Student Research Pages - Ant Communication

Cover Ants - June 2011
Fire Ants Communicating

These fire ants are communicating.

Ants give each other directions on how to find food. They say, "Follow me."

Or, when there's danger they say, "Attack!"

That's because social animals must share information to survive.

But, of course, they don’t talk like we do! Ants have special ways of talking to each other. They lay chemical trails, which they sense through their antennae.

Think about spraying stinky perfume on the ground and asking your best friend to follow it to find you! But instead of stinky perfume, ants store liquid food in their "social stomachs." They spit a little at a time to make a trail as they travel home so other ants can find the food.

That's kind of like Hansel and Gretel dropping bread crumbs, isn't it?

Ants have 10-20 chemical "words" that allow them to identify ants from their own species, show others where food is at, or raise a call of alarm when there's danger.

An ant uses its antenna for most of the communication it does with other ants.

Antenna =
elbowed feelers that an ant uses to smell, taste, touch and communicate with other ants.

Ant antenna

Antennae =
what you call "antenna" when you're talking about more than one ant. More than one antenna.

Ants use antennae to notice scents in the air, touch other ants, tap the ground, and check out pieces of food. See how useful antennae are for ants?

Ants don't have ears. Noper dopers! Instead, organs on an ant's legs, antenna, thorax, and their head respond to sound vibrations moving through the ground. Yep! You "heard" that right! And, while ants do have eyes, they are near-sighted. That means they see only what's near them.

Ant Leg

Ants use special organs on their legs to help respond to sounds.
(Photo by J. Russ and

Communication =

to provide messages by touch, vibration, chemical, or noise

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