Ants are social insects that have several ways of communicating with each other. With thousands or even millions of ants living in a single colony, it is important that these insects can quickly communicate essential information such as where the next meal is located or if there is an intruder coming inside the nest. Unlike humans, ants do not have the ability to speak so they must communicate in other ways. So, how do ants communicate?
The most important way that ants communicate with other colony members is through unique chemicals called pheromones. Using their antenna to “smell” the pheromones, ants can communicate everything from colony activity to where food is located.
In addition to helping them “smell”, ants also use their antenna to touch each other as a way to communicate. Some ants also use their front legs (called forelegs) along with their antenna when contacting each other.
Motion & Body Language
Ants also combine pheromones and touch with unique body language, such as raising their abdomen in the air, to communicate. Similar examples of human body language signals include giving someone a thumbs up or nodding your head.
Some species of ants make noises to communicate with each other. Depending on the species, the sounds can mean a variety of things like calling for help or to attract a potential mate.
Trophallaxis, or sharing food mouth-to-mouth, is a common way for social insects like bees, termites, and ants to communicate. For ants, trophallaxis can be a way for colony members to share food, spread important information and help them separate nest mates from outsiders.