At Ars Technica Live this month, we had the pleasure of talking to ecologist Neil Tsutsui, who runs the Tsutsui Lab at UC Berkeley, where researchers study the behavior and communications strategies of ants. In a sense, Neil is trying to figure out how to talk to ants. Of course it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Ants are blind, so they “see” the world by using their antennae to smell and taste everything around them. To communicate with each other, ants use dozens of chemicals naturally secreted by their bodies. Sometimes they lay trails of pheromones to guide each other to food, and sometimes they’ll put one drop of a chemical on a leg and wave it in the air that it evaporates and spreads to other ants on the wind.