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Ants are very dumb little creatures. They don't know how to do anything. They just seem to do everything at random.

Ant colonies, by contrast, are smart, and can accomplish complex tasks.

Ants normally wander around at random. When they find food, they take it to their nest and leave a pheromone trail behind.
However, their random behavior is not completely random. The probabilities are influenced by pheromones. When there are more pheromones, there is a bigger chance that they will take this direction.

When there is a source of food, after some time the pheromone trail is so strong that all ants go there, and in turn make the trail stronger.
When the food is exhausted, the pheromone trail will disappear.

This basic way of working is called synergy: Ants leave signals for other ants. Together they can get something done.

No single ant knows where to find the food. But the whole colony does know.

This type of synergy is based on an artificial signal that the ants exchange, but the signal can also be the environment itself.

An example of this is the creation of ant cemeteries.
The ants drop dead ants at random places. But again, the probability is not completely random.
This time, they are more likely to drop dead ants in the proximity of other dead ants.
After some time, there are only huge piles of dead ants.

There are many other examples of this phenomenon, not only in ant colonies, but also in termite colonies, bee swarms and the like. I will discuss some of them in the future.

This phenomenon is very common in nature, and in fact all self organisation in nature seems to be based on this principle.

In the future, i will discuss examples that seem to be very different, but suggest that this interaction between simple systems is the key to understanding complexity and intelligence.

Posted on Sunday, February 29, 2004 5:44 PM Artificial Intelligence | Back to top

Comments on this post: Ants

# re: Ants
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RSS: pheromone trails for developers?
Left by Kent Tegels on Feb 29, 2004 6:27 PM

# re: Ants
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But something much more interesting is going on here:
If you look through the internet and through blogs that different people write, without knowing each other, you will find the same idea over and over again.
Everyone is now talking about RSS as pheromone trails.
What is going on here?
Why is it that certain memes are bound to interbreed and generate the same offspring in different minds at the same time?
This phenomenon is just as important as the synergy phenomenon.
Left by Henk Devos on Feb 29, 2004 7:21 PM

# Take Outs for 1 March 2004
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You've been taken out! Thanks for the posting.
Left by Enjoy Every Sandwich on Mar 01, 2004 7:51 PM

# re: Ants
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are dumb ants azre intelligent dumbass
Left by xcryhvyhhyhyjj on Apr 02, 2004 8:30 PM

# re: Ants
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After watching a pile of dead ants become an even greater pile of dead ants and wondering whether they were having their own war, i logged on to discover that this was an ant cemetery. So brillaint, so interesting!!
Left by claire on Aug 16, 2004 11:25 PM

# re: Ants
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i was sitting outside last summer on a blanket and ants were constantly bringing other dead ants and leaving them dotted around on my blanket! why is this?
Left by em on Mar 02, 2005 1:26 PM

# re: Ants
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Haha! I just googled 'ant cemetery' and found this page - I had a sneaky suspicion that the pile of dead ants forming in the corner of my lounge was something of a burial site - and lo and behold there are people in this world that have noted such phenomena!

I live in New Zealand - on some prime ant marching ground too. At last I can tell my friends that the eyesore in my lounge is actually nature in action. As much as it pains me - regular vaccuming solves the problem and no amount of bug spray seems to stop the living respecting the dead. Even though bug spray makes that so bittersweet.

Thanks anyway!

Left by Chris on Apr 01, 2005 1:18 PM

# re: Ants
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I, myself, would like to kill ants. The only good ant is a dead ant. I am seeking a method of annihilation that would occur outside the premisses, a method that would not poison me in my attempt to bring the dogs of war to these plodding persistent pernicious pests. Do I stammer? No, I a a a aliterate. Like Leninghan, but with tables turned, I raise my banner and strike out with a loud "Onward men!" The crusade is born in a mighty tide against the ants. On your mark, stomp!
Left by Davidos the anti-ant on May 04, 2005 2:52 AM

# re: Ants
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I agree with claire! It was an interesting site to see the ants caring for the dead, and an even more interesting topic to read about.
Left by Ashly on Jun 08, 2007 11:10 AM

# Dead Ants
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I came home this evening and found dead ants all over the floor in my bedroom. It was eery to say the least. I could see large live ants carrying dead ants and returning to their "colony". As I was sweeping them up I was puzzled about this. I googled "dead ants" and found this page, also finding out this is a common phenomenon. Who would have thought! I'm not exactly thrilled I have an Ant Cemetery where I'm sleeping. Maybe I'll sleep in the family room tonight! Creeped out in Canada!

I've put out boracic acid to try and kill the live ants. It worked for cockroaches I had in the past living in an apartment building. I just checked, the live ants keep coming with more dead ants. I hope this does not continue for too long! How many dead ants can there be?
Left by Elise on Aug 24, 2007 9:22 PM

# re: Ants
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Boracic acid made into a thin paste with honey or lemonade will kill the ants.
Left by jenny on Nov 01, 2007 10:04 PM

# re: Ants
Requesting Gravatar... too I googled ants cemetery after finding one at work, i obviously knew about these cemetery because i always loved these little creatures and found out about their behaviour as a child, but i don't know how to cope with this cemetery now...i mean i feel it's somehow a "sacred" place for them and wiping it away would be so disrespectful....dunno
Left by erika on Jun 09, 2008 4:45 PM

# re: Ants
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I have a question, we have a ant colony under our fire pit, for the whole summer so fare we have been dropping bugs at the entrances for the ants to take down and have been watching and reporting and compiling facts and data. How ever the past few days there has been a great deal of dead ants all around the entrances I man a lot and not much activity??? could one of my not so nice neighbors spray them to cause this? or is this a natural occurrence for ants I have photos if any one can help me??

thank you

Left by A knickle on Aug 08, 2008 11:54 AM

# re: Ants
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As a young man I was the Ant General in the A-AAA (American Association Against Ants). Our new recruits were Buck Ants. Then came Ant Corporal, followed by various ranks of Searg-Ant. Then we had Lt-Ants and Capt-Ants. Then Lt-Ant Gererals.

I led the affiliation of 15 year olds as Ant Gereral. Ah, those were the days!!
Left by Kyle on Dec 24, 2008 5:17 PM

# London escorts
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# 123
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You know what, use GSM jammer to disable all spy instruments in your room or at work.
Left by AngreeDealer on Jan 20, 2010 8:23 PM

# Best shop ever
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You know what, buy Bluetooth blocker to disable all spy devices in your home or office.
Left by BlindSniper on Jan 21, 2010 3:20 PM

# re: Ants
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I have been watching piles of dead ants in my downstairs rooms for years. Such neat piles. The ones on my windowsills are scattered randomly. Maybe they are waiting to be carted off to the cemetery?
Left by Helen in Northern California on Feb 25, 2010 10:42 PM

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