:

    Interesting problem 🙂 I’m not an entomologist but I would say this has to be a smell/chemical signal thing. My guess would be that there is something in the rubber that mimics the smell of something else.
    I _would_ suggest putting ant poison or repellant on the toothbrush but buying a different brand toothbrush might be safer and less disgusting!!

  2. Sabine Hossenfelder says:

    Weird. Maybe it’s some plastic softener, these plastics contain a lot of funny chemicals, some of which mimic hormones. Possibly that irritates the ants. I’d recommend she tries some other sorts of soft rubber. One probably finds rubber-thingies of various kind in the household aisle or in a hardware store.

  3. Ken Doyle says:

    Maybe Colgate has developed the perfect ant-trap!
    (My money is on the plastic softener too, or even the dye.)

  4. Eva Amsen says:

    Cool! It doesn’t seem to be the dye, because they like different colours I think. Fiona is asleep because she’s in Australia but she’ll be happy to see the plastic softener theory when she wakes up.

  5. Fiona Moore says:

    Thank you for bringing this over here Eva!
    The Phthalates info IS interesting, so my local ants have a little thing going for the toothbrushes?
    One commenter of mine uses Oral-B and had a similar issue.
    I also have a vague memory of them going for one of my disposable razors.

  6. Cath Ennis says:

    I am soooo glad I didn’t inherit my Grandma’s myrmecophobia! (And yes, I did have to look that up!) She would have had to have a lie-down after seeing that photo, and I think seeing ants on her toothbrush IRL would have necessitated the purchase of a new house.
    Sorry I can’t help with the specific problem, but I can pass on my Grandma’s solution to ant problems in general: a brave and willing neighbour with a kettle full of boiling water.

  7. Stephen Curry says:

    These are special teeth-cleaning ants that Colgate have now added to their product range?

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