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Room, Board and Travel Trips for Argentine Ants

September 15, 2006|Roy Rivenburg

Studying ants is "like being 9 years old again," said Neil Tsutsui, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Irvine.

A few facts about the Argentine ants held in captivity inside UCI's climate-controlled ant vault:

* The scent secreted by the ants can't be detected by humans. But some other ant species smell like blue cheese or citronella.

* The UCI ants feast on scrambled eggs, dead crickets and sugar water.

* The insects live in rectangular plastic tubs coated with a Teflon-like goop to thwart escapes.

* In the wild, a typical worker ant lives three to six months. In captivity, it's more like one year.

* The container of choice for pickled ant specimens is a hospital blood-collection tube. "They're really good for carrying ants on airplanes," Tsutsui said, because the caps are vacuum-sealed and don't pop off when the cabin pressure changes.

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-- Roy Rivenburg

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