Communication In Society
The Qur'an supplies an interesting piece of information when talking
about Prophet Sulayman's armies and mentions that there is an advanced
"communications system" among the ants. The verse is as follows:
Then, when they reached the valley of the ants,
an ant said,'Ants! Enter your dwellings so that Sulayman and his troops
do not crush you unwittingly.' (Surat an-Naml: 18)
The scientific research made on ants in this century has shown that there
is an incredible communications network among these creatures. In an article
published in the National Geographic magazine, this point is explained:
Huge and tiny, an ant carries in her head multiple
sensory organs to pick up chemical and visual signals vital to colonies
that may contain a million or more workers, all of which are female.
The brain contains half a million nerve cells; eyes are compound; antennae
act as nose and fingertips. Projections below the mouth sense taste;
hairs respond to touch.7
Even if we do not notice it, the ants have quite a different method of
communication in virtue of their sensitive sensing organs. They employ
these sense organs at every moment of their lives, from finding their
prey to following each other, from building their nests to fighting. They
have a communication system which astonishes us, as human beings with
intellect, with their 500,000 nerve cells squeezed into their bodies of
2 or 3 millimetres. What we should keep in mind here is that the half
a million nerve cells and the complex communication system mentioned above
belongs to an ant which in bulk is almost one millionth of a human being.
In research done on social creatures like ants, bees
and termites, who live in colonies, the responses of these animals in
the communication process are listed under several main categories: Alarm,
recruitment, grooming, exchange of oral and anal liquid, group effect,
recognition, caste determination…8
The ants, who constitute an orderly social structure with these various
responses, lead a life based on mutual news exchange and they have no
difficulty in achieving this correspondence. We could say that ants, with
their impressive communication system, are hundred percent successful
on subjects that human beings sometimes cannot resolve nor agree upon
by talking (e.g. meeting, sharing, cleaning, defence, etc.)
News Exchange Between Groups Of Ants
First, scout ants go to food source that has been newly discovered. Then
they call other ants by a liquid they secrete in their glands called pheromone
(*). When the crowd round the food gets bigger, this pheromone secretion
issues the workers a limit again. If the piece of food is very small or
far away, the scouts make an adjustment in the number of ants trying to
get to the food by issuing signals. If a nice piece of food is found, the
ants try harder to leave more traces thus more ants from the nest come to
the aid of the foragers. Whatever happens, no problems arise in the consumption
of the food and its transportation to the nest, because what we have here
is perfect "team work"
Is composed of the words "pher" – carrying, and "hormone" – hormone
and it means "hormone carriers". Pheromones are signals used between
members of the same species and they are usually produced in special
glands to be spread around.
Communication by pheromones is widespread among
insects. Pheromone acts as a tool of sexual attraction between
females and males. The type which is analyzed most is the one
used by moths as the substance of mating. A female gypsy moth
may influence male moths few kilometres away by producing a pheromone
called "disparlure". Since the male is able to sense a few hundred
molecules of the signaling female in just one milliliters of air,
disparlure is effective even when dispersed over a very large
Pheromones play an important role in insect
communications, the ants using pheromones as tracers to show the
way to food sources. When a honey bee stings, not only does it
leave its needle in the skin of its victim, but it also leaves
a chemical that calls the other honey bees to attack. Similarly,
worker ants of many species secrete pheromones as an alarm substance
to be used when threatened by an enemy; the pheromone is dispersed
in the air and gathers other workers. If these ants meet the enemy,
they also produce pheromones, thus the signal either increases
or decreases depending upon the nature of the danger.
