9.16.2006

Saturday ant blogging!

I got some (some!) of these Argentine ants in my kitchen, so this breakthrough in turning the little fuckers against themselves is good news:

In California, the species has formed a massive supercolony that stretches from San Diego to Sonoma, wreaking havoc on wildlife, citrus crops and countless kitchens.

The glue that unites the ants is their scent, a hydrocarbon-laced secretion that coats their exoskeletons and enables the insects to identify one another as friends. Unlike their South American cousins, whose myriad body odors incite family feuds with millions of casualties, California's Argentine ants emit a laid-back, surfer dude-type aroma.

But researchers at UCI think they've discovered the six-legged insect's Achilles' heels.

In a laboratory not far from the bronze statue of UCI's anteater mascot, biologist Neil Tsutsui and chemist Kenneth Shea recently created a synthetic version of the Californian ant scent, then tweaked the ingredients slightly and transferred the concoction onto ants serving as guinea pigs.

Like cheap cologne, the new scent offended nearly every other ant in the room. One whiff and they began tearing their suddenly strange-smelling comrades to shreds.
Congress has a pretty good chance of being like this, after the midterms.

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