How do ants talk to each other?


Have you heard an ant talk? Unlikely. Yet, these tiny creatures have amazing ways to communicate with each other that includes rubbing parts of their stomach to create vibrations and sharing food mouth-to-mouth.

Calling out
A few years ago English and Spanish scientists studying ants inserted tiny microphones (or mikes) inside a nest of 400 red ants. They were thus able to record the sounds that ants made by rubbing ridges (raised parts) on their bodies. Amazingly, ants seemed to link different sounds to different behaviors. For example, a certain sound made by the queen (who rules a colony) put the ants on high alert where they stayed without moving for hours and attacked anyone who came nearby. Groups of ants also seemed to have their own unique sounds.
It is still not clear how the ants “heard the sounds”. Interestingly, predators that fed on ants were also found to be copying the ‘ant calls’ in order to trap them!

Food talk

Florida Carpenter Ant
Florida Carpenter Ant

A recent study of Florida carpenter ants have revealed (shown) that ants may also be communicating when they share food in liquid form from the mouth of one insect to another. Along with the food come proteins and hormones (natural chemicals) that help young ants grow and develop successfully into grown-up insects. Young ants fed these fluids were found to have a greater chance of surviving. Clearly, the food transfer is also used to pass important information on how to survive. The fluid (liquid) that is transferred many also carry ‘scent signals’ that may help ants recognize another ant from the same nest!
What a complex and beautiful world we live in!