Student work
Artificial life
Building performed by termites

Please note

The simulation needs a Java-Plugin (1.3.x) installed for your internet browser. If you do not already have one installed, the browser will prompt you to download the Plugin from “Sun”, who is the inventor of Java. Please download the JRE (=Java runtime environment) into a directory on your computer (e.g. “c:\temp”), execute the downloaded file for installation on your system (double-click on the file). Afterwards you will be able to reload the simulation page. Maybe you will have to restart your browser to succeed.

Run the simulation

Please click here.

Description of the simulation

This simulation shows, how termites move randomly and pick up chips from the ground, when they accidentally run into one of these chips. After they picked up a chip, they run around randomly. When they (again accidentally) run into another chip, they change their state to “dropping” and drop the chip on the next empty field (patch) they find.

This picture shows, how termites run around and move chips. We can interpret each single termite as being a simple “finite state automaton”, like it is shown in the next figure:

At the long run, the virtual termites will build piles. In nature, these piles will be the base of arcs, like they are often found within termite nests. Please note: Nature is 3-dimesional, our simulation is only 2-dimensional.


The slider density-of-chips sets the density of chips distributed randomly at the beginning

The slider number sets the number of termites that are used in the simulation

The sliders Puturn and turn-angle set the basic parameters of the random walk. Please note that the ants always perform simply a random walk.


  • Check how the number of actors and of the chip density affect the sorting speed and result.


At the beginning:

After approx. 5000 steps:


The presented NetLogo simulation was written by:
Thomas Schmickl (2002), Department for Zoology, Karl-Franzens-University Graz, Austria, Europe,,

Further readings

  • Camazine S., Deneubourg J.-L., Franks N.R., Sneyd J., Theraulaz G. and Bonabeau E. (2001) Self-Organization in biological systems. Princeton University Press
  • Resnick M. (2000) Turtles, termites and traffic jams. MIT Press.
  • Bonabeau E., Dorigo M. and Theraulaz G. (1999) Swarm intelligence. From natural to artificial systems. Santa Fee Institute studies in the sciences of complexity. Oxford University Press


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