Another example relates to the forager ants who migrate from one nest
to another. These ants advance towards the old nest from the newly found
nest by leaving a trace behind. Other workers examine the new nest and
if they are convinced, they also start leaving their own pheromones (chemical
traces) on top of the old trace. Therefore, the ants going between the
two nests increase in number and these prepare the nest. During this work,
the worker ants do not stay idle. They set up a certain organization and
division of labour between themselves. The tasks assumed group-wide by
the ants who detect the new nest are as follows:
1. Acting as gatherers in the new area.
2. Coming to the new area and keeping watch.
3. Following the guards to receive the meeting instruction.
4. Making a detailed survey of the area.
Of course, we cannot take it for granted without pondering at all that
this perfect action plan has been in practice by the ants since day one
of their existence, because the division of labour required by such a
plan may not have been applied by individuals who thought only of their
own lives and interests. Then the following question comes to mind: "Who
has been inspiring this plan in the ants for millions of years and who
ensures its application?" Naturally, great intellect and power are needed
for the incredibly superior group communication required by this action
plan. The truth of the matter is obvious. Allah, the Creator of all living
beings and possessor of infinite wisdom, shows us the way to being able
to comprehend His power by displaying to us this systematic world of the
All of the communication categories listed above may be grouped under the
heading of: "Chemical Signals". These chemical signals play the most important
role in the organization of ant colonies. Semiochemicals is the general
name given to the chemicals the ants utilize for the purpose of establishing
communication. Basically, there are two kinds of semiochemicals: Their names
are pheromones and allomones.
Allomone is a material used
for inter-genus communication. Yet pheromone, as explained before, is
a chemical signal which is mostly used within a genus and, when secreted
by an ant, can be perceived by another as a smell. This chemical is thought
to be produced in the endocrine glands. When an ant secretes this fluid
as a signal, the others get the message by way of smell or taste and respond.
The research done on ant pheromones has revealed that all signals are
secreted in accordance with the needs of the colony. Also, the concentration
of the pheromone secreted by the ants varies in terms of the urgency of
As one can see, an in-depth knowledge of chemistry is needed to manage
the tasks performed by the ants. We human beings can resolve the chemicals
the ants produce only by tests we perform in laboratories, plus we go
through years of education to be able to do this. Yet ants can secrete
these whenever they need to, and have been doing so since the day they
were born, and they know quite well what response to give to which secretion.
Communication between ants may be established by transmission of
chemical signals by way of scent or taste
The fact that they accurately identify the chemicals right from the time
they are born shows the existence of an "Instructor" who gives them chemistry
education at birth. To claim the opposite would mean that the ants have
learned chemistry over time and that they have started making experiments:
this would be in violation of logic. The ants know these chemicals without
having had any education when they were born. We cannot say that another
ant or another living creature is the "teacher" of the ant either. No
insect, no living creature – including human beings – has the capacity
to teach ants how to manufacture chemicals and establish communication
by these substances. If there is an act of teaching before birth, the
only will which would be able to achieve this act is that of Allah, Who
is the Creator of all living things and "the Lord (Educator)" of the heavens
Many people do not even know the meaning of "pheromone" – something that
ants secrete continuously in their daily lives. Yet, each new-born ant
performs in a perfect social communication system because of these chemicals;
a social communication system which leaves no room for doubting the existence
of a Creator with infinite power…
There are basically a few endocrine glands where the complex chemical
reactions we have talked about so far take place. Secretions produced
in six endocrine glands provide this inter-ant chemical correspondence.
However, these hormones do not display the same characteristics in each
species of ant; each endocrine gland has a separate function in different
species of ants. Now let us take a close look at these endocrine glands:
Dufour's Glands: The hormones produced in these glands are used
in commands for alarm and meeting for attack.
The Venom Sack: An extensive formic acid production takes place
in the venom sack. Also the venom which is produced to be used during
attack and defence is formed here. The best example of this hormone is
found in the fire ant. The venom of these ants may paralyse small animals
and hurt human beings.
In a forest inhabited by
ants who produce formic acid, researchers found formic acid at a level
that could not be explained. All theories that were set forth were proven
wrong and all research done produced no results. Eventually scientists
concluded that formicine ants may be responsible for much of the formic
acid found in previously unexplained quantities in the atmosphere above
the Amazon forest and other habitats rich in these insects. It is estimated,
very roughly, that formicine ants may release 1012 grams of formic acid
globally each year. That is, these micro-creatures are able to produce
formic acid on a scale that can even influence the atmosphere of the region
they live in without any harm coming to themselves and this perplexes
Pygidial Glands: Three different species of ants use the secretions
produced by these glands as their alarm system. The large desert harvester
ant transmits this hormone in the form of a strong smell and issues a
panic alarm; and the Pheidole biconstricta, which is a species of ant
living in south America, utilizes the secretion it produces in these glands
in chemical defence and attack alarms.
