An ant mill is an observed phenomenon in which a group of army ants are separated from the main foraging party, lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle, commonly known as a “death spiral” since the ants might eventually die of exhaustion. It has been reproduced in laboratories and has been produced in ant colony simulations. The phenomenon is a side effect of the self-organizing structure of ant colonies. Each ant follows the ant in front of it, which works until something goes wrong, and an ant mill forms. An ant mill was first described by William Beebe in 1921 who observed a mill 1200 ft (~370 m) in circumference. It took each ant 2.5 hours to make one revolution. Similar phenomena have been noted in processionary caterpillars and fish.
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- Schneirla TC (1944). "A unique case of circular milling in ants, considered in relation to trail following and the general problem of orientation". American Museum Novitates. 1253: 1–26. hdl:2246/3733.
- Ant mill videos:
- A software simulation of an ant mill (in Russian)
- "Untitled (Superorganism)" An artwork based on ant mills