Insectes Sociaux

, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 87–92 | Cite as

Ants use pheromone markings in emigrations to move closer to food-rich areas

  • T. T. CaoEmail author
  • A. Dornhaus
Research Article


Nest site quality can affect survival and reproduction, and thus many animals have evolved behaviors which facilitate nest site assessment and selection. Ants of the genus Temnothorax have been shown to include an array of nest site attributes when choosing such a site. Here, we show that they also include traits of the habitat surrounding nest sites. In particular, we found that during emigration, ants preferred to move to nests located close to a previously explored food-rich area. We also determined that scent markings played a role in this choice and that scouts and transporting ants may have tracked scent marks laid in foraging, and this behavior could have biased emigration toward nests located near previously foraged areas. These results indicate that pheromones play a bigger role in Temnothorax foraging and decision making in emigration than previously thought. Overall, this work provides new insights into the mechanisms involved in habitat selection in ants and contributes to our understanding of collective behavior in social insects in general.


Nest choice Colony emigration Food location Pheromone Ants Temnothorax 



We thank Margaret Couvillon, Jenny Jandt, Nhi Duong and the two anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona provided funding for this work.


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Copyright information

© International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of Arizona, BioSciences West 310TucsonUSA

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