Trail pheromones: an integrative view of their role in social insect colony organization

Annu Rev Entomol. 2015 Jan 7;60:581-99. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-010814-020627. Epub 2014 Oct 24.


Trail pheromones do more than simply guide social insect workers from point A to point B. Recent research has revealed additional ways in which they help to regulate colony foraging, often via positive and negative feedback processes that influence the exploitation of the different resources that a colony has knowledge of. Trail pheromones are often complementary or synergistic with other information sources, such as individual memory. Pheromone trails can be composed of two or more pheromones with different functions, and information may be embedded in the trail network geometry. These findings indicate remarkable sophistication in how trail pheromones are used to regulate colony-level behavior, and how trail pheromones are used and deployed at the individual level.

Keywords: ants; complex adaptive systems; complexity; organization; recruitment; review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hymenoptera / physiology*
  • Isoptera / physiology*
  • Pheromones / metabolism*
  • Social Behavior


  • Pheromones