Abstract The study of trail laying, recruitment of workers and trail-following by worker ants comprises a co-operative study of entomologists and chemists that has resulted in the identification of the chemical nature of such pheromones in many species of five subfamilies of ants. These pheromones may comprise a single compound or, in one exceptional case, a blend of as many as 14 compounds, they may come from a single gland, or in some cases, a combination of two glands. They may be peculiar to a single species or may be shared by a number of species. They exist in the glandular secretion in nanogram to picogram quantities and are detected by workers in minute amounts on a trail. The present state of knowledge of these pheromones and their chemical structures is reviewed. Suitable bioassays and odour perception are discussed and the stereobiology of a few examples is considered.