Articles

Trail Pheromones

In Ramblings on April 20, 2006 by Cody McComas

So it turns out that termites produce and utilize something called “trail pheromones.” A trail pheromone is produced by termites when they are trying to get other members of the colony to follow them to a particular area, perhaps a new food-source for the colony. When the pheromone is laid down by a termite its colony-mates will instinctively follow this trail of pheromones. Now I realize that this is only mildly interesting. It gets really interesting when you take a few termites and put them down on a piece of paper and watch them move about with no particular pattern or organization until you take a normal ball-point pen and draw a basic pattern on the paper and observe the termites follow the path drawn with the pen. Crazy. Why do these termites, which have very poor eyesight, follow these trails drawn with a ballpoint pen?

As it turns out, the average ball-point pen has ink which contains a chemical that very closely mimics the trail pheromone of termites. Unbelievable!

So what is more crazy?

The fact that this ink has a pheromone-mimicking chemical?

-or-

How in the world did someone discover this?!?

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