As I sit at my laptop typing away, a trail of ants were busy making their way up and down a wall. By a trail I mean a rather defined path that the ants were taking. I decided to exterminate the ants, and I thought I was smarter than them by ambushing all of them by masking-tape them up at an easy-taping point along the trail. I even thought to prevent any ant from escaping and running back to inform its peers I’ll have to make sure those running back are taped faster and I tape them when they are more isolated.
The first ambush was a total success — I manage to tape up the ants at that point, and the others were far enough not to be frantic and still follow the trail into the “killing zone”. To my surprise after the ants approach the zone they went into a frenzy, darting into directions randomly. It was obvious they knew there was a massacre there previously, despite me leaving no corpses around the area. As a result I had to start taping them further and further from the ambush point, until I couldn’t reach them anymore.
The ants have won. Even though I was able to kill more of them than if I just zapped them everywhere along the path I was not able to complete my plan of luring each and every ant into the ambush area. How did the dead talk? And how were they able to know the path was there or was dangerous without any communication? I asked Google, and there were ready answers
Behavior of real ants
Ants drop chemicals as they walk, and other ants follow the chemical trail. As more ants walk over the path they build up the “visibility” of the path. What about the danger warning?
Wikipedia: Ant (Communication)
A crushed ant, for example, will emit an alarm pheromone which in high concentration sends nearby ants into an attack frenzy; and in lower concentration, merely attracts them.
Now, after writing all these and reading back, I think this is an entry so boring that even I myself will be amazed by how boring I can be when I read it back some years later. For that I’m still going to post it.