Ants have adapted to the situations to tackle environmental threats and coordinate with each other by moving in a straight line.
Why Do Ants Move in a Straight Line? Ants move in a straight line when they have to hunt for food far from their territory, giving a sense of protection that a fellow ant is protecting you from the front and backside. Moreover, they usually follow an odor trail when the leading ant leaves a particular odor to guide others. In addition, they show an organized behavior as a colony and synchronicity in their movement to carry an injured fellow. They prefer to walk straight when they have to carry a lot of food on their back in a short time, target prey, or change the location of their colony.
Ants marching in a straight line does not always mean they move to their nest or locate another territory to live inside.
However, it means they are on some mission and walking altogether with some purpose. It is one of the most common behaviors of these insects that you can see many times inside a house.
What makes ants move in a straight line?
There are many reasons for ants to travel in a straight line, including chemical signaling that directs these insects to follow their leader in a row.
They produce a chemical signal that keeps them connected and allows them to follow each other.
It is not like a liquid chemical that can be touched by their heads and limbs but leaves a particular smell that the other fellow insects can detect.
Each colony produces a particular chemical with a different smell that can help identify their fellows and enemies.
The pheromones form an odor trail that helps them reach a food source from the nest as they can go in groups by following each other and making a line.
Sense of protection
They move in a straight line as they feel protected and secured when one of their fellows walks in the front and behind them.
There is a great risk of predators attacking when they go separately without any other member to let them free from being prey to the larger insects or birds.
Moreover, it makes them feel safe when they are following a particular chemical trail that is specific to their colony.
However, they can quickly alert when other insects from different colonies try to reach them and disrupt their movement line.
They have blurred vision and cannot see at a far distance, so they have to head toward their destination together to ensure safety.
They are known for being disciplined, and you probably have heard a poem in your childhood about their organized behavior.
Some species of insects prefer an organized movement instead of wandering randomly here and there.
Self-organization is the unusual behavior of these insects that are rarely seen in other insect populations. The whole colony interacts with each other and follows the commands of their leader.
The leading member leaves a smell for the following ones to perceive and follow the signal. They have a decentralized system and walk in an organized manner by trailing behind their fellows.
Hunting for food
When you see ants moving in a proper manner, they are heading towards a food source from their nest. They go out of their nest in an organized manner and then spread into a territory.
When one trailing member finds a source, it sends signals to other fellows to come and collect the food particles. Moreover, they can go back to their nest after collecting food.
In addition, I have seen two rows of these insects walking in and out of the kitchen, and ants coming out of the kitchen were carrying small food particles in their mouth.
It made me clear that this swarm of these insects had located a food source and was moving towards collecting food.
Quick food collection
They can collect food in a short time when they are in large numbers and moving together. It becomes challenging for a single one to hunt, collect, and bring the food into the nest.
A large group of these insects can show a synchronous behavior for food collection when the particle is large enough to carry by a single one. This is commonly seen when these ants climb a tree.
They need to make a long row, particularly when they have planned to go far from their nest; otherwise, they can get lost.
Moreover, they can lift it collectively by supporting their strong bodies and taking it to their nest. They have an impressive ability to carry heavier items on their bodies.
Furthermore, their coordination and cooperation allow them to complete the food collection task quickly.
Many insects attack the prey as a group, making it difficult for them to show defensive behavior.
When they have targeted prey in their territory, they send a signal to other fellows and give a call for the attack.
They cannot win the fight lonely, so they have to help each other to enjoy the dead insect by lifting the dead body and taking it into their nest.
Sometimes, the prey is strong enough to give a quick and strong response to the attack of the ant that they have to lose their life.
However, the probability of winning the fight increases when there is a synchronicity in their behavior that makes them able to give a better response to the prey’s defense actions.
Carry an injured ant
The ant community does not let their injured fellow alone and take care of them until complete recovery. This is because they can sense the chemical signal for almost 10.7 to 19.3 feet distance.
The injured insect signals to its colony members if it is present in its territory within range of the scent. This signal to the colony helps them know that their fellow needs help.
Many begin to form a long row and reach an injured one by following the scent. Then, they can lift it and bring it to their nest to take care of it.
They begin to lick their wounds as their saliva has antimicrobial properties that can aid healing and protect from infections. They also carry dead ants.
Changing the colony location
Many ant colonies move from one location to another when their nest has been destroyed by intruders, which can be humans and animals.
In addition, weather can be responsible for their displacement as rain can cause flooding of their nest, and hot weather can make them die.
So, they prefer to move to different locations according to their requirements and form a long row to avoid the issue of being lost if they are straying randomly.
A straight line movement keeps them attached to their colony fellows and directs them in the right direction.
The whole colony consists of hundreds or thousands of members that look amazing to see when marching towards a house or in a yard in a straight line.
So, they can displace their colony and migrate to another site.
Do ants touch each other when moving in a straight line?
Ants move at a distance of a few centimeters from each other when they follow each other in a straight line.
They always stop when they meet and touch head regions of each other intentionally to recognize their fellows.
Moreover, the antennae on their heads help recognize their fellows and enemies, as these long feelers efficiently detect non-members or foreign insects.
In addition, they walk in opposite lanes and touch their heads as it is a way of communication and reduces the threat to their colonies.
Do all ants move in a straight line?
Almost all species of ants like to coordinate and cooperate with each other when they are a member of the same colony.
However, you cannot consider the same rule for all ants that go in an organized manner as it depends on their requirements.
You would see them moving dispersed when they have no specific aim like food hunting, colony displacement, and prey targeting.
You can probably see them walking alone when they are close to their nests or within the territory.
In contrast, they prefer walking in a protected manner by following each other through scents recognition when they have to go far from their territory.
So, it depends on the type of these insects and the particular reasons whether they follow a pattern for their movement or spread on a wide area.
What do people say about this?
I surveyed 958 people to know what they think about ants that move in a straight line and show such disciplined behavior.
Out of 958 people, 644 people (67%) said ants prefer to go straight when heading toward a food source.
However, 182 people (19%) said that all of these insects do not walk in a straight line, but some of them do follow when they have to carry an injured fellow or carry a large food particle.
While the remaining 136 people (14%) said, they mostly saw these insects wandering randomly on the ground without any particular direction.
You can see them always moving in an organized whenever they are out of their nest to achieve something.
“I was amazed to see coordination among a swarm of ants when they were climbing a wall in a straight line on my bathroom wall.”
You can see single or two rows of these insects, but rarely will they move in three or more lines.
“I had seen them walking in two separate rows from the yard to the garage, but they were walking opposite each other, and one of them was carrying small food particles.”
Some species of ants with a particular aim prefer to travel together; otherwise, you can see them dispersed all around.
“I do not think so that all of them follow the same pattern, as I have seen many of them moving randomly on the ground.”