In this report
Doug seems to forget what I thought was the point of the question, “How far will ants wander in search of food? or just how far away can an ant nest be located from a food source?”
I appreciate the response given regarding chemical trails and self-sacrificing for the good of the community and all. But, how FAR will ants wander…
Surely there is some data documenting the number of feet, yards, or miles even that different species of ants have been observed from their point of origin.
Having planted several gardens before I know that some ants will travel great lengths in order to find the goodies they haul back home. I’ve seen thousands in long columns scaling very tall trees to reach their buffets in the tops. Once on the ground they may still have a long trek across rough terrain.
So, how about it Doug? What’s the record on long distance ant foragers? I hear they’ve got some serious roaming ants down under.
In this report
Okay, sign up here for the Ant Foraging Distance Office Pool.
I’m gonna guess 100 yards, 'cause my theory is if the ants have to walk any further, then screw it, move the whole colony closer.
World’s record was the ant that boarded a plane from Newark to Orange County Airport, on January 14, 1997; found the weather and forraging to its liking, took a plane back to Newark the next week, and invited the whole colony to come to California for sun and food. In their haste, they travelled steerage, and were devoured by someone’s pet aardvark who was on the same flight. A great triumph in terms of distance, and a great tragedy in the annals of anthood.
It’s a safe bet that I haven’t had my coffee when I read a post such as the preceding and think to myself…
You think because Dex said it. It’s gotta be true. Oh to be innocent again.
sorry Dex, but somebody hadda do it.
who knows where this poor soul might end up. Orange county? hmmm
I’m with t-keela on this one. Doug, maybe you could have given some idea of representative foraging radii for the most common ants in Northeast Ohio? I realize from your answer that this is a subject that doesn’t reduce to simple numbers, but the supposed ranges of radii or even guesstimates would be welcome.
From here. “Most studies that have been done find that the maximum distance they travel is normally not much over 50m, and that is quite a long distance for an ant to travel.”
Also see figure 1, here.
Also: “For many forest herbs, ants are the primary means of seed dispersal (Handel et al. 1981), but most ant-dispersed seeds move only a few meters, and the longest recorded dispersal distance for a forest herb via ants is only 70 m (Sernander 1906).” From here. (PDF)
All of the above assume normal foraging behavior – mating and dispersion is by flying for many species, and ants could travel much farther by air.
Well, I mean, sure, we all travel much further by air. Didn’t I already give a example?..
:: ducking ::
Speaking of tangents, ants are good at finding short paths to food sources because of that hormone trail. If you block their way, they quickly find the next shortest way.
Computer ants are also good at attacking things like the traveling salesman problem, because of their hormone trail. It’s a big area for those of us who do optimizations for a living.
Ha! Do you think I just fell off the turnip truck? The Orange County airport was renamed John Wayne Airport long before 1997. Otherwise, I would have fallen for your story.
damn you’re good…I knew that but it didn’t click. See what I mean about Dex He’s a really bright guy but loves to put one over on ya whenever possible. Wooshed me and I never had a clue boy.
BTW Danalan I appreciate the serious input on your part. I am usually lighthearted on the boards but I really am curious about the travel ability of ants. They seem to spread like fire. Esp. fireants. I’ve seen great floating masses of them traveling down river when it would flood. I’ve found huge communities of them in the wild. I’ve also seen trails that were hundreds of feet long with thousands upon thousands of ants in lines to and fro carrying away huge pieces of vegetation and other. Then again I have seen what appeared to be a colony move from a desolate area to a new fertile one overnight. They are truly amazing creatures. However most people probably don’t share my enthusiasm. Diazinon is their friend. I rarely ever use any chemicals around my home and never in my gardens.
Innocence has nothing to do with it. Dex is (trained as) a mathematician. All mathematicians never lie. Therefore, Dex never lies (quick quiz: “modus _____”).
Mind you, I’m a mathematician too. You can take my word on Dex.
I’m not so sure I’d call it “good”, since it’s the millionth ant that gets the benefit of the trails all the other ants have laid down. Now, if they did it all at once like a quantum path-integral I’d be impressed.
If you solve NP-hard problems with computer ants, do you hang Anthill inside on your machine?
The tend not to travel at all, when they can help it. Most of the time they are motionless. However, due to their enormous size, and 20-foot-long legs, they can cover enormous distances in a short time when the need arises, as when the trees are being destroyed.
Oh, ants. I thought you said Ents. Never mind.
Danalan provided more information with two links than Doug gave us. My same thought when reading the article was, “So how far do they really travel?”
See, these Science Advisory Board types can’t ever just say I don’t know.