At some point or another, almost everyone has watched a string of ants’ march across a sidewalk or kitchen floor. Ant behavior such as this is pretty fascinating. But why do ants crawl, or technically walk, in a line?
Take a look at some ant facts that might shed some light on this interesting behavior.
As a kid, you may have gotten lost in an ant trail for what seemed like hours. It’s possible you even showed an interest in entomology by creating obstacles for the ants to see how they would react. But you still may never have figured out why those ants stuck to that line.
Most species of ants use special chemical signals — called pheromones — to communicate with one another. A worker ant that leaves the nest to forage for food will leave a trail of pheromones for other ants to follow.
When the ant finds food and returns back, it will lay down another trail of pheromones. Other ants pick up on this and travel the same route. Guess what they do as they go? Yep, they also release pheromones, making the signal stronger and more attractive to even more ant workers.
Ants can tell how popular the route is based on how thick the pheromone trail is. A well-traveled trail that’s loaded with foraging or food pheromones signals to other ants that there’s a definite source of food nearby. Some species of ants also have an alarm pheromone which tells their sisters that they have been injured or killed.
Do Ants Communicate in Other Ways?
There are more than 10,000 different species of ants in the world that we know of. While many ants do use pheromones as a means of sending chemical messages to their colony members, most also use other means of communication, such as bumping into each other.
Bumping into one another is one example. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have observed that ants may actually be interpreting these bumps as an indicator of good locations for new nesting sites.
When ants need a new place to live, they send out explorers to find a suitable location for a fresh colony. Explorers then return back and use pheromones to pass the message on to another ant so that it can also scope out the new site. If that ant agrees with the first explorer, it returns back to the colony and repeats the process with other ants.
As the number of ants in agreement increases, so does the likelihood that ants will bump into their fellow colony members. And the frequency with which they collide with other ants could be a good indication that more and more members of the colony are on board with the proposed nesting site.
Ants may be tiny, but they’re incredibly interesting. If you’re ready to learn more, check out these farmer ant facts.
The Threat That Ants Pose
But while these insects are cool to study, they’re much less enthralling when they’ve invaded your home. If ants are traveling through your kitchen or dining room, you’re probably more concerned with how to make them leave than the methods behind their marching. In those cases, contact Bates Exterminating to customize an ant prevention and treatment plan that suits the needs of your home.