Ant hills are some of the most intricate nests in the animal kingdom, yet hardly anyone knows their inner workings, or much about them at all. I know I always thought that ants just, pile some dirt wherever they want and then live in that hill, but it’s actually far more sophisticated. Here’s the real intricacy behind how ant colonies build their homes. First, they search for the most adequate spot, which needs to be most ground, close to water, but not too close for obvious reasons. Once they have found the perfect spot, the ants will begin to dig their home.
A nest is separated into chambers, with the bottom holding the Queen Ant and her eggs. As the ants carve this out they will bring the dirt to the surface and stack it around the entrance which makes the hill we see above ground. They create a system of chambers and tunnels underground which aids in the organization of the hierarchies of the colony. The chambers stack in a sort of staggering fashion to avoid multiple cave-ins, and each chamber is separated by ant type. There is a chamber for worker ants, a chamber for soldier ants, etc. This helps the ants be able to work together in a more productive way and helps them do what they need to do to continue their circle of life.
Whether you see them walking in a straight line, carrying their food as a team, or building a colony together, it’s no secret that ants are very organized and have a secret way of communicating that we can’t see. Surprisingly this “secret” communication they use has nothing to do with speaking. One way ants communicate is by releasing pheromones that are universally understood by one another to signal different things, such as calling attention to food and alerting others of enemies. Like the story of Hansel and Gretel they leave a trail of breadcrumbs, or, in this case, if an ant finds food, they leave a trail pheromones for the other ants to follow. They do this by using their antennae as sensors and continuing the succession of pheromones as they continue on their path to alert others. Ants also communicate through touch, and will lightly touch one another with their antennae to signal something important is happening. Although ants may not speak to each other, that doesn’t mean they never communicate by sound. When ants aren’t in a good position to send pheromones, like being trapped for example, ants with make a sound by rubbing their leg against a part of their body to make a scraping noise, usually as a distress call. Ants can work together because they, like humans, are among the few animals that can communicate in a way that allows them to be connected, sometimes in a way far beyond what humans do.