Abstract The problem of finding the expected shortest path in stochastic networks, where the presence of each node is probabilistic and the arc lengths are random variables, have numerous applications, especially in communication networks. The problem being NP-hard we use an ant colony system (ACS) to propose a metaheuristic algorithm for finding the expected shortest path. A new local heuristic is formulated for the proposed algorithm to consider the probabilistic nodes. The arc lengths are randomly generated based on the arc length distribution functions. Examples are worked out to illustrate the applicability of the proposed approach.