Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 30 October 2009

Daniel Moerman's looking for evidence of stories about ants following diabetic urine

Just spotted this (see below) in the latest Fall 2009 newsletter from the Society for Economic Botany

It's a question about the evidence for stories, in traditional societies, of ants crawling around sugary urine, indicating that someone has diabetes and perhaps being used as a diagnostic tool.

Professor Daniel Moerman is an anthropologist and former editor of the Society for Economic Botany's journal, Economic Botany. He developed the Native American Ethnobotany database of "foods, drugs, dyes and fibers of Native American Peoples, derived from plants" which is available online ( and as a book (

He also wrote "Meaning, Medicine and the Placebo Effect" and features in one of my favourite Radiolab episodes, Placebo, talking about Quesalid (


Diabetes In the Wild
I have heard two or three people say that nonwestern,
traditional peoples can/do diagnose
“diabetes” by noticing that the person’s urine is
“sweet” because the urine attracts ants or butterflies.
Such practice has always been of the “someone told
me” sort —“Someone told me that people diagnose
diabetes by. . . ” but I have never found a genuine
first-person report, or any published report, first
person or otherwise. If anyone has ever heard such
testimony from traditional peoples somewhere, or
has seen a published report, or knows someone
who did, please let me know. Many thanks,
Daniel E. Moerman, dmoerman /at/
William E Stirton Prof. Emeritus of Anthropology
University of Michigan-Dearborn

One suggestion, which might contain relevant stories, is below.

Diabetes Stories - An oral history of diabetes - from OCDEM (Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism).
Scroll down to the bottom to choose stories from people with diabetes, family members or healthcare professionals.

Using the search transcript facility ( and searching for "ants" brought up 66 hits. Some of the interviewees were born abroad and moved to the UK.

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