Ants Estimate Area Using Buffon's Needle

Proc Biol Sci. 2000 Apr 22;267(1445):765-70. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2000.1069.


We show for the first time, to our knowledge, that ants can measure the size of potential nest sites. Nest size assessment is by individual scouts. Such scouts always make more than one visit to a potential nest before initiating an emigration of their nest mates and they deploy individual-specific trails within the potential new nest on their first visit. We test three alternative hypotheses for the way in which scouts might measure nests. Experiments indicated that individual scouts use the intersection frequency between their own paths to assess nest areas. These results are consistent with ants using a 'Buffon's needle algorithm' to assess nest areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Animal Communication
  • Animals
  • Ants / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Pheromones / physiology


  • Pheromones