Primer on how to paint mark ants

This video demonstrates how we encode unique identifications onto otherwise very similar looking ants. It serves as an instructional video for this very useful technique. It was produced by Andy Quitmeyer and written by Yohan Cho.

Tandem run recruitment by Temnothorax ants

During nest site selection, Temnothorax scouts use tandem runs to recruit one another to promising candidate sites. The successful scout emits a pheromone signal that attracts a single follower. The follower shows her continued presence by antennal contact with the abdomen of the leader, who frequenty stops to allow her follower to catch up. Tandem runs are also used to by foragers to recruit nestmates to rich sugary food.

Nestmate transport by Temnothorax ants

Once a quorum of scouts has arrived at a candidate site, scouts begin transporting the passive majority of their nestmates. This behavior is faster than tandem running, but tandem runs are likely much better at allowing the recruit to learn the route from the old to the new nest. This is important for scout ants, but not for the non-scouting workers, brood items, and queens who make up the bulk of transportees.

Robot ant leading a tandem run

A simple robotic ant leading several Temnothorax rugatulus scouts in a tandem run. The robot consists of a coated magnetic dummy dabbed with the ants’ own recruitment pheromone. It is guided by a much larger robot moving just below the experimental arena. The dummy shown here bears a particularly large dose of pheromone and so has attracted more ants than typically follow a real tandem leader.

Collective food retrieval by ant teams

A team of Aphaenogaster cockerelli foragers cooperatively retrieving a large fig chunk. The well-coordinated team is adept at crossing rough terrain and navigating around obstacles.

Ants retrieving a force sensor

A team of Aphaenogaster cockerelli foragers carrying an artificial load marked with fig paste to make it attractive to them. Deflections of the sensor arms reveal the forces exerted by each ant.

Ants retrieving an improved sensor design

This improved version has more flexible arms, giving it greater sensitivity than the one shown above.