'Ant Restaurant' Trend, Where People Serve Food to Bugs, Takes Over TikTok

Cat videos might be the golden child of the internet animal kingdom, but ants are fast taking over TikTok, as people set up "ant restaurants" for the insects.

The trend sees users place various foods onto pieces of cardboard and label them appropriately. It doesn't take long for hoards of ants to choose to dine at the hottest, albeit only, restaurant in town.

@finn.tuna.gnocchi made the most popular restaurant on the app, gaining over 31 million views on their July upload, which used food coloring on honey. At one point a worm, or suspected "critic" as they dubbed him, joined in.

In fact, the TikTok user created a whole series of restaurants after the flagship's success, adding a beach-themed restaurant made from biscuits and candy to its repertoire.

The TikTok "ant restaurants" tend to use anything left in a cupboard, but Sean Boscott, from ant supplier British Ants, suggests any future restaurant owners go with proteins. "Sugary treats are great, but if you really want to help them out, proteins are the way forward. We supply protein jellies that are sweet for the ants but provide essential proteins that queen ants require to support the laying of thousands of eggs a day."

"Proteins such as goldfish flakes, crushed dead mealy worms from the bird feeder and dead insects would be a better way forward," he added.

Ants have "social stomachs" and through the process of trophallaxis, will take back and pass on collected liquids back to the nest in equal amounts.

@finn.tuna.gnocchi

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Like most TikTok trends however, there is a potential risk with ant restaurants that prove that you can have too much of a good thing. "It looks like a bit of fun, but in reality you might be doing more harm. As the food dries up in the sun, they're inclined to get stuck in the food source, become trapped and die," warned Boscott.

"Ants are also known for helping their sisters when distressed, leading to more becoming trapped," he added.

In one popular video on the app, an ant can be seen floating in a large amount of ranch, presumed drowned in the food, while another dead ant can be seen in a dollop of honey in another clip.

"I did this with honey and the ants drowned," commented one user.

As for where to place the restaurant, an up-and-coming borough might be sought after for New York, but in a bug's life, it's anywhere in a garden. "If you've got a garden, then you've probably got ants in there," explained Adam Hart, an entomologist and professor of science communication at the University of Gloucestershire. "Ants are really good at exploring, and once they've found food, they're really good at telling their nestmates where that food is. So they'll lay down their pheromone trails, and they'll get back to the nest."

There is a way around this though. Simply diluting the sticky foods like honey and jam with water, "thins it out and makes it easier for them to take in whilst reducing risk if they get stuck," said Boscott.

"Only offer small amounts at a time, a grain of sugar to an ant is equivalent to a 2.2lb bag of rice for us," he added.

The restaurant might be interesting enough as it is, but another cool test TikToking enthusiasts can try includes discovering which brand's food is the purest, suggest Boscott.

"Lay various brands of the same food out and watch the ants select the purest. Most humans wouldn't know without checking the label but ants will always go for the purest forms of food when given a choice," he explained.

That's not to say they are food snobs, though. "Pretty much anything you can put out that they'll take, they'll be happy with," said Hart. "They may not come and collect it again, if they turn out that they don't like it, because they're often feeding it to their larvae, and then sort all sorts of clever communication in the nest to make sure that they're doing the right thing."

With over 80 million views, the ant restaurants are taking over TikTok and shining a light on a somewhat forgotten insect—just make sure to do it in the best way possible for them.

"It's cool that people are interested in looking at ants and that people are starting to use social media to appreciate the smaller things in life like ants," summarized Hart on the trend.

Ants on a cupcake outside
Stock image of ants on a cupcake. Getty Images