Fire Ants Love to Dig
Fire ants have taken over the lower third of the United States with their invasive complex mounds, tunnels and homes; roughly occupying around 300 million acres. According to a new study, fire ants digging technique, is the same concept as Jenga, the popular children’s game. Each particle within the tunnel is placed meticulously placed and is riskily supporting the grain on top. The colonies host several hundred thousand ants and extend several feet into the ground.
Postdoctoral researcher, Daria Monaenkova, and her research team found that fire ants build tunnels faster in coarser soils, and lacked in their performances in dry soils when compared to wetter soil.
There are two different methods fire ants use to dig:
The first method, is removing big particles and carefully holding it with their jaw. The second method is to dig and scrape the soil into a pellet, from there they use their jaw and antennae to shape the pellet.
Daniel Goldman, a physics professor at Georgia Tech and other fellow researchers are very impressed with the manipulations the fire ants are able to do with their tunnels and they are working on figuring out how they do it.
Goldman believes that the study of fire ants can lead to opportunities with search and rescue robots (with “their ability to squeeze past each other in tiny spaces while carrying big chunks of soil’).
What do you think about this research? Are there any fire ant tunnels where you live?