Science Facts

How Do Ants Find Food? (4 Steps Ants Follow!)

Ant's food collection process

Ants go out on scouts to find food and upon finding a food source. They bring back the food to their nest and inform others about where the food source is. But how do they do this? The key is through the use of pheromones, while each one is on a food scout. Therefore, it can find its way back home. So once a food searching and has found food, it creates a trail back home along with its original one, creating an even stronger scent, laying down even more pheromones. It’s chemical signals that make the food web in an ant’s colony. So how do they discover food by this process? Let’s learn about it.

How do ants find food?

Ant released pheromones indicating that they would need some heavy ant warfare for backup. As the message of food outside begins to spread by pheromones, an initial team of ants comes to help with the workload. The message spreads quickly to other parts of the nest and throughout the colony. Only the oldest ants have the liberty to leave the nest in the world. It’s the senior citizens of the colony that leave the nest while young workers remain inside the nest to care for the young, deal with nest cleaning and construction duties.

Here are 4 steps that ants follow to find food.

Step 1 – Finding food destination

Ants in nature find the shortest way between their nest and their food as if they already knew where exactly the food is. They always tend to choose short distances, even though a single. And it’s not particularly smart and cannot seat the structure of its surrounding environment. Together in a group managed to overcome obstacles with some small interactions and easily find the optimal way to the food. Ants create one of the most popular algorithms for discrete problem optimization.

When an ant colony starts to search for food, the movement of the ants looks disorganized and random. But after a while, they start to move towards the direction where other ants have already found some food. How the communication takes place? Ants communicate indirectly using chemical substances called pheromones and can produce different pheromones, leaving so specific signals that other ants can understand. For example, they leave a specific pheromone trace when they move from the food to the nest.

Step 2 – Choose the shortest path

With the desire to fully understand why and choose the shortest path, researchers construct a specific experiment using a two-way bridge. It was placed between the nest and the food.

In the first part of the experiment, both sides of the bridge had the same length. When the experiment started, around half of the ants crossed the bridge on the left side and the other half on the right side. But how the time passed, more and more ants were moving just on one of the two sides. And after a little more time, all of them ended up on this side while the other side was empty. This experiment was repeated multiple times, and it showed that the ants always choose one of the two sides. The left or the right side of the same probability in the second part of the experiment.

Their results were completely different. This time, one side of the bridge was two times longer than the other side. Again, half of the ants crossed the bridge on the shorter side initially, while the other half was moving on the longer side. But with time, more and more ants preferred the shorter side. And quickly afterward, all ants moved on this side. They repeated this part of the experiment several times because the ants always preferred the shorter distance.

Step 3 – Inviting others for teamwork

The ant leaves a pheromone trace on its way, which attracts other ants. This pheromones trace evaporates slowly and loses its intensity over time. When the ant returns, it leaves a second pheromone trace, which increases the trace’s overall intensity, and that crossed the bridge on the shorter side needs less time.

By following this way, the pheromone trace gets stronger, which attracts even more ants. Those results have found an important place in the optimization theory. Ants have some memory to remember the road and so get rid of potential loops. Also, they leave the pheromones trees, just one returning, which reduces the probability of forming loops. This approach is known as ant colony optimization.

Step 4 – Collect the food

The ants in the world begin collecting debris, hair, colony, garbage, anything they can find, even pieces of the exoskeleton. Why do they do this? Perhaps it’s to hide their new booty from other ants or potential scavengers that might smell the decaying super worm and snatch away their newfound food. It makes working with the large food item easier as it provides a sort of scaffolding structure, making it easy for the ants to work around the smooth super. It might also act as an absorbent to remove some mucus and wetness, which the ants might find difficult to work with. Some ants appear to do nothing but march around the top of the supergroup. These ants are ready in case some other animal or creature decides to steal their superordinate.

The next step is to start with food. Transport ants begin feeding on the juicy semi-solid parts of the super worm and fill up what is called their social stomach. It acts as an internal and lunchbox. Once inside the nest, the workers with full social stomachs begin feeding fellow sisters through a process called prophylaxis. They regurgitate the contents of the social stomach.

This entire feeding system has worked for these magnificent social insects for millions and millions of years since the age of the dinosaurs. Effective food acquisition, protection, distribution, communication, and execution have made ants masters of the ecosystem, making them effective predators.

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