Follow the Leader

Pavement Ants

Pavement Ants

Upon discovery of a food source, ants use pheromone to mark a trail from the food to the nest. Other ants can find the food by following the trail. In the pavement ant, Tetramorium caespitum, a trail laid by a single ant is not strong enough to recruit fellow workers. The ant making the discovery must return to the nest, recruit a group of foragers and lead the recruits to the food. The ants that have been recruited can return to the nest with additional food and recruit additional groups of foragers. If the food is of sufficient quality enough groups of foragers will visit the food and reinforce the pheromone trail. When the trail becomes strong enough, ants will follow the trail without being guided. Recruitment switches from group recruitment to mass recruitment.

The ability to recruit foragers depends on the quality of the food source. Sources high in sugar attract more recruits that sources with low sugar concentration. By this mechanism, the colony will concentrate on the highest quality food sources first.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, Biomaterials, by jjneal. Bookmark the permalink.

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