Can Ants Smell?
Ants CAN smell.
In fact, ants strongly rely on their sense of smell.
How Do Ants Smell?
The ant's olfactory sensors are located in their antennae. The antennae are covered with hair-like structures called sensilla that are receptors for senses. Most of the sensilla on the antennae are used for smell. The ant is able to move its antennae to probe objects. Similar to our nerves that send signals to our brains, the ant's antennae sends and axon to the brain where it is processed. (Gronenbert, Arizona.edu)
It's All in the Antennae
Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland observed desert ants repeatedly revisiting food sources utilizing olfactory and anemotactic orientation strategies as well as sight. In an effort to measure the importance of the ant's olfactory senses on food foraging, the researchers clipped the flagella and discovered that those ants did not seek food demonstrating that the ants strongly rely on their sense of smell. (Wolf, 857)
How Ants Use Their Sense of Smell
The most important use of smell for an ant is food foraging. Most ant species use pheromone trails to mark a food source. Once one ant finds a food source, it will leave a pheromone trail as it makes its way back to the nest, which is also located by a smell unique to each nest. The other ants will smell their way along the trail until the food source is located.
Because an ant colony generally has more than one food source as well as the fact that objects can obstruct a pheromone trail, ants that collect food will all leave a pheromone trail reinforcing the original path. The strongest scents will then serve as a signal to the colony which food sources are the most prolific. (Jackson, 570)