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Ants/Termite nests (Mound-building termites)?

  1. Dec 11, 2012 #1
    Ants nest in some places like Africa, Australia and South America are among the most largest insects structures in the world,on the other hand Mounds sometimes have a diameter of 30 meters. Most of the mounds are found in well drained areas. These structure sometime could reach up to 6 meters or more,Picture

    Now the question is :

    What tools or system they use to build these nests?
    How they could figure out the architectures?
    Are they using any reference points ?
    scientific comments only please!


  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2012 #2

    jim mcnamara

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    Staff: Mentor

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  4. Dec 11, 2012 #3
    Conventional theory says that social insects seem to work using stimuli from their local environment. There doesn’t seem to be a project blue print. There is a balance struck between many other insects. The give and take between insects results in a lot of deviation from the hypothetical ideal motions for efficient construction.

    As far as is determined, bees have no long-range stimuli, analogous to GPS signals, for orienting their motion. Their behavior seems to be a response to their immediate environment, which includes neighboring bees.

    Are you including bees in your list of insects?

    Here is a selection from a on-line text copy of “Origin of the Spieces” by Charles Darwin. He makes an important observation here. He says that bees often tear down a rebuild in different ways the same cell.

    “The work of construction seems to be a sort of balance struck between many bees, all instinctively standing at the same relative distance from each other, all trying to sweep equal spheres, and then building up, or leaving ungnawed, the planes of intersection between these spheres. It was really curious to note in cases of difficulty, as when two pieces of comb met at an angle, how often the bees would pull down and rebuild in different ways the same cell, sometimes recurring to a shape which they had at first rejected.

    It suffices that the bees should be enabled to stand at their proper relative distances from each other and from the walls of the last completed cells, and then, by striking imaginary spheres, they can build up a wall intermediate between two adjoining spheres; but, as far as I have seen, they never gnaw away and finish off the angles of a cell till a large part both of that cell and of the adjoining cells has been built.”

    Moderators: I had presented another quote from Darwin in another post also on bees. This quote is a little different from the others. It states the hypothesis that there is a balance.

    This quote also addresses the comment that there is no evidence that bees have a comfort zone. In fact, they do show an obvious tendency to keep at certain distances from each other. Honey bees seem willing to rub against each other.

    Bee wax doesn’t come from a bees anus. It may have been incorrect to call it defecation. However, the esters that make up bees wax is a waste product that comes from wax glands in the abdomen. Wax is not emitted for the sole purpose of providing construction materials.

    There may be material on other insects. I will look for them. If I find evidence of a GPS system in social insects, then I will post it. However, I bet that the evidence points to local stimuli rather than remote sensing as a means of orientation.
  5. Dec 11, 2012 #4
    Underground, tactile and chemical senses are used to orient themselves. Outside the nest, visual stimuli help orient that insect.

    Regardless of the exact stimuli, most of the navigation uses the local environment of an insect. None of the insects see "the big picture." There is no need to invoke extradimensional GPS system.

    Here are a few links on work done with social insects and robots emulating social insects.

    Here is a description of how termites build nests.
    “Within a termite colony, no individual builds an arch by itself, nor does any individual plan the construction of an arch. Moreover, no termite in the colony coordinates the behavior of the colony in order to construct the intricate system of chambers, pillars and arches that we find in termite nests. Nonetheless, intricately structured nests emerge. Upon first observing the complex structure of a termite nest, the construction seems as though it must rest on a purposeful and integrated set of intentions; however, there is good reason to think that this collective behavior is better explained by appeal to the simple behaviors and representations of individual termites in aggregation. The explanation runs roughly as follows.3 Individual termites, specialized in nest construction, make mud balls and drop them randomly. However, when a termite drops its mud ball it also deposits a pheromone trace, thereby modifying the local environment in a way that is conducive to constructing pillars and arches. Termites are inclined to drop their mud balls wherever the pheromone trace is strongest. So, as termites drop their mud balls near those of other termites, the pheromone traces continue to become stronger. This leads termites to drop their mud balls on top of one another, leading to the construction of columns. When two columns are close enough to one another, and when the air currents are right, pheromones drift in such a way that mud balls will be deposited preferentially on the side of a column nearest to an adjacent column. This process continues until the two columns meet—eventually producing an arch. Through this, and other relatively simple aggregative mechanisms, intricate nests are produced by termite colonies.”

    Social insects
    http://www.theswarmlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Garnier-2007-Swarm-Intelligence.pdf [Broken]
    “Today, we know that most collective decisions in social insects arise through the competition among different types of information that can be amplified in various ways. In the case of path selection by ants, the information is conveyed by the pheromone trail. However, environmental constraints, such as the distance between the nest and the food source, affect this positive feedback. In particular, any constraint that modulates the rate of recruitment or the trail concentration on a branch can lead that branch to lose, or win, its competition against the other one (Detrain et al. 2001; Jeanson et al. 2003). Thus, an efficient decision can be made without any modulation of individual behavior and without any sophisticated cognitive processing at the individual level.”

    A lot of work has been done on robots that emulate social insects
    http://webdocs.cs.ualberta.ca/~parker/docs/parker2003.pdf [Broken]
    “In this paper, we present a collective, or swarm construction algorithm to control robotic bulldozers in the creation of a work site. Predictions about robotic missions to the planet Mars have described such site preparation as essential to the success of later mission objectives, such as the construction of solar arrays, etc. This algorithm was based on a behaviour observed in a particular species of ant called “blind bulldozing.” We developed a mathematical model of blind bulldozing using a unique approach based on Markov chains. Robot bulldozers were developed and used to test the algorithm in our laboratory. The team of robots was found to be successful at clearing an open area out of a field of rocks. Our robots’ behaviour also agreed with the predictions of our model. This work is significant because it demonstrates the viability of blind bulldozing and represents the first time, to our knowledge, that a multiple robot system has carried out a form of the general construction task outside of simulation.”
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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