Study Finds Ants and Other Insects Are NYC’s Tiniest Garbage Men

FAIRFAX, Va. (December 10, 2014) – Ants can be a serious nuisance when they make their way indoors, but it turns out that outside ants in urban areas are actually quite beneficial. A new study from North Carolina State found that ants and other arthropods such as beetles and mites eat up tons of garbage in the streets of Manhattan, effectively disposing of city trash.

The study set out rodent-proof cages full of hot dogs, cookies and potato chips around Manhattan for 24 hours. When they returned, as much as 85 percent of the food had been disposed of by arthropods.

The researchers said the study also illustrates the ability of insects and other organisms to adapt and evolve to human-dominated habitats and they pointed out that it's possible ants may be limiting rodent populations by competing with them for crumbs and other food waste.