Foraging desert ants navigate primarily by path integration. They continually update homing direction and distance by employing a celestial compass and an odometer. Here we address the question of whether information about travel distance is correctly used in the absence of directional information. By using linear channels that were partly covered to exclude celestial compass cues, we were able to test the distance component of the path-integration process while suppressing the directional information. Our results suggest that the path integrator cannot process the distance information accumulated by the odometer while ants are deprived of celestial compass information. Hence, during path integration directional cues are a prerequisite for the proper use of travel-distance information by ants.