How ants clean themselves with combs, brushes and soap?


A picture of an ant cleaning another ant with her leg brushes.

Their Combs and Brushes


Consider the toiletries of the lowly ants.

These tiny insects have combs, brushes, soaps and pomade that they use frequently and with great vigor.

In fact, ants have fine-tooth combs and coarse-tooth combs just as humans do.

These combs are attached to the fourth joint of their legs.

R. Dixon and B. Eddy in their book Personality of Insects quote Dr. McCook, who studied ants for many years, as saying:

 “This (the tibial comb) is a real comb which might have served the inventor of our own combs for a model, its chief difference being that it is permanently attached to the limb that operates it. It has a short handle, a stiff back, and a regularly toothed edge.” 

The teeth are “pointed at the free end and enlarged at the base, are stiff but elastic, and spring back when bent as do the teeth of a comb.”

The brushes of the ants are ingeniously practical devices.

They are made up of soft hollow hairs through which a lubricant or pomade is secreted.

This lubricant causes grains of dirt and dust to stick together, thereby making it easy to remove them.

Grooming time for the ants is usually in the morning when they awaken.

It is then that they are seen combing and brushing themselves vigorously.

Of course, being the fastidious insects that they are, ants also groom up whenever they feel the need to do so.

Interestingly, ants help comb, brush and wash one another, cleaning parts of the bodies of other ants that they cannot reach by themselves.

Yes, they even practice massage.