Coupled oscillators and activity waves in ant colonies

S. Boi, I. D. Couzin, N. Del Buono, N. R. Franks, N. F. Britton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (SciVal)


We investigated the phenomenon of activity cycles in ants, taking into account the spatial structure of colonies. In our study species, Leptothorax acervorum, there are two spatially segregated groups in the nest. We developed a model that considers the two groups as coupled oscillators which can produce synchronized activity. By investigating the effects of noise on the model system we predicted how the return of foragers affects activity cycles in ant colonies. We tested these predictions empirically by comparing the activity of colonies under two conditions: when foragers are and are not allowed to return to the nest. The activity of the whole colony and of each group within the colony was studied using image analysis. This allowed us to reveal the spatial pattern of activity wave propagation in ant colonies for the first time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-378
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1417
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 1999


  • Activity cycles
  • Ants
  • Coupled oscillators
  • Image analysis
  • Mathematical model
  • Social insects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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