Sternal Glands: The secretions here are used during colony migrations
and tracking prey and in gathering the "soldiers" together. The most original
function of this secretion is to lubricate the seventh abdominal area
of the ant that it frequently has to rotate when spurting out venom. Thus,
the turning of its body for spurting venom becomes easier. Without this
gland, which is a microscopic lubricant production centre, the defence
system of the ant would be inefficient.
Yet this is not so, because there is a faultless design in place: How
a tiny ant would turn its body to spray venom has been established, just
as it has been pre-determined where and how this lubricant needed for
reducing strain while rotating this body shall be produced.
||On the left, we see the anatomical
diagram of the Formica ant species. The brain and nervous system
are shown in blue, the digestive system in pink, the heart in red
and the endocrine glands and related structures in yellow: 1. Mandibular
gland. 2. Pharynx 3. Pro pharyngeal gland 4. Post pharyngeal gland
5. Brain 6. Labial gland 7. Esophagus 8. Nervous system 9. Metapleural
gland 10. Heart 11. Stomach 12. Proventriculus 13. Malpighian
sacks 14. Middle intestine 15. Rectum 16. Anus 17. Dufour's gland
18. Venom sack
It has been determined that the secretions from these glands are antiseptics,
which protect the body surface and the nest from micro organisms. One active
antibiotic component of Attas, for example, is phenylacetic acid, of which
an ant carries an average of 1.4 micrograms at any given moment. The worker
ant regularly releases small amounts of this mixture that serve as an antiseptic.
When she is attached by enemy ants, she suddenly discharges large quantities
of the metapleural gland secretions, which now function as a powerful repellent.11
Let us not forget that an ant does not know how to protect itself from
microbes and does not even know of the existence of the microbes. Yet,
its body produces the drug against its enemies without its knowing. The
fact that there is always an antiseptic hormone in the body of the ant
in an amount of 1.4 micrograms is a detail which has been worked out with
great precision. Because He Who created the ant is the One Who caters
for all the needs of all the living beings He created in the greatest
detail, and who is indeed "Gracious".
As demonstrated, all endocrine glands mentioned in this chapter are units
that have vital functions for the ants. A lack of or the insufficient
functioning of any of these has adverse influences on all of the social
and physical life of the ant. In fact, it makes it impossible for it to
This demolishes absolutely the claims of the theory of evolution, because
evolution claims that living beings have developed in stages and that
starting from a primitive form, they have become more advanced gradually
as a result of a series of beneficial coincidences. This would mean that
the ants during the previous stages did not have part of the physiological
characteristics they have today and that they acquired these later on.
However, all the secretions of the ants we discussed above are vital and
without them it is impossible for an ant species to survive.
Gracious is Allah to His servants: He gives sustenance
to whom He pleases: and He is the Most Strong, the Almighty. (Surat ash-Shura:
The conclusion from all this is that the ants were created at the outset
with these endocrine glands and vital functions. That is, they did not
wait for the development of the necessary endocrine glands for hundreds
of thousands of years in order to have a defence and communications system.
Had that been so, it would have been impossible for the ant genus to have
survived. The only explanation is that the first ant species which existed
on earth did so in the same complete and perfect form as it is in today.
A perfect system cannot be other than the artwork of an intelligent designer.
