In Ant-Man, there are many situations in which multiple large armies of ants each have separate complex tasks that they are doing simultaneously. And we also imagine that some armies of ants are sometimes left without tasks to perform at any given moment.

Hank explains controlling the ants with an ear piece. Hope describes controlling the ants with mental focus.

But how are multiple complex jobs controlled without a chain of command? And what is keeping the unassigned ants from eating everything in the house? Has Hank programmed algorithms into his ear piece? And are there hardware devices around the house running routine control programs?

I am wondering if the comics or some Marvel web site might address these questions.

  • In the MCU, we are left to wonder. Presumably, ants are no where near as smart as huamns [citation needed], so it is no problem to control hundreds at once after the basic technique has been mastered. – Dr R Dizzle Aug 7 '15 at 10:43
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    I didn't understand her to mean that you needed to continuously focus the entire time. Much like talking to a child, you need to focus, be direct, and clear. Then you can switch tasks and come back if necessary to provide further instructions. – phantom42 Aug 7 '15 at 11:27
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    The impression I had was that there was a difference between telling an ant what to do and giving the ants a task and some guidance. When he was learning, Scott was doing the former, micromanaging. As he got better at it, he did the latter, which is the only way to scale - along the lines of swarm intelligence. Alas, no canon for any of this. – gowenfawr Aug 7 '15 at 13:01
  • @CodeMed, I agree, arguably that's the biggest logical inconsistency in the movie. – gowenfawr Aug 7 '15 at 19:25

Ant-Man is not using pheromones to communicate. He is using Dr. Pym's patented cybernetic helmet which gives him the actual ability to communicate directly with ants.

enter image description here

  • Using the cybernetic helmet created by Dr. Pym, Ant-Man can give ants information, make requests and they understand exactly what he wants done. He can also send them complex commands and they willingly obey without question.

  • He is also able to communicate with them and can decipher their messages, allowing him to use them as spies and informants. enter image description here

  • This helmet is also canon with the comic version of Ant-Man as well. enter image description here

  • Because he tells them not to. With his helmet, ants obey him without question. – Thaddeus Howze Aug 8 '15 at 10:56
  • There are NO unassigned ants. When they aren't doing what they're told immediately, they are outside being ants. They do not attack his home, eat his food or do anything he doesn't want them to. His relationship with them is symbiotic and he uses communication devices likely in his ear, or beneath his skin. He designed the technology and likely implements it in any number of ways. Hank Pym is just as much a genius as Tony Stark or Reed Richards, in his own way. – Thaddeus Howze Aug 8 '15 at 18:58
  • +1 great answer. I didn't realize it wasn't pheromones – kjw Aug 8 '15 at 21:33

Hank controls the ants using pheromones. According to Wikipedia, ants will continue a task as long as there are pheromones present telling them to continue.

In species that forage in groups, a forager that finds food marks a trail on the way back to the colony; this trail is followed by other ants, these ants then reinforce the trail when they head back with food to the colony. When the food source is exhausted, no new trails are marked by returning ants and the scent slowly dissipates.

I would assume that the ants continue to work and lay down more pheromones until the task Hank has given them is done. This would mean that he could give them a task and move on to something else.

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