“We also checked out some ant activity on the roots and trunk of another nearby tree. This was the first spot where the big explorer actually took several minutes to examine the ants up close with his magnifying glass. Then he explained to me that ants follow a scent (he called it a bad smell). You could break up their game of follow the leader (the only game ants know how to play, he added) by creating a new scent with your finger. He showed me how with such glowing pride that I was speechless.”
To demonstrate that the ants are following a scent, and not just marching behind one another, run your finger across their path, roughing up the soil. The next ant to arrive at the rub mark you made will act quite confused. It will move from side to side and even backward trying to pick up the trail you erased by removing the pheromone with your finger. After much scouting around, the lost ant will eventually recommend the trail you have disturbed and go back to the business of gathering food for the colony.