Ants: What’s Really Going on Inside that Ant Hill?

Most people on Earth know about the incredible power of the ant. Whether it’s their ability to lift three times their own body weight, or their willingness to defend the hive at any cost, the over 10,000 known species of ants are one of the most interesting creatures to crawl on Earth. Now, research has shown exactly how it is that the ants maintain their order in an ant hill that seems like nothing but chaos, proving that when it comes to ants, there is more than meets the eye.

What looks like a million swarming ants is actually a very organized system.

Researchers have deduced that the only possible way ants could carry the loads that they do, in the seemingly robotic organized manner that they do, is if there is some type of communication between the different ants allowing the delegation of tasks. According to the study published in Nature & Communications, “To understand how an individual may influence the entire group, we present a microscopically realistic model that is formulated in the language of single-ant decision rules and stands in quantitative agreement with the macroscopic characteristics of the load’s motion.”

Ants - Clapway

The team of researchers created a situation whereby the ants could only effectively complete a task through cooperation, and the assignment of a sort of leader ant

How can anyone looking at an anthill possibly decide that there is any order?

The experts experiment was carefully conducted to show the role that leadership and cooperation play in the functionality of an ant colony. By placing a small piece of cat food near the ants, and observing many factors of interaction including the steering of the food, the direction the ants take the food, and the assistance of additional ants in moving the food helped to make the determination that the ants must be communicating and an effective leader must be assigned.

According to conclusions drawn from the research conducted, the leadership is distributed in order to move large morsels of food, “Contrary to some species that rely on the information and guidance of a single or few leaders, we show that cooperative transport in P. longicornis ants is more distributed. Small amounts of information continuously enter the system as carriers detach from the load and make room for the attachment of informed individuals that correct the steering.”

Does this change anything for the way we deal with ants?

Perhaps for now we will have to just deal with the ants that live on this planet, but someday we may be able to use this new found knowledge of ant’s ability to communicate, in order to assign leadership against them in the never ending battle to rid them from our lives. When it comes to ants there is much more than just what appears on the surface.


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