How Do Ants Join Forces?

Whether ants join forces or not depends on the ant species. Some species of ants have the ability to form close bonds with others of the same species. Other species, such as stingless bees, can form independent founding relationships with others of their species.

The most common way ants form a colony is through a process known as independent founding. This involves the group selecting a home, and working to protect it. Some species of ants, such as the army ant, are particularly cohesive societies. They have workers that are highly specialized altruists. They select a mate, defend their nest and remove vermin.

Some social insects can join forces to form vast supercolonies, including some invasive species of ants. These supercolonies are not as stable as their native populations. The workers in the supercolonies may evade colony recognition systems. Some swarm-founding wasps are exceptions to independent founding.

In a swarm, the ants follow a trail of food. They can also use chemicals, although these are not always used for navigation. Ants of different species use different swarming patterns.

Ants of the same species also show antipathy toward each other. They can also form mutualistic relationships with other species of insects. This can include farming other insects for food.

Alternatively, ants of different colonies can form close associations, and form a cooperative nest. The largest ants, called maxims, may build larger nests and forage for food. The smallest ants, called minors, will feed larvae and care for their queen.