After being asked by a friend if there is a way to make yoghurt from scratch, I found this

There are two ways to get the bacteria, that we found; one, using the soil from an anthill, or using crushed ant eggs.

I cannot vouch however for American ants, I don't know if they carry the same bacteria as ants in Turkey.

The claim I want to investigate is whether ant eggs or ant hill soil actually has the bacterium - Lactobacillus bulgaricus or one of its cousins.

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    If you wish to make yogurt from scratch, you must first invent the universe :) Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 21:52
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    @Monkey, In order to invent the universe, you must first invent God, and in order to invent God, you must first invent the universe. Shit my head is spinning.
    – picakhu
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 22:09
  • @Monkey - You need to link to A glorious dawn youtube.com/watch?v=zSgiXGELjbc when you cite that quote. :)
    – Kit Sunde
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 22:16
  • @kit probably should have. Although most should realize it's Sagan Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 1:10
  • @Monkey Sagan was actually wrong on this one, as Sean M. Carroll eloquently shows. This is a consequence of the Boltzmann Brain hypothesis. Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 12:25

1 Answer 1


The Lactobacilli are ubiquitous and can be found in abundance as oral and mammary flora in humans and other fuzzy things like cows.

Since milk is already pre-doped with Lactobacillus, one can easily start a yogurt culture by doing nothing at all. This leads me to believe that the anthill explanation could be true, but adding pebbles, coins, or polystyrene beads would likely have the same effect. That is, the ants contribute nothing to the enterprise.

From a practical perspective, home microbiology is often a dicey proposition. You will very likely get a good starter from the milk itself or a small amount of human saliva. You can also accidentally wind up culturing equally omnipresent Staphylococcus or less pleasantly even Clostridium botulinum (of botulism fame) or MRSA, which can easily ruin your afternoon.

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    Do you have a reference to show cows are fuzzy?
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 6:49
  • The first half of the answer is very good. The second half – not so much: first off, home-made yogurt cultures are not that rare; they don’t seem to pose a serious health problem. Furthermore, the same objections would then be true for all similar enterprises, and people have been souring dough and acidifying wine (to get vinegar) since the dawn of time without problems. With regards to C botulium in particular: this organism needs an anaerobic environment to thrive so everything that’s happening in contact with air is safe from it. Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 12:31
  • Konrad, I don't disagree with any of your particulars, but I did err on the side of caution for the try it at home crowd. True, it is very unlikely that you'll culture Clostridites, but I don't know how to distinguish the product of a bad culture from a good culture. If it smells yogurty, it almost certainly is, but it might just be fatally toxic. Infecting the medium with a known vigorous culture is a better bet as (I'm sure you know) bacteria are very talented at excluding competitors.
    – msw
    Commented Jun 11, 2011 at 12:56
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    Best way is to get a commercial yoghurt and use that as a starter
    – nico
    Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 12:29

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