Toothbrush Ants


This week my son and I have been watching a toothbrush. No, we haven’t gone bonkers. This does have something to do with ants.

You see, we saw this post about an unusual Ant-traction. It seems that a certain type of ant likes the rubbery buttons Colgate toothbrushes. Go check it out. Here’s a link to the original post, as well.

The first thing we wondered, of course, was whether this is a prank or hoax. I think you could get the same effect by rubbing a little sugar water or honey on the brush.

We bought a toothbrush to check it out. So far our fire ants, Solenopsis xyloni, could care less about the toothbrush. But that doesn’t mean the effect isn’t real. It could be that the rubbery bit contains a pheromone specific to one or a few closely-related species of ants. We are going to continue our experiments.

If there turns out to be something to this, it won’t be the first time humans have inadvertently produced a product that mimics an insect pheromone. One classic example is the finding that termites of the species Reticulotermes flavipes will follow an ink trail drawn by a certain type of pen. (See for example, this experiment).

If you’d like to learn more, here is a video showing EO Wilson explaining some of the basics of pheromones and other chemical signals in ants:

We’ll let you know if we get any ants to react.
And please let us know if you try this experiment, what your results were, and what kinds of ants you used.

21 Replies to “Toothbrush Ants”

  1. I have that exact same toothbrush, and have had exactly the same problem! I threw out one toothbrush after ants invaded it, and replaced it with a new one. Before I had even used it, there were ants all over it! I don’t have ants anywhere else in my bathroom. Weird.

  2. i’m so glad i chanced upon this site after searching for “ants on my toothbrush”. because exactly the same thing’s been happening to me! i do have ants in my bathroom, but never have they invaded toothbrushes. however, every morning, i take out my toothbrush to find just that rubber spot FILLED with ants! it’s disgusting. i’m throwing out my toothbrush first thing when i get home!

  3. Sorry that you have been experiencing this. If you try another brand of toothbrush, let me know how it goes.

  4. I am an ant and sometimes falls asleep with my toothbrush in my mouth when I am lying on my bed. 😛

  5. This EXACT THING has happened to me!! I’m from Texas but i’m currently living in Malaysia and a couple weeks ago I picked up my toothbrush to discover there were about 20-30 little ants crawling on the rubber parts! I have been having this exact problem everyday and now it’s almost normal to have to shake the ants off whenever I use it. I hate it though! Is there any possible way I can keep the ants away??

  6. You might want to try leaving your toothbrush with the handle down in a glass of water.

    Good luck.

  7. Same thing happened to my colgate toothbrush as well. I’ll leave it side-by-side with my husband’s toothbrush (no rubbery button on his toothbrush) and the ants go only for my toothbrush!

  8. It’s definitely a real thing – Colgte doesn’t know why (I already asked them). We have ordinary small black ants and if I open a brand new packet, they are all over not only the ones in use, but the one in the packet too! It’s insane!

  9. It’s really weird. I have a toothbrush with the rubber sides like the original post and so does my dad (2 pack of exact same brushes) his is blue and mine is red but I keep my toothbrush in a pink travel case and my dad just leaves his as is.. They don’t touch his, but every time I go to brush my teeth they are all over mine only for the past 3 nights.
    Doesn’t make sense

  10. Yup there in Hawaii also, it’s sick. Boycott buying those toothbrushes. Common Colgate figure this out with all those scientist in your lab.

  11. I have the same toothbrush and same issue with ants eating the rubber thumb grip. I can see where they have gnawed away the little rubber nipple things!

    Here are the best photos I can manage:
    Toothbrush ants

    These ants are in Sydney, Australia.

    Are you able to identify these ants?

  12. I think your link sent you to my spam folder. Anyway, you ants look quite distinctive, but I’m no expert on Australian ants. Have you tried to find a local expert?

  13. Having the same problem. Wonder if anyone at Colgate has thought of going into partnership with people who make ant poison. They march straight past three different brands I have left out for them, which are supposed to attract ants, and just want to eat the thumb pad on my toothbrush. Needless to say, I am not using it now. Have replaced it with different brand that sits in a cup that sits in a bowl of water creating an ant-proof moat.

  14. Quite amused to find so many people experiencing the same issue. I just bought a two pack of this toothbrush for me and the missus and they are getting swarmed with ants (Brisbane, Queensland) what an unusual problem to have.

  15. Just checking in to this decade old blog to say this is NOT a myth. I’m in SE North Carolina and whatever species of fire ants we have is currently chowing down on my toothbrush grip. They completely avoided the two toothbrushes that were different brands and missing the soft blue rubber. These bastards have pranced over poison, peppermint spray, hairspray, cinnamon, EVERYTHING to get to my stupid toothbrush handle, even after I completely washed the toothpaste (and ant corpses) off of it in case that was attracting it. Im telling you, this is a real phenomenon and I’m shocked this isn’t written about anywhere besides 10 year old WordPress blogs.

    Sincerely, someone who really did not expect to be spitting out ants this week.

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