Dave’s AntWorks Day 35: Bring Out Your Dead

My AntWorks on day 35 (shown here in light with the Illuminator)

It’s been a while since I posted on the progress of my AntWorks. Today is day 35 since my ants arrived and went into their new home. They haven’t been very active for quite a few days, so there wasn’t much to post about. They are no longer tunnelling, and we’ve had quite a few ant deaths. I count about 12 ants left alive in our little "colony".

As you can see, they built about 10 tunnels through the gel. They also cleared out quite a bit of tunnel area in the bottom of the AntWorks. There are two small starter tunnels that I first created that the ants completely ignored. You can see them on the top towards the right.

The ants haven’t been quite as active in general recently. They spend most of their time in the bottom cavern area. Even so, there is usually at least one ant in the top area, on the "surface". This has prevented me from being able to clear out the dead ants, as the ones in the top try immediately to escape when the top is open. Within a few moments of opening the top, the ants in the tunnels race to the surface as well.

AntWorks top view
Now’s our chance to escape!

In the photo on the right, you can see all the deceased ant parts that