Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : Abstract. When exploring a chemically unmarked area devoid of food sources, workers of the pest ant Monomorium pharaonis L. (Formicidae, Myrmicinae) leave scent marks on the ground and after 30–60min a network of diverging exploratory trails begins to emerge. Exploratory activity is affected by the nutritional state of the colony and a period of food deprivation induces a dramatic increase in the number of workers leaving the nest. A mathematical model based on a logistic growth equation is proposed to describe the exploratory recruitment observed. When travelling along exploratory trails the proportion of ants displaying trail‐laying behaviour is higher for outbound than for nestbound workers. Outbound ants also show a greater propensity than nestbound ants to follow the scent marks of their nestmates. The chemical used to mark a novel area does not appear to be colony‐specific and thus does not have a territorial function sensu stricto. The adaptive value of the collective exploratory behaviour observed in this study is discussed in relation to the common features of other pest ant species described in the literature. Copyright © 1994, Wiley Blackwell. All rights reserved