Ants talk to each other

Posted Feb 7, 2009 by Naved Akhtar
Scientists have discovered that ants routinely talk to each other in their nests with the queen ants issuing instructions to their workers.
Lasius neglectus ants
Image courtesy Garinger
Scientists used miniaturised microphones and speakers, unobtrusively inserted into nest to make the first recordings of queen ants “speaking” to each other. Researchers also discovered that other insects can mimic the ants to make them slaves.
European large blue butterfly, Maculina Rebeli can use sound as well as chemical signals to make themselves a home inside the ant nest. The report in Friday’s edition of the journal Science states that the caterpillars even beg for food like ant larvae.
Researchers found that queen ants make subtle sounds that signal their special status to worker ants. Caterpillars have learnt to mimic this sound which earns them higher status so that they are rescued before others if a colony is disturbed.
As part of this research, researchers placed miniature speakers into the nest and played back sounds by a queen which persuaded ants to stand to attention. Researchers said that the ants would press their antennae to the speaker just as they would seek to greet another ant in the nest.
Francesa Barbero of the University of Turin told the Times: “Our new work shows that the role of sound in information exchange within ant colonies has been greatly underestimated.”