Ant mill

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

An ant mill is an observed phenomenon in which a group of army ants, which are blind, are separated from the main foraging party, lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle, commonly known as a “death spiral” since the ants will eventually die of exhaustion. It has been reproduced in laboratories and has been produced in ant colony simulations.[1] The phenomenon is a side effect of the self-organizing structure of ant colonies. Each ant follows the ant in front of it, which works until something goes wrong, and an ant mill forms.[2] An ant mill was first described by William Beebe in 1921 who observed a mill 1200 ft (~370 m) in circumference.[3] It took each ant 2.5 hours to make one revolution.[4] Similar phenomena have been noted in processionary caterpillars and fish.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The song Spiral of Ants by Lemon Demon is based on the phenomenon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Delsuc F (2003). "Army Ants Trapped by Their Evolutionary History". PLoS Biology. 1 (2): e37. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0000037. PMC 261877. PMID 14624241.
  2. ^ Couzin ID & NR Franks (2003). "Self-organized lane formation and optimized traffic flow in army ants". Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 270 (1511): 139–146. doi:10.1098/rspb.2002.2210. PMC 1691225. PMID 12590751.
  3. ^ William Beebe, Edge of the Jungle (New York, New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1921), pp. 291-294.
  4. ^ Wisdom of the Crowds by James Surowiecki
  5. ^ Schneirla TC (1944). "A unique case of circular milling in ants, considered in relation to trail following and the general problem of orientation". American Museum Novitates. 1253: 1–26. hdl:2246/3733.

External links[edit]