You’ve heard of invasive ants, but what about kidnapper ants?

May 16, 2018

At Ars Live #22, Neil Tsutsui tells Annalee Newitz about the secret lives of ants. Videography by Chris Schodt, produced by Justin Wolfson. (video link)

At Ars Technica Live this month, we had the pleasure of talking to ecologist Neil Tsutsui. He runs the Tsutsui Lab at UC Berkeley, where researchers study the behavior and communications strategies of ants. In a sense, Neil is trying to figure out how to talk to ants. Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Ants “see” the world by using their antennae to smell and taste everything around them. To communicate with each other, ants use dozens of chemicals naturally secreted by their bodies. Sometimes they lay trails of pheromones to guide each other to food, and sometimes they’ll put one drop of a chemical on a leg and wave it in the air until it evaporates and spreads to other ants on the wind.

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