June 20, 2007
by: jovial_cynic
The ants appear to be terraforming their nursery. The dirt on top of that paper towel wasn't there when I started.

Now, with the whole notion of emergent behavior, it's clear that a single ant isn't aware of overall impact the colony's actions have. A single ant is functioning on a limited set of instructions and is simply reacting to stimuli. And when a bunch of ants do that, you end up with a damp paper towel covered in dirt. I just wish I knew what particular stimuli is causing this behavior.

I have a couple of theories, but they're just based on the tiny amount of research I've gathered here:

UPDATE: See the this post for a better identification about this ant.

1. Since formica podzolica are mound-building ants, they might instinctively build mounds on top of their nurseries, because the more dirt you have above the eggs, the safer they are. As long as the queen keeps her eggs under the paper towel, the ants are just going to keep piling dirt on top of them.

2. These ants like to keep under the cover of shade. Each time I open the suitcase that's housing my ant farm, the ants all scurry under the paper towel. However, the paper towel lets in a lot of light, so their mound-building behavior might be based on a reaction to light.

But I'm not sure. In any event, it's quite interesting. I'll take a picture each day to see if they eventually just fill the nursery with dirt they've brought in from the foraging chamber.
np category: ants


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