A new study out of Switzerland finds carpenter ant colonies have some startling similarities to the structure of our own corporate ladder.
A new study out of Switzerland finds carpenter ant colonies have some startling similarities to the structure of our own corporate ladder. - 
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Ants may seem like just an annoyance, but they’re actually very sophisticated workers. A new study out of Switzerland finds carpenter ant colonies have some startling similarities with the structure of our own corporate ladder.

"Ants are interesting in that they divide labor according to age. The very youngest ants for the most part tend to take care of the queen and the young," says May Berenbaum, who heads the department of entomology at the University of Illinois. "Then they move into the role of custodians and cleaners. And the oldest most experienced individuals go out into the world and forage for resources."

Berenbaum notes that some ants can even skip rungs on the ladder, moving directly from nurse to forager.

"But the thing about this that may be different from human corporations is you can’t blame nepotism, because they’re all related to each other," Berenbaum says.

To hear more about how ants communicate, ant retirement, and which ant is CEO, click on the audio player above.

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Follow Jeremy Hobson at @jeremyhobson