how do ants in ant colony know what’s their role? Are they trained for these roles (soldiers, farmers, etc.)? Are there ants that go through “career changes” and switch roles?


how do ants in ant colony know what’s their role? Are they trained for these roles (soldiers, farmers, etc.)? Are there ants that go through “career changes” and switch roles?

In: Biology

Some roles are just based on body type. A soldier is never going to become a queen. But others do actually change roles. Ants communicate through chemicals and if an ant in one role goes awhile and doesn’t encounter much of a chemical associated with a role, it can change to that role. So, imagine half the foragers get eaten by an anteater. Other ants slowly notice they’re not encountering enough forager chemicals and might switch roles. That eventually restores the balance.

Ants operate with swarm logic. This means that every ant does what it thinks makes sense to do. So if an ant thinks the best use of its time is to move larva to another section of the nest, it will just start picking them up and leaving a pheromone trail telling other ants what she’s doing. If another ant decides that’s a good idea she may also start carrying larva, or if she thinks it’s a bad idea she may bring the larva back.

This also applies to the roles they take on, with the exception that some species have body types, which have more specific roles like soldier or guard. Lots of ants can freely choose to spend their time digging, scavenging, protecting the queen, tending to larva, or garbage disposal. Every ant decides what seems important and the colony just works.

More importantly….can ants ride sea-doos?

I don’t know about ants but I know a bit about honey bees if that will do? Please delete if not.

Bees have different roles as they mature. Freshly hatched bees clean up, moving debris out of the hive and keeping the combs that contain larvae clean.

Then they become nurse bees, nurturing and feeding the larvae.

Next they move on to processing incoming nectar, making honey and capping the honey combs. Some of these bees also tend to the Queen.

It’s only the older workers that leave the hive and forage. When I say old, they live about four to six weeks.

Ant behavior is a kind of phenomena we call *emergence* or *self-organization*.

A simple example of self-organization is how a school of fish moves. They all seem to move in coordination, without seeming to take orders from any one fish. There’s a simple set of “rules” that each fish follows, though: stay close to the fish next to it, but not *too* close, and swim away from predators. These simple rules, when combined with a group, cause the school of fish to act as one organism. The rules are just instincts which every individual is born with.

Ants work similarly. They have a simple set of “rules” that are instincts for them. They might have a rule that they desire to make columns from dirt, but if there are too many ants already creating columns, then they’ll go outside to collect food. These rules get a bit more complicated in reality, but they’re still pretty simple for each individual.

Besides their instincts, there *are* certain types of ants, such as drones or workers. They each are born with their own instinct to carry out different “rules” for different circumstances. Drones never become workers and workers never become drones. And then there is the queen. The queen ant mostly just lays eggs, and the workers take care of her. She doesn’t give orders or anything.

There are also pheromones that ants release which cause other ants around them to stop doing what they’re doing and take collective action. For instance, if an ant encounters a foreign ant from a different colony, it will release a pheromone that tells nearby ants to come and defend their colony.