This visualization is based on the foraging behavior of the seed harvesting ant P. barbatus, a species which does not use pheromone trails for finding food.
Here, 1000 ants stream out of the nest along six patroller trails and then intermittently break off to initiate random searches for seeds. When seeds are encountered ants collect them and return directly to the nest. The simulation lasts for only 500 time steps.
In nature, typically 1800 ants are foraging at any one time, the patroller trails are not uniform in length or uniformly separated, and foraging continues for several thousand time steps — thus obscuring the foraging patterns and structure we are able to observe and recover using our more modest setup. Color gradations are used to disambiguate the search phase from the return phase and reinforce the dynamic aspects of the process.
Untitled by Gary Greenfield. Digital print. Copyright 2012.