Is the Black and Red Ants in a Jar quote by David Attenborough?


Naturalist David Attenborough once said, “If you collect 100 black ants and 100 red ants and put them in a glass jar, nothing will happen, but if you take the jar, shake it vigorously, and leave it on the table, the ants will.” start killing each other.”


Incorrectly assigned

In June 2021, a quote allegedly made by famous naturalist David Attenborough about black and red ants was shared on social media.


Attenborough is said to have said:

If you collect 100 black ants and 100 fire ants and put them in a glass jar, nothing happens. But if you take the jar, shake it vigorously and leave it on the table, the ants will start killing each other.

Reds believe black is the enemy while black believes red is the enemy when the true enemy is the person who shook the glass. The same is true in society.

men against women
Black vs White
belief versus science
Young versus old

Before we fight each other, we have to ask ourselves: Who rocked the pitcher?

While this quote may sound accurate to some readers, two things need to be considered. First, this quote is not from Attenborough. And secondly, we are not aware of any scientific experiment that has shown how red and black ants coexist in a glass jar until the jar is shaken.

This viral quote appears to have been inspired by a passage by the author Kurt Vonnegut’s 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle.

“I can’t remember what Frank fought in the jar that day, but I can remember other beetle fights we later had: a stag beetle versus a hundred red ants, a centipede versus three spiders, red ants versus black ants . You won’t fight unless you keep shaking the jar. And that’s what Frank did, shook the glass, shook it.

The earliest iteration of this viral message we could find comes from a Facebook post dated October 3, 2020. Attenborough did not credit this version or provide links pointing to studies of red and black ants in a jar. Other posts from the period also cited an “unknown” or “anonymous” source. Attenborough’s name was not attributed to this post until several months later.

We could not find any credible sources attributing this quote to Attenborough. And while we’ve found plenty of videos of Attenborough talking about ants, we haven’t found anything specific about red ants and black ants coexisting in a jar until someone shakes it.

It’s fairly common on social media to mistakenly append a famous person’s name to a quote from a lesser-known or anonymous author. This seems to lend credibility to the writing, which in turn leads to an increase in shares. Is the Black and Red Ants in a Jar quote by David Attenborough?

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