Fire Ants: Can You Dig It?
They’ve taken over most of the southern part of the U.S. and they probably live in your backyard. The fire ant is the most common type of ant in the U.S. and you will remember them well if you’ve received a stinging bite.
But their real power is in digging. Their architectures consists of tunnels and colonies with intricate structures and precise passageways. Researchers have compared their specialized tunnels to “jenga blocks” because they stand without mortar, relying entirely on placement of the blocks to create stability.
Their construction abilities are unparalleled and could lead us to understand better ways to dig ourselves.
“They love to dig,” said Daniel Goldman, author in this week’s Journal of Experimental Biology.
“When the particles are big, they grab a grain and remove it. It’s not a trivial task. They have to carefully to hold the particle in their jaw. They have another mode of digging where they can rake and scrape the soil into a pellet, and use their mandibles and antennae in a new way to help shape that pellet.”
Humans can learn a lot from these fascinating creatures, because fire ants not only build but do so in crowded conditions. Dr. Goldman hopes that by studying the movements of fire ants in crowded tunnels, we can create robots better equipped to find and save disaster victims.