Heavy pieces of food are lifted by a big team of ants lacking direction, which a small group consisted of scouts interfere and guide them to make the trip shorter. Researchers are saying that these scouts seem to possess mathematically perfect balance between conformism and individuality.

Researchers came to the above conclusion after analyzing videos showing ants carrying massive food items such as Cheerios. The complete study has been published in the widely read science journal Nature Communications.

The ant species used for this study is known as longhorn crazy ant, a very common variety of ant. The name of this particular ant species is derived from the method it used to dash about, often changing its direction with aimless abandon; at least it appears so.

However, the findings of this new study indicate that the aimlessness observed in the longhorn crazy ants is actually extremely finely tuned.


Dr. Ofer Feinerman, a senior author of the paper, said that these ants are tuned to show maximum sensitivity to their leader ants. Dr. Feinerman is a physicist representing the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.

He added that ants appear to possess just the perfect level of fickle individualism. They tend to go with the flow and move in the same direction as others in the group nearly 90% of the time. They show the craziness in the remaining 10% of the time.

This means that in general, every ant completes team work as a unit and does the needful to avoid any fruitless chaos. However, here, it must be mentioned that the fickle streak observed in these tiny creatures leaves a certain level of instability. As a result, often it’s seen that a single ant carrying fresh information joins the group and changes its direction. This single ant is the leader of the group.

Must Read: Ants help each other move large meals

Dr. Feinerman said that the leader doesn’t need to introduce herself after joining the group and it’s also not necessary that she is stronger than other ants in the group. The only thing the leader must be capable of doing is pulling in the right direction.

So, the system goes like this: the large groups ensure that the big food chunk is transported fast and these scouts look after the navigation.



  1. When I lived in Taiwan in the 1970’s a saw an number of times when ants
    attacked earthworms on my front lawn area. The the soldier ants would use
    what looked like pointed grass seeds to spear the ant in numerous
    places. Smaller ants would throw dry clumps of dirt on the worm. When
    the worm was killed numerous ants would move the worm. Outside my door there was a small tiled area level with the lawn. If I saw a trail of earth clumps, on this area, I knew an worm had been attacked by the ants there. I have told this
    history to a number of scientists but none seem interested enough to
    follow it up.

  2. Amazing how much money was used for this study? I could have told you that just by looking at the dammed things around the house,what a frikken waste of money

    • You are absolutely correct.

      Aa a small child, I was fascinated by watching ants in my backyard. I saw this very same behavior– the cooperation among a group of ants, as well as the occasional lone wanderer– and, even at that young age understood, in some basic, instinctual sense, its relevance.

      I doubt I could have verbalized it– certainly not formally with statistical data and charts– but I understood the basic idea.

      That said, I am glad that someone is paying attention and, hopefully, learning the same lesson.