Hello Anton. Are you finished with that Mentos? May I have the rest?
February 20, 2014 2:03 AM   Subscribe

Lately (coinciding with extreme hot weather) ants have been attracted to the Mentos chewy dragees I carry around with me. The dragees don't appear (to my eye) to be any different after the ants have had their way with them. Is it safe to eat them? What is attracting the ants to these dragees? Are the ants leaving anything behind that would be unsafe for me to ingest? I have a reasonably robust immune system, so I don't mind a little bit of whatever challenging its integrity, as long as I'm not poisoning myself to a degree I can't handle. I don't want to kill the ants or block their activities beyond making the dragees physically inaccessible. An airtight container is a solution, but I'd rather not have to bother with that - I'd prefer to just share the wealth with the ants, if it's not harming me.
posted by paleyellowwithorange to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is it safe to eat them?

Yeah, I guess, if you're not put off by the gross factor (I would be, but my reaction to ants borders on phobic, so I'm not exactly impartial here.)

What is attracting the ants to these dragees?

Sugar? I would guess that the way that the weather plays in a bit, but only in the sense that ants do seem to get a bit more aggressive about getting inside during weather changes, but basically the ants are eating your candy because it's candy.

Are the ants leaving anything behind that would be unsafe for me to ingest?

Odds are no. I'd maybe try to figure out where they're coming in though--might indicate a structural integrity problem with your shelter, which could have eventual consequences more serious than ants coming in and eating your candy (although, IMO, that seems fairly serious already.)
posted by kagredon at 2:11 AM on February 20, 2014

any chance the ants could be laying eggs in them?

it happened to a friend, a yogurt cluster, and a young ant/fly/whatever once
posted by angrycat at 2:18 AM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ant poop.

Or more precisely, they're leaving behind anything they've walked in, like dirt or dog feces or debris from their nest. Eat it if you want, but I'd be too grossed out.
posted by easily confused at 2:28 AM on February 20, 2014

Well, if you don't dissuade the ants, you'll keep getting more ants, and they'll get in the rest of your food. And if someone asks if they can have a Mento and you say "sure, but they've been walked on by ants," you're going to be known as that person who eats things with ants. But other than that you're fine.

A ziploc bag would be a super easy way around all of this. Or just put them in the fridge when you're at home. Either of those would be way easier than brushing off ants all the time.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:12 AM on February 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Some people eat insects. Some ants can be used as impromptu stitches. You probably breathe in more dirt or dog feces than you'd get transferred from an ant's foot to a lolly to your mouth.

Worry about more important things.
posted by pompomtom at 4:18 AM on February 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ants are pretty clean. Some types harvest tree sap to line their nests with because tree sap is vaguely antiseptic. Some of them produce an antiseptic fungus that they spread all over the nest so that all the other ants can clean their feet off on antiseptic fungus and not track outside goobers into where it could hurt the queen. They're pretty neat little critters.

That said, I personally would not want to eat anything ants had had their way with, just because it's squicky and no. I'm also kind of a kill it with fire kind of person, so lolnope to willingly sharing my food with a bunch of insects. But you are not me.

I don't think there's anything at all that's going to hurt you. But don't share your buggy mentos with others please.
posted by phunniemee at 4:19 AM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

How are the ants getting from the floor to your mentos? Are they crawling up your leg? I'd be more worried about that than anything else.
posted by devnull at 4:48 AM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Straight Dope: you're fine.
posted by Segundus at 4:55 AM on February 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

People eat ants, too. If you wanted, you could enjoy two small snacks rather than just the one.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:01 AM on February 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

I realized I had turned some kind of corner in my life when I was sitting on a balcony in West Africa, eating some crackers I had bought at the little neighborhood store, and upon realizing there were ants on them, just kind of gave each one a shake before eating it.
posted by Nothing at 6:28 AM on February 20, 2014 [12 favorites]

Ants are fastidious groomers, making cats look slovenly. Some are used as food in various cultures. I'd only be hesitant if someone near by had left out ant poison because I wouldn't want to ingest that. If you are bothered I'd rinse them off under a tap first.
posted by wwax at 7:10 AM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd eat them. However, if the mentos are orange, leave them for the ants.
posted by variella at 7:58 AM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Formic acid presumably wouldn't cause you any digestive difficulties, but I would avoid too much skin contact and particularly rubbing your eyes after handling anything ants have been walking around on.
posted by asperity at 11:31 AM on February 20, 2014

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