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Fri, Dec. 26th, 2008, 03:02 pm
Freezing Ants

Years ago, I lived in a place with a cheap refrigerator which had a seal which broke. This place also had an ant problem. Somehow, one of the ants signalled to the rest of them that there was food in the fridge, and there proceeded to be a long line of ants which marched into the freezer, froze, and never came back out again (gross, I know, but I have a real point here).

I suspect this was caused by an accidental hacking of the ants's signalling mechanisms, caused by freezers not existing in the ants's natural environment. Normally when an ant gets harmed it releases order telling other ants to stay away, but when an ant gets frozen it doesn't get a chance to indicate that it's harmed (actually, it might not be - we didn't try unfreezing the ants to see if they still worked).

My thought is that one could use this effect intentionally. If there was a custom-built freezer with a  line of ant pheremone leading into its entrance, it could immediately attract the local ant colony, then lead them all into a black hole until the colony was depleted of resources and died.

Anybody know if this has been tried before? For that matter, anybody know what the mass of all the ants in the local ant colony is likely to be? I can pretend to know the typical size of an beehive, but not an ant colony.

Sat, Dec. 27th, 2008 12:12 am (UTC)

I froze ants as a kid to see what happened.
Most reanimate after thawing (at least South African ants do).

So maybe this is a way to move an entire colony rather than kill them...

Sat, Dec. 27th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC)

So do UK ants (I also did this)

Sat, Dec. 27th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)

Probably end up being too expensive compared to traditional methods - sprinkling boric acid and/or borax and/or diatomaceous earth on the ant hill. Also, I'm suspicious of any ant colony killing method that doesn't kill the queen or otherwise prevent her from reproducing.

Sat, Dec. 27th, 2008 12:30 am (UTC)

It would be cheaper to use just a large jar with water/oil so that ants fall into it and could not escape and spray pheromones. Freezer would be too expensive as ant catcher. Probably ants have some randomization mechanism in their behaviour, othervize they would exticnt long time ago. Cockroaches for sure can be catched with an oil jar in mass, my punk friends once filled half of 3 liter jar with cockroaches in their dorm room.

Sat, Dec. 27th, 2008 09:53 am (UTC)

At one lab I worked at, I noticed this too. One day I came into work and found a sample refrigerator full of dead ants.

Sat, Dec. 27th, 2008 10:41 pm (UTC)

I had the same thing happen to me -- (or rather some nearby ants: I myself did not walk into my freezer and die).

It seemed to merely provide a drain on the local nest rather than actually kill it though: no matter how many ants were piling up in the freezer, there was alway resources to throw some ants towards my bins too.

(Deleted comment)

Sat, Jan. 3rd, 2009 01:24 am (UTC)

That sounds awesome. Now imagine a Portal (like the video game) to make this practical...

Thu, Jan. 29th, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
nvioli: How do ants know what to do?

have you seen deborah gordon's TED talk?


Wed, Feb. 18th, 2009 06:37 am (UTC)
kelsoracer: Herodotus

It's funny I was reading about a story that Herodotus wrote, earlier tonight. He talks of gold digging ants in Centeral Asia. It turns out they are really a marmot. But in this particular case they live in sandy dirt and when they dig, they really dig out gold. It's a big world out there! Crazy huh!?

Sun, Apr. 12th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
typsee: ants in food?

So does freezing ants actually kill them permanently or not?

I've just found that ants - (the tiny little ants that come into your house when its going to rain) - have gotten into packages of easter eggs that I meant to give my family as presents for Easter ... so I've put the easter eggs in the freezer for a little while in hopes to kill the ants that have gotten inside .... but without damaging the chocolate in the easter eggs!

So will this work, do you think? .... or will the ants just re-animate themselves once they thaw out?

Tue, Apr. 14th, 2009 10:27 am (UTC)
bramcohen: Re: ants in food?

I think it depends on the ant, but the internet probably knows. I think freezing hard-boiled eggs makes them a lot less appetizing though.