Scientists Turn Ants Against Each Other with B.O.!


Photo: Alex Wild

Argentine ants are tiny, but this highly invasive species has nearly wiped out native ants in California (they're highly cooperative and many colonies "merge" together to form a super colony stretching from San Diego all the way to San Francisco!)

Now, evolutionary biologist Neil Tsutsui of UC Irvine and colleagues have managed to turn the ants on each other with artificial pheromones (essentially by giving them b.o.!)

Getting the chemical treatment was dizzying. First, Tsutsui and his team coated the inside of a vial with the chemical. They plopped an ant into the tube and spun it in a machine for 90 seconds to make the chemical stick.

"After all that shaking it's a little bit wobbly, but usually it's still alive," Sulc said. "Then, we put it back into the Petri dish with 10 of its friends from the same colony and then we observe how aggressive they are toward him."

The other ants immediately attacked, using their large mandibles, or jaws, to bite and tear off its legs, Sulc said.

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