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Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

10/31/2011 8:21 PM

Scientists recently discovered that certain ants have magnetite,or similar magnetic particles in their antennae, and are used for navigation.

Similar instances have been discovered in pigeons and other birds, as well as bacteria.

My question is how do ants find food from distant sources.For example, put a piece of candy on a string, and suspend it from a power wire that is 30 feet above ground, and over 200 feet from any pole, and the ants will find it rather quickly.They certainly do not have scouts covering every square inch of the earth's surface, so how do they find it? There must be some very sensitive chemical detectors in their antennae as well as magnetic detectors.It is known that insects can detect pheromones at super low concentrations, but they must also be able to detect food likewise.Any theories or facts that I am not aware of?

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#1

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/01/2011 5:54 AM

It is also a well known fact that the female human has a similar 'magnetic' sensor embedded somewhere deep in the depths of their Psyche that enables them to detect shoes in retail outlets at over 100 miles! Not to be out-smarted by this, the male of the species has developed a defence mechanism that is called, to coin the phrase, 'The Roving Eye' which subconsciously scans the near field of view for escape routes in times of panic. Usually bright shiny metallic objects or technical gadgetry will give the male a nearly unstoppable urge to veer in that direction. This mechanism unfortunately has a default setting when no panic is detected which can lead to an increased desire in the female species to dominate the male and locate more shoes.

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#2

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/01/2011 10:28 PM

Having spent many hours observing ants (as a hobby, not due to any professional interest), I have noted significant behavioral differences between species, so it is hard to generalize. What does appear to be the modus operandi of quite a number of species is to send out solitary scouts (who are probably using their magnetite and pheromone sensors) that traverse the landscape randomly (or, so it appears random). It seems that, once an appropriate source of food or whatever is found, the scout lays a trail back home to guide the rest of the crew. The rest of the crew then proceeds in what appears to be a very ordered recovery process. An interesting experiment- next time you see a trail of ants, run your finger across the trail at right angles. It will, at least temporarily drive the ants nuts- they have lost the scent trail. Eventually they rebuild the trail (usually following a different path) and get back to business.

Anyway, this suggests that pheromones are probably more critical than magnets, except maybe for the scouts...

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#3

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/01/2011 11:13 PM

When, not if, the random scouting ends up on your kitchen counter, only smell destroying /distorting stuff helps, at least for a while: windex, vinegar, ammonia(?!?). The last one even disrupts their efforts outside the house. Inside, it is a bit disagreeable.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/01/2011 11:19 PM

Again, speaking from personal experience, not scientific experimentation, fresh ground black pepper is the most effective ant repellent I have ever found. Seems to even leave a bit of residue after the dust is cleared by your sneeze...

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#20
In reply to #3

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 4:10 PM

Dish-washing liquid such as Palmolive also works, and doesn't smell that bad.

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#5

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 12:22 AM

So how do they behave around those little superstrong kitchen magnets? Can they sense the music from your iPad?

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#6
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 1:02 AM

Never observed ants around the kitchen magnets (mine aren't all that strong, anyway), and I don't have a IPad to test that...

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#7

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 7:02 AM

We have a huge horse fly population where I live. So, while in the pool it has become a contest to see who can kill the most. It has even come to using someone as live bait. When they land it's a free for all with fly swatters. Through all of this we have come to watch the ants. We place the dead horse flies on the pool deck and wait. In a very short time an ant will come out of the grass and investigate. In a few minutes there is a line of ants coming and going and before long the fly is gone. What can I say. Small town excitement.

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#12
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 9:53 AM

Our pool would become nearly unusable due to the horseflies after cycles of them hatching somewhere nearby...until year before last.

We FINALLY got a Purple Martin scout to decide our birdhouse was an appropriate breeding ground, and the horseflies and mosquitoes never knew what hit 'em after that.

Not sure exactly how, but the Purple Martins are also known to return back to the exact same birdhouse where they were hatched - probably not unlike salmon returning to the same stream - until the space becomes overcrowded and some must scout out a new location to spread the species.

The ants, on the other hand, noticeably follow a scent trail from the scouting ant who first located it. However...how does he find the food; random? scent? wish we had that tiny receptor tuned for sniffing things out more specifically...as an iPhone app maybe - lol.

OH, and how does the scout find his way straight back to home so he leaves that trail for others to follow? I DO have an app for that one...

