A new study conducted by researchers from the North Carolina State University revealed that ants along with other arthropods such as beetles keep the city of New York clean by consuming tons of garbage, CBS reported.
Led by research associate Elsa Youngsteadt, the team conducted the study by scattering crumbs and small pieces of food along the streets of Manhattan. To make sure that these were not eaten or taken away by other animals such as cats, rats or dogs, the food items were placed inside netted cages.
They left the cages for 24 hours and when they returned, they discovered that around 85 percent of food scraps have disappeared.
Due to the netting around the cages, Youngsteadt and her team concluded that the crumbs were taken by arthropods.
Based on the data that insects such as ants can consume three to four grams of food within 24 hours, Youngsteadt calculated that the bugs in one of Manhattan's streets can eat over 2,000 pounds in one year.
"We calculate that the arthropods on medians down the Broadway / West St. corridor alone could consume more than 2,100 pounds of discarded junk food every year, assuming they take a break in the winter," she told CBS News.
Taking into account the entire size of New York, Youngsteadt concluded that the arthropods can take out thousands of pounds of food scraps in the city.
After learning about the recent study, the New York City Health Department issued a statement to remind citizens about the importance of properly throwing away leftover food, according to the New York Times.
"[This study] confirms that street litter, particularly discarded food, is a major source of food for rats and other pets, which is why we encourage the public to dispose of garbage in one of the many trash receptacles throughout the city," the department's spokesperson Levi Fishman stated.
In line with the health department's statement, Youngsteadt noted that aside from cleaning up the city's trash, the study also showed how insects help in limiting the number of pests in New York, NC State News reported.
"This means that ants and rats are competing to eat human garage, and whatever the ants eat isn't available for the rats," she wrote in the study. "The ants aren't just helping clean up our cities, but to limit populations of rats and other pests."