Ants always seem to find their way, whether it’s into your home or back to their nest. So, how do ants find their way?

Different types of ants navigate in different ways. Generally speaking, ants find their way visually by using landmarks and the position of the sun in the sky. Most types of ants stick close to the nest to find food and will utilize the same path over and over. However, not all ants behave this way.

Scent Trails

A scent trail is made up of pheromones that the scout will release to lead other ants to food. Leafcutter ants are notorious for using scent trails to find their way back to the nest. Scent trails are especially necessary for leafcutter ants because they travel far from their nests to find leaves.

Similarly, when it is time for the colony to move, winged ants will seek out a new location. The queen ant releases pheromones to attract male ants to her for breeding purposes. Not all ants are able to breed, so this is especially important for repopulating the new nest.

Sun Positioning and Counting Strides

Ants who reside in a constantly changing environment typically use the position of the sun in the sky or count their strides. In a study on desert ants, scientists performed experiments to learn exactly how ants return to their nest.

When an illusion was created to make the ants think that the sun was in a different part of the sky, they changed their course and were unsuccessful in finding the nest. Later on in the experiment, some ants were given stilts and some had their legs shortened. The study found that the ants with stilts overestimated the distance to the nest while the ants with shortened legs fell short of their destination. However, when a group of ants was released with some on stilts, some with normal legs, and some with shortened legs, they all found their way back to the nest.

The main takeaway is that ants are an unwelcomed pest in your home. If you think you are experiencing an ant infestation, contact your pest management professional for help.

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