Tandem Running

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Tandem running is considered by many authors as the simplest recruitment behavior (Lenoir and Jaisson 1982, Agbogba 1984, Passera and Aron 2006). Jaffe (1984) distinguishes two main types of tandem running. The first one occurs when the scout attracts a nesmate using antennal contact and leads it in tandem to the food resource. The second type is the tandem running with odor signals, also called tandem calling, in which a scout uses chemical cues for either orienting itself back to the food source or to help attract nesmates. In both case, the two ants keep a physical contact with each other (Beckers et al. 1989).

Wilson (1959) has an account of this behavior in Cardiocondyla venustula and Schultheiss, Raderschall & Narendra (2015) discuss its significance in the Australian Camponotus consobrinus.

Photo Gallery

  • Tandem running in Temnothorax clypeatus. Photo by Michal Kukla.
  • Tandem running in Temnothorax clypeatus. Photo by Michal Kukla.
  • Tandem running in Camponotus consobrinus. Photo by Steve Shattuck.
  • Ponera coarctata workers tandem running. Photo by Michal Kukla.
  • Temnothorax crassispinus tandem running. Photo by Michal Kukla.

Videos of workers exhibiting tandem running

Camponotus consobrinus



Temnothorax, during colony emigration


Species Known to use Tandem Running

The following list is based on Franklin (2014) with additions from various sources.

Subfamily Species or Genera Tandem running recruitment context Reference
Bothroponera crassa Ponerinae Hölldobler & Engel, 1978
Bothroponera tesseronoda Ponerinae Food and nest Jessen and Maschwitz 1986, Maschwitz et al. 1974
Camponotus consobrinus Formicinae Schultheiss, Raderschall & Narendra, 2015
Camponotus sericeus Formicinae Food and nest Holldobler et al. 1974
Camponotus socius Formicinae Food and nest Holldobler 1971
Cardiocondyla emeryi Myrmicinae Food Wheeler 1908 cited in Wilson 1959
Cardiocondyla venustula Myrmicinae Food Wilson 1959
Harpagoxenus canadensis Myrmicinae Slave raids Buschinger et al. 1980
Harpagoxenus sublaevis Myrmicinae Slave raids and nest Buschinger and Winter 1977; Adlerz 1986
Hypoponera sp. Ponerinae Food Agbogba 1984
Hypoponera eduardi Ponerinae Beckers et al., 1989
Leptothorax acervorum Myrmicinae Food and nest Moglich et al. 1974
Leptothorax crassipilis Myrmicinae Food and nest Moglich et al. 1974
Leptothorax muscorum Myrmicinae Food and nest Moglich et al. 1974
Mesoponera caffraria Ponerinae Food Agbogba 1984
Neoponera apicalis Ponerinae Nest Fresneau 1985
Neoponera obscuricornis Ponerinae Food Holldobler and Traniello 1980
Neoponera villosa Ponerinae Food Fresneau 1985
Odontomachus haematodus Ponerinae Hölldobler & Engel, 1978
Pachycondyla harpax Ponerinae Hölldobler & Engel, 1978
Ponera coarctata Ponerinae
Polyrhachis proxima Formicinae Food Liefke et al. 2001
Temnothorax albipennis Myrmicinae Food and nest Mallon et al. 2001, Franks and Richardson 2006
Temnothorax clypeatus Myrmicinae
Temnothorax curvispinosus Myrmicinae Food and nest Pratt 2008
Temnothorax muellerianus Myrmicinae Slave raids Buschinger et al. 1980
Temnothorax nylanderi Myrmicinae Food and nest Moglich et al. 1974; Glaser and Grüter, 2018
Temnothorax rugatulus Myrmicinae Food and nest Moglich, 1978; Pratt 2008
Temnothorax unifasciatus Myrmicinae Food Lane 1977


  • Agbogba C. 1984. Observations sur le comportement de marche en tandem chez deux especes de fourmis ponerines : Mesoponera caffraria (Smith) et Hypoponera sp. (Hym : Formicidae). Insectes Sociaux 31(3) : 264-276.
  • Agbogba C. 1992. Settlement in the prey termite nest by the ponerine ant Pachycondyla caffraria (Smith), and Tandem Running Signal Analysis for the Following Ant. Journal of Ethology 10: 133-137.
  • Beckers R., S. Goss, J.L. Deneubourg and J.M. Pasteels. 1989. Colony size, communication and ant foraging strategy. Psyche 96: 239-256.
  • Franklin, E.L. 2014. The journey of tandem running: the twists, turns and what we have learned. Insectes Sociaux 61:1-8 (doi:10.1007/s00040-013-0325-3).
  • Franks, N.R., Richardson, T. 2006. Teaching in tandem-running ants. Nature 439: 153 (doi:10.1038/439153a).
  • Fresneau, D. 1985. Individual foraging and path fidelity in a ponerine ant. Insectes Sociaux 32:109-116.
  • Glaser, S. M. and C. Gruter. 2018. Ants (Temnothorax nylanderi) adjust tandem running when food source distance exposes them to greater risks. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 72:8. doi:10.1007/s00265-018-2453-2
  • Gruter, C., M. Wust, A. P. Cipriano, and F. S. Nascimento. 2018. Tandem Recruitment and Foraging in the Ponerine Ant Pachycondyla harpax (Fabricius). Neotropical Entomology. 47:742-749. doi:10.1007/s13744-017-0571-6
  • Hölldobler B. and H. Engel. 1978. Tergal and sterna glands in ants. Psyche 85: 285-330.
  • Hölldobler, B., Moglich, M. and Maschwitz, U. 1974. Communication by Tandem Running in the Ant Camponotus sericeus. J. comp. Physiol. 90, 105-127.
  • Jaffe K. 1984. Negentropy and the evolution of chemical recruitment in ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Theoretical Biology 106: 587-604.
  • Jessen K. and U. Maschwitz 1985. Individual specific trails in the ant Pachycondyla tesserinoda (Formicidae, Ponerinae). Naturwissenschaften 72: 549-550.
  • Jessen K. and U. Maschwitz 1986. Orientation and recruitment behavior in the ponerine ant Pachycondyla tesserinoda (Emery): laying of individual-specific trails during tandem running. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 19: 151-155.
  • Lenoir A. and P. Jaisson. 1982. Evolution et rôle des communications antennaires chez les insectes sociaux. In Social Insect in the Tropic Vol.1. Université Paris-Nord. Jaisson, P. (Ed.). Chapter 9, p 157-180.
  • Mackay, W. P., and E. E. Mackay 2010. The Systematics and Biology of the New World Ants of the Genus Pachycondyla (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Edwin Mellon Press, Lewiston.
  • Möglich, M. 1978. Social organization of nest emigration in Leptothorax (Hym., Form.). Insectes Sociaux. 25:205-225.
  • Passera L. and S. Aron. 2006. Les fourmis: comportement, organisation sociale et évolution. CNRC-NRC press. Ottawa. 480pages.
  • Schultheiss P, Raderschall CA, Narendra A. 2015. Follower ants in a tandem pair are not always naïve. Scientific Reports 5: 10747.
  • Wilson, E. O. 1959. Communication by Tandem Running in the Ant Genus Cardiocondyla. Psyche. 66:29-34. DOI:10.1155/1959/29093