Very large numbers of ants would come onto our balcony at night, run in perfect circles. It looked like a Christmas wreath made of running ants.  It was perfectly circular with an empty centre.It...

Very large numbers of ants would come onto our balcony at night, run in perfect circles. It looked like a Christmas wreath made of running ants.

 

It was perfectly circular with an empty centre.

It has to be one of the strangest things I have ever seen, and can't fathom the reason for the behaviour.  Any answers here?

Thanks so much . . .

Expert Answers
lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I had to research this, as it sounded so weird. It seems you may have been observing mating behavior, involving the queen and a bunch of highly aroused males. Something about the vibration of the queen's wings keeps them running around, until she finally mates, and pulls off her wings. There is some sort of a pheromone contained in a gland in the head of the queen. The link I attached refers to an experiment where they reference "squashed queen heads", which they used to see if they could get the same response from the males without the rest of the queen present. I agree, just reading about it was strange!

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think I only have more questions:

Was there a nest below the balcony? Does the pheromone have a distinct range of effectiveness; in other words, too intense at close range, but then ineffective a very short distance from that? Does the queen lay down a trail that is circular, and the males follow it? If so, how does SHE lay down a perfect circle?

Interesting. If you ever find a definitive answer from some entomologist, post it! I love knowing this kind of stuff.

cybercrone | Student

Thanks again Lynn.

I too, love knowing the irrelevant but fascinating.  If I find any new info, I will post it here, and anyone else is welcome to chime in.

cybercrone | Student

Lynn's answer (Thanks Lynn) seems probably correct according to the research, which I had also found similar, but still leaves the most interesting questions of:

-why a circle

- how a perfect circle

- why on a concrete balcony, as research suggests running takes place around the nest

so more info eagerly awaited if it's out there . . .

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