How do the ANTS COMMUNICATE with each other and with the environment? - Find out!

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Ants are small insects that, although very common, present a whole series of exceptional and unique qualities. With more than 14,000 species of ants distributed throughout the world, with the exception of the Arctic and Antarctica, these can represent half of the insects that inhabit tropical forests. Despite what it may seem to us due to their size, ants are one of the strongest animals in the world and have developed a very important social component. But have you ever wondered how ants communicate? From Ecologist Verde we explain to you how ants communicate.

How ants communicate with each other

If you were wondering how ants communicate with each other, we begin by detailing that these are eusocial organisms and they organize themselves in colonies characterized by a social structure very well defined and a high capacity for collective decision-making.

In this way, within a colony, worker ants, classified as workers, seekers and feeders of larvae and sentinels, are distinguished from queens and drones (reproductive males); These last two ensure the survival of the colony and ensure that the establishment and development is as efficient as possible. The role of each of them is vital to maintain balance within the anthill and, this is where the communication between ants It's fundamental. Up to 12 functional categories have been recognized to communicate:

  • Alarm.
  • Attraction.
  • Recruitment.
  • Grooming.
  • Trophalaxis
  • Solid food exchange.
  • Group effect.
  • Recognition of the colony companions.
  • Determination of castes.
  • Control of breeding competitors.
  • Signposting of the territory.
  • Sexual communication

How ants communicate when they find food

Ants communicate and cooperate with each other through pheromones, chemicals produced by the exocrine glands, such as Dufour's glands, venom glands, and glands in the sternum, posterior tibia, large intestine, pygidium, and rectum.

Not being able to fly made reaching far away places a problem. All this triggered the ants to develop a high dependence on the chemicals to communicate. This development has led to the fact that, depending on the proportion of pheromones coming from different glands, these signals carry different meanings, from indications to take them to food sources to alerting other ants to possible dangers. For example, an ant that has been crushed gives off alarm pheromones which are received by nearby ants and alert them of a possible attack and, consequently, attract ants from far away to reinforce their colony. Pheromones are perceived by ants through their long and thin antennas, which provide information on the direction and intensity of the aroma. In addition to the pheromones of the ants, they also use auditory and visual cues, as well as tactile and vibrating signals for communicating.

Why do ants touch each other

In addition to communication via pheromones, ants can also touch each other to establish a touch communication. This type of communication usually covers a more limited range compared to the other types of communication, since it requires that at least two of them are next to each other. Tactile communication can occur through vibrations from the ground or through direct contact, which usually occurs from exhibitions, shaking, or dancing. The tactile signalsThey can also be used together with the pheromones released by insects of this type. For example, the lateral movement of the head is used to reinforce the response of the partners.

Why do ants walk in line

The ants impregnate the soil with pheromones so that other ants can follow these signals. In species where feeding takes place in groups, a forager who finds food for the ant colony takes care of mark the way back to the nest of the colony, using their individual memory, so that the same route can be followed by other ants and, in this way, the trace of the signals is reinforced.

The result of this process are ant trails between the nests and each of the various locations of the food sources, which are being followed by more and more ants, becoming denser and reinforcing the roads and, also, gradually identifying the best route. Once the food source is exhausted, the odor is allowed to dissipate over time.

How ants are organized in their work

Considering the classification of ants within a community, the organization of each of them is as follows.

Queen ants they are the only ones that deal exclusively with laying eggs. These ants have a high dependence on the seeking worker ants, which are responsible for providing food to non-seeker worker ants, to the larvae already the drones of the community. Seeker ants they continuously provide food to the colony where they reside. To do this, they rely on pheromones that other seeker ants have previously left behind and follow their trail over a wide area, while looking for new sources of food. This area can reach 90 meters away from the location of the ant colony. Part of the food found is consumed by the ants themselves, while another part is shared with the non-seeking adults and larvae of the colony; This mechanism by which ants (and other eusocial insects such as bees) transfer food to each other from mouth to mouth is known as trophalaxis. It is an organizational mechanism within the colony and is very common in social insects.

Now that you know the communication of ants a little better, we recommend you discover more about The importance of ants with this other article by Green Ecologist.

If you want to read more articles similar to How ants communicate, we recommend that you enter our category of Animal Curiosities.

  • National Geographic. (2022). Ants. Spain, retrieved from:
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