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#14
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 11:34 AM

The fly swatter game certainly beats Marco Polo

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#15
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 1:23 PM

At first it was like being a pinata. Then the added challenge of trying to hit the fly without hitting the person put a new spin on it. Horseflies love to go after moving objects. They swarm the truck when we drive down the road. So, we bought a jumbo sized beach ball. We'll give it a spin on top of the water and they almost always attack it. We were amazed the first time we hit one in the water and it swam/floated back to the surface and flew off.

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#23
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 4:50 PM

Yup, they are pesky and resourceful little buggers.

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#24
In reply to #15

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 5:35 PM

Horse flies got me in trouble one time...actually it was a case of my smart mouth.

A cop pulled me over and was going to give me a ticket for 1 mph over the speed limit.

While he was writing the ticket, a fly kept zooming around his face.He would brush it off, and it kept coming back.

"That's a ZOOM FLY sir," I said.

"And exactly what is a zoom fly?" he asked.

"That is a fly that usually stays around a horse's arse, and the horse will brush him off with his tail but he keeps coming right back." I said.

"OH! You are calling me a horses arse because I am writing you this ticket, are you?"

"No sir" I replied."I'm not calling you anything....but you can't fool them flies."

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#8

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 8:12 AM

Not only ants but bees also must have a source travel guide. Bees travel miles to find pollen and come back to their hive always and they recognize the members of the hive. If a foreign bee or another insect tries to enter the hive they attack and kill it. My dad used to have hives right next to each other. I used to seat and watch as the bees would come and enter the hive. The bee at the door would inspect the entering bee and let it in. If another bee or an insect would come close she would chase it away from the entrance. It was fun to watch.

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#9

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 9:11 AM

The ants and the bees just developed this ability and their individual traits to survive over hundreds of millions and billions years. Yeah right, that makes sense.

How did all the generations survive until those traits were developed.

Maybe there was a Designer after all who gave them the peculiar traits and abilities so they could function as they do. Eventhough we understand little about how they function.

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#10
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 9:27 AM

There is a designer! The one that made all things from the beginning!

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#11
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 9:50 AM

"There is a designer! The one that made all things from the beginning!"

So, an avocado is just some type of cruel joke?

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#13
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 10:03 AM

Avocados are a great fruit! is it a fruit or a vegetable? you can eat them any way you want! in salad, soup, on the side, in tacos, in hamburgers, or just eat it like a peach! How about avocado cake??? Yummy!!!

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#16
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 2:37 PM

Ants won't eat avocados. I guess the seed has a magnetic anomaly.

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#17
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 3:02 PM

Hahahaha! yeah! avocados are for humans only. When you look at a nice ripe avocado you get magnetized!

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#18
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 3:14 PM

Dogs and certain wild canines that sort of resemble foxes also eat avocados...

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#21
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 4:33 PM

Yes, I know! I was just generalizing! Birds also eat them. Possums and raccoons love them also!

Do ants see at night or do they depends on their little antennae to guide themselves to the kitchen counter?

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#22
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Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 4:45 PM

My personal experience (not scientific analyis) suggests that most ant species I have encountered over the years have very limited visual capabilities even in daylight. The also do not seem to be overly sensitive to audio input (although it has been demonstrated, by whom we will not reveal, that a fire cracker detonated in the upper reaches of a typical ant hill generally reeks havoc among the occupants of said hill).

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#19

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 3:15 PM

Does this mean you can use a rare earth magnet as an ant trap?

Oh and thanks for the horsefly info, I'll try that shortly.

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#25

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/02/2011 7:46 PM

You must be from another planet, my ant doesn't even have antennas! Now my mother in law, I suspect, has horns...but that's another story...

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#26

Re: Ants Have Magnetic GPS In Their Antennae, But What Else?

11/03/2011 7:36 PM

so i get in to this discussion a bit late...but the comments are hillarious..

getting back to the initial question by red neck...you managed to suspend a piece of candy on a power line 30 feet off the ground at least 200 feet from a pole and the ants found it...you must have an excellent visual aid to see the ants and an interesting bunch of ants..my understanding of ant behaviour is limited to personal observation and a bit of reading..but 30 feet off the ground along a powerline is amazing...the actual object of the ants affection(candy) was only(only he says humbly)30 feet above a passing ant and somehow the little buggers(literally here of course)picked up the scent and triangulated an approach in a variety of axis...and we think ourselves so darn clever...30 feet to an ant is roughly(say a 1/2 inch ant)equivalent to 30 times 144(assume a six foot human or 72 inches) or 4330 human equivalent feet away...almost a mile..this is close to magical.. such sensitivity to glucose is fantastic..

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