Ant Behavior: How And Why Ants Do What They Do
You are sitting in your room enjoying a hot slice of pizza with your favorite drink and a few chunks of topping end up on the floor. In the next couple of hours, you’ll notice a trail of members of a miniature community following your spilled food. It’s a family of ants gathering their next meal. What causes this ant behavior boils down to the tiny details of ants and how they are made to operate.
What do ants do in their daily life? Is their lifestyle similar to ours? How do they communicate? Do they also get sick like we do? How do they survive? What happens to ants when they die? Even we couldn’t stop thinking whether they get married like humans or not?!
I know some of these questions sound very funny, we’ll also never know answers to some of these. There could be a possibility that these insects function similar to us as well. The only way to find out is to KEEP READING!
How do ants communicate with one another?
Ants have antennae that can sense touch and smell. Have you ever noticed that while ants walk in a straight line they tend to touch each other using their antennae? That is their communication style.
They touch each other’s antennae to see if the member belongs to their own colony or not because according to research, different colonies of ants have a different smell.
They sense this smell using their antennae – this helps them recognize their fellow ants. The smell is because of the chemical known as pheromones.
How do ants know where to find food?
Pheromones – the chemical which helps ants recognize each other also aids them to find food. It is said that an ant can smell an odor 4-5 times faster than any other insect and they use this exceptional sense of smell to quickly find food for their survival.
The process is very simple. Worker ants leave their nest to find food. While crawling towards the area they have sensed the food to be, they leave a trail of pheromones behind. It helps them find their way back by using their olfactory receptors and sniffing their own trail.
Not all ants search for food. The reproductive ants stay in their nest and lay eggs whereas worker ants find food for themselves and the reproductive ants. Ants usually leave their nest in the evening for the food quest.
How do ants know to follow each other?
It has already been established that ants sense the scent of pheromones chemical to follow each other and find their way back to home with help of this scent. Ants who are known to belong to a social community usually have a leader among them who lead them in their search for food.
The leader forms the trail and releases the chemical, and the rest of the ants follow the pheromones left by their leader. They stick together while searching for food and use their amazing olfactory sense to identify their leader and fellow ants. You will never find an ant following the out-group community or colony.
Why do ants touch each other when they meet?
As mentioned above ants are a social insect and want to reside in communities. But there is a twist here too.
Ants love to stay together but only with the members of their own colony. You will never see them with a different colony and for this reason, they touch each other when they meet.
The purpose is to identify with help of antennas if they are in their group members or not. If after touching antennas with each other they identify that the other ant has a different pheromone, they immediately walk back in opposite direction. They could also initiate a fight against the ant of opposing smell if they believe it doesn’t belong.
There is another interesting reason to touch each other’s antennas too. Ants are compassionate creatures who take care of their fellow beings and share food by exchanging it via their mouths. So, if an ant found food and while returning it finds a hungry ant from its colony, it will immediately offer it. Remarkable isn’t it?
Why do ants carry away their dead?
It was discovered that ants reportedly throw away their dead ones out of the nest. One simple explanation for this could be that most living beings have the tendency to discard the dead and same is the case with ants. When an ant dies the rest of the mates first bring the corpse in the nest because initially there is no stinking odor associated with the body. But as time passes and the odor develops, they abandon the dead corpse and discard it.
Another interesting fact is that if after throwing the corpse the worker ants who carried this task acquire the same odor, then they are also thrown out of the nest though this seldom happens. Through this behavior of ants, we can safely infer that throwing away is directly related to the smell associated with the decaying corpse.
An additional perspective to this behavior is that ants want to keep their nest healthy and the dead corpse has many fatal diseases and bacteria growing on it so they dump them. Studies have found out that ants first kept the corpses with them but when they realized that this action led to a decrease in their own lifespan, they adopted the practice of removing the corpse once an ant died.
Ant Wars; Do Ants Fight with each other?
Yes, it is true – ants fight with each other, and very aggressively. The wars are classified into two types. It can be a war within the same species but a different colony or a war with different species of ants. Through research, it’s found that the key reason for most of the wars between them is the competition for food. Ants fight violently for a supply of food. These wars are physical and often end in fatalities.
Another reason for these wars is to protect the queen of their colony. If they feel there is a threat to the queen then they will never step back and battle the threat aggressively. They pin down the opponent which leads to the death of the ant.
Summary: Is Ant Behavior Fascinating Or What?
Ants surprise us with their interesting and sophisticated conduct, their socializing, communities, colonies and the compassionate behavior towards their fellow ants. But ants can also become nasty sometimes and cut their enemies into pieces to end the war. The survival instinct is nothing new and is found in all living creatures who become aggressive when threatened, so do ants.