“Everybody have ants?”
That’s Kelly Herbinson, an entomologist at the California Academy of Sciences, training high school students in the art of collecting ants for the Bay Area Ant Survey, one of the Academy’s citizen science projects. (You’ll find a description in our Project Finder.)
The project and the problem ant that participants most often encounter–the invasive Argentine ant–were the subject of a radio story today by our friends at Quest, a science program produced by the San Francisco public radio affiliate KQED.
According to the report, the tiny black Argentine ant, originally brought to this country in coffee shipments during the 1890s, has created one enormous colony that stretches from Oregon to Mexico. That’s a lot of ants! The Argentine ants have pushed out native ants, caused problems with crops, and led to the decline of the coast horned lizard, which eats only native ants. But now, as Lauren Sommer reports, researcher Neil Tsutsui at the University of California at Berkeley is working to develop chemicals based on the ants’ natural pheromones that will trigger aggressive behavior and cause the ants to turn on each other. (Listen to the full story.)
Bay Area citizen scientists can help by contributing to the Academy’s Ant Survey. Ants collected by participants are identified, and their identity and location are added to AntWeb, a visual database of the world’s10,000 species of ants. So far, more than 800 citizen scientists have collected 34 different species of ants in the region. Everybody got ants?