If we are able today to talk about an ant society with a population of
billions, then we must admit that a single Creator has created these all
The Identity Card of Ants: Colony Odor
We had mentioned previously that the ants can recognize each other and
distinguish their relatives and friends from the same colony. Zoologists
are still investigating how the ants can recognize their relatives. While
man cannot distinguish between the few ants he may come across, let us
see now how these creatures who are so completely alike can recognize
An ant can easily detect
if another ant is a nestmate or not. A worker ant casually sweeps her
antennae over the other's body to recognize it, in case it enters the
nest. It can immediately distinguish nestmates from strangers by virtue
of the special colony odor it carries. If the ant who enters the nest
is a stranger, the hosts attack this uninvited guest with extreme violence,
locking their mandibles on body and appendages while stinging or spraying
with formic acid, citronellal, or some other toxic substance. If the guest
is a member of the same species but from a different colony, they can
understand that too. In this case the guest ant is accepted in the nest.
However, the guest ant is offered less food until it acquires the colony
How is the Colony Odor Obtained?
The source of the odor by which kin are recognized has not been identified
with certainty. However, as far as it has been discovered, ants use hydrocarbons
for the odor distinguishing process among themselves.
The experiments performed
have shown that ants who belong to the same species, but to different
colonies, identify each other by hydrocarbon differences. An interesting
experiment was carried out to understand this. First, the workers in one
colony were washed with solvents containing extracts of workers from alien
colonies of the same species. It was observed that other workers from
the focal colony reacted aggressively to them, whereas the responding
workers reacted in a neutral or at most a mildly aggressive manner to
workers washed with extracts of their nestmates.13
Has the Colony Odor Evolved?
A very significant point which has to be carefully considered with regard
to the colony odor is the matter of evolution. How do the evolution mechanisms
explain the fact that ants or members of other insect colonies (bees, termites
etc.) can recognize their friends by their exclusive pheromones?
People who try to defend the theory of evolution in spite of all kinds
of impossibilities claim that pheromones are the result of natural selection
(The preservation of beneficial changes occurring in living beings and
elimination of harmful ones). Yet, this is out of the question for any
insect species including ants. A most striking example on this point is
the honey bee. When a honey bee stings its enemy, it produces a pheromone
for notifying the other bees that there is danger. However, it dies right
after this. In this case, this means that this pheromone is produced only
once. Then, it is impossible for such a "beneficial change" to be transferred
to the following generations and become propagated by natural selection.
This explanation indicates that it is impossible for the chemical communications
between insect species that have the caste system to have evolved by the
method of natural selection. This characteristic of the insects, which
rebuts the theory of natural selection completely, demonstrates once more
that the One who establishes the communications network among them is
the One "who creates them for the first time."
Call of the Ants
Ants have a level of self-sacrifice which is very advanced and, due to this
characteristic, they always invite their friends to each source of food
they find and they share their food with them.
In such situations, the ant that discovers the food source directs the
others to it. The following method is used for this: The first forager
ant that finds the food source fills its crop and returns home. As it
returns, it drags its tummy on the ground at short intervals and leaves
a chemical signal. Yet its invitation does not end there. It tours around
the ant hill for a short while. It does this between three to sixteen
times. This motion ensures contact with its nestmates. When the forager
wishes to return to the food source, all its mates that it has met wish
to follow it. Yet only the friend which is in the closest antenna contact
may accompany it outside. When the scout reaches the food, it returns
immediately to the hill and assumes the part of the host. The scout and
its other worker friend are joined to each other via continuous sensory
signals and the pheromone hormone on the surfaces of their bodies.
Ants may reach their target by following the trail that goes to the food,
even when there is no inviting ant. Because of the trail that successful
foragers leave from the food to the nest, when the forager comes to the
nest and does the "rock dance", its nestmates reach the food source without
any help from the inviter.
Another interesting side to ants is their production of many chemical
compounds to be used in the process of invitation, each one with a different
task. It is not known why so many different chemicals are used to be gathered
around the food source but, as far as one can tell, the diversity of such
substances make sure that trails are different from each other. Apart
from these, ants transmit different signals when sending messages, and
the intensity of each signal is different from the others. They increase
the intensity of the signal when the colony gets hungry, or when new nest
areas are needed.
This solidarity among ant societies at such a high level may be regarded
as behaviour that is worth considering and that can be taken as an example
for men. Compared to human beings who unhesitatingly violate the rights
of other individuals on account of their own interests – which are all
they think about - the tremendously self-sacrificing ants are much more
It is in no way possible to explain the totally unselfish behaviour of
ants, in terms of the theory of evolution. This is because evolution assumes
that the only rule existing in nature is the fight for survival and the
accompanying conflict. Yet, the behavioural characteristics that ants
and many other types of animals display disprove this and show the reality
of sacrifice. The theory of evolution, in fact, is nothing other than
an attempt by those who wish to legalize their own selfishness to ascribe
this selfishness to the whole of nature.
The Role of Touch in Chemical Communications
The communications by ants by touching each other with their antennae in
maintaining intra-colony organization proves that there is in use an "antennal
language" in its fullest sense.
The antenna signals created by touching in ants are used for various
purposes like commencement of dinner, invitations and social meetings
where nestmates get to know each other. For instance, in one type of worker
ant species living in Africa, workers first touch by the antennae when
they meet each other. Here, "antenna shaking" means just a salute and
an invitation to the nest.
This invitation behaviour
is even more striking in certain ant species (Hypoponera). When a pair
of workers meet face to face, the inviting ant tilts its head sideways
90 degrees and strikes the upper and lower surfaces of the nestmate's
head with its antennae. Often the solicited ant responds with similar
When the ants touch the bodies of their nestmates, the goal is not to
give them information but to receive information by detecting the chemicals
they secrete. One ant beats the nestmate's body very lightly and rapidly
with its antennae. When it gets close to its nestmate, its goal here is
to bring the chemical signals as close as possible to the other. As a
result, it will be able to detect and follow the odor trail its friend
has just laid and reach the food source.
striking example that may be set forth for tactile communication is the
exchange of liquid food from the crop of one ant to the alimentary tract
of another. In an interesting test made on this subject, various parts
of the bodies of worker ants of the Myrmica and Formica
species were stimulated by human hair and were thus successfully induced
to regugitate. The most susceptible ant was the one that had just finished
a meal and was looking for a nestmate with whom to share its crop content.
Researchers noted that certain insects and parasites were aware of such
tactics and they were having themselves fed by practising this method.
What the insect had to do to attract the ant's attention was just to touch
the ant's body slightly with its antenna and its front leg. Then the touched
ant would share its meal, even if the creature in contact with it is of
a different type.15
Ants establishing tactile communication
with each other.
The ability of an ant to understand what the other one wants by a short
antenna contact shows that the ants may, in a sense, "speak" among themselves.
How this "antennal language" used among ants is learned by all ants is
another subject to think about. Are they undergoing training on this subject?
To talk about the existence of such training, we must also talk about
the existence of a superior Almighty Who provides it. Since it cannot
be the ants who can provide such a training, this Almighty is Allah Who,
by way of inspiration, teaches all ants a language with which to communicate.
The sharing behaviour practised among ants is a specimen of self-sacrifice
that cannot be explained by the theory of evolution. Some evolutionists
who see the adage "Big fish swallow small fish" as the key to life on
earth are forced to withdraw such words when confronted with such self-sacrifice
as is displayed by ants. In an ant colony, instead of the "big ant" developing
by eating the "small ant", it rather attempts to feed the "small ant"
and make it grow. All ants are ready to accept the food - that is, the
"provision" - given to them and definitely make sure to share the excess
with other members of the colony.
As a result, what all these examples show us is that the ants are a society
of living beings who have submitted to the will of the Creator and who
act under His inspiration. Therefore, it would not be right to regard
them as organisms which are totally unconscious, because they do have
a consciousness which reflects the will of their Creator. Indeed, Allah
draws attention in the Qur'an to this interesting fact and notifies us
that all living things are, in fact, a community among themselves, that
is, they live under a Divine order and in accordance with inspiration.
There is not an animal that lives on the earth,
nor a being that flies on its wings, but forms communities like you. We
have not omitted anything from the Book, and they will be gathered to
their Lord. (Surat al-An'am: 38)
is another method used frequently by ants. Two forms of sound production
have been identified, body rapping against the substratum and stridulation,
that is, rubbing of specialized body parts together to produce a "chirp".16
The sound signal produced
by body rapping occurs most commonly in colonies that occupy wooden nests.
For instance, carpenter ants communicate by "drumming". They start "drumming"
in the face of any danger approaching their nests. This danger may be
a sound that causes disturbance or a touch that they feel or a suddenly
developing air current. The drummer ant strikes the substrate with its
mandibles and gaster while rocking its body back and forth. This way,
signals easily may be carried through the thin wooden shells of the nest
for several decimeters or more.17 The European
carpenter ants send vibrations to their nestmates who are 20 cm or even
farther away by tapping with their chins and bellies on the woodwork of
rooms and corridors. It must be taken into account here that 20 cm for
an ant is a distance that would correspond to 60-70 metres for a human
Ants are almost deaf to vibrations transmitted through air. However,
they are very sensitive to sound vibrations transmitted through objects.
This is a very efficient warning signal for them. When they hear it they
quicken their pace, they move towards the place where the vibration comes
from and they attack all moving living beings that they see around.
No disobedience to this call by any of the members of the colony is an
indication of successful organization of the ant society. One must admit
that even a small human society responding to an alarm call collectively,
at the same time, without any exception, and without anarchy developing,
is a very difficult thing in practice. Yet ants are able to do what they
are ordered without losing any time and so they are able to lead their
lives without interrupting the discipline within the colony even for a
The production of chirps is more complex as a system than drumming. The
sound produced is created by rubbing certain parts of the body together.
Ants produce this sound by rubbing together the organs at the rear of
their bodies. If you get your ear close to the worker harvester ants,
you may hear them produce a high pitched voice all the time.
Three major functions of stridulation have been discovered in various
species. These may be listed as follows:
1. Acoustical communication
in leaf cutter ants serves as an underground alarm system. It is usually
employed when a part of the colony is buried by a cave-in of the nest.
Workers start moving to perform rescue excavations in response to received
2. High pitched voices are used in some species during mating by queens.
When young queens gather on the ground or vegetation for mating, and have
obtained enough sperm, they produce high pitched sounds to escape from
the swarms of males chasing them.
3. Yet in other species, sound is used to enhance the effectiveness of
pheromones produced during the gathering of nestmates to find food or
new nest sites.18
Sometimes in certain species, the food searchers make it possible for
other ants to surround the prey with signals they produce when they find
a prey. Gathering together of the workers and getting to the prey is realized
within 1-2 minutes on account of this high pitched voice. These features
are a great advantage for the ant species.
For An Eye That Sees…
With their various communication methods, ants may be compared to men who
can speak several foreign languages. They are able to communicate with 3-4
different languages among themselves and they are able to pursue their lives
in the least problematic manner. They are able to subsist their colonies
with populations of hundreds of thousands or sometimes millions, and survive
all their lives without causing any confusion.
Yet this communication system we have been describing so far is just
one of the miraculous features of the animal world. When we analyse both
people and also all other living beings (From single-celled to multi-celled)
we can discover characteristics that are different from each other, with
each being a separate and individual miracle with its place in an ecological
For an eye that can notice all these miracles that are created around
it, and a heart that can feel, it will be sufficient to look at the extraordinary
communication system of the ant of millimetric dimensions to appreciate
the infinite power, knowledge and wisdom of Allah Who is the sole Owner
and Sovereign of all living things. In the Qur'an, Allah refers to these
people who do not have this capability and who may not appreciate His
Have they not travelled about the earth and do
they not have hearts to understand with or ears to hear with? It is not
their eyes which are blind but the hearts in their breasts which are blind.
7 National Geographic, vol.165,
no.6, p. 777.
8 Bert Hölldobler-Edward O.Wilson, The Ants, Harvard University
Press, 1990, p. 227.
9 Ibid, p. 244.
10 Ibid, p. 2.
11 Ibid, p. 244.
12 Ibid, p. 197.
13 Ibid, p. 204.
14 Ibid, p. 293.
15 Ibid, p. 258.
16 Ibid, p. 255.
17 Ibid, p. 256.
18 Ibid, p. 257.