Saturday morning, I went out on my balcony to have a cup of coffee and learned I had dropped a piece of avocado from my salad Friday night. I had an ant colony! How did my dropped piece of avocado go viral among ants?

Read On:

For starters, the first thing I was concerned about was where did all these ants come from? My apartment is on the fourth floor. I have occasionally spotted maybe a couple feasting on a dropped croissant crumb, but never a colony. I felt better when I read the science section in my Saturday paper.  An ecologist from the University of Hong Kong published his new ant census count in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – ant ubiquity: 20 quadrillion! Ants outnumber humans 2.5 million to 1. Note: His colleagues believe this figure is conservative.

Google queries:

  • How do ants find food? They have a strong sense of smell which enables them to detect chemical substances (e.g., sugar and other food) in their surrounding environment via receptors/bristles on their backs. Most ants can pick up a strong scent from as far away as approximately 11ft.
  • How do ants communicate? They use a chemical known as pheromones and leave a trail of chemical signals behind them so other ants from their colony can follow their trail. Over time, scientists have discovered ants select the shortest route to their food source so their colony members can locate the food source quickly, thus conserve energy.

So what?

By studying ant colony behavior, scientists have been inspired to employ biomimicry an innovative process emulating nature’s time-tested patterns like ant colonies to develop sustainable solutions to human challenges in the real world. It has helped computer scientists utilize computerized virtual ants to solve complex computational algorithms. Best path ant colony behavior has also had a positive impact on logistics execution, mail delivery and the distribution of media through networks and to mobile users.  

Key learning:

In the future when I eat out on my balcony, I will be careful not to drop any food and create more science experiments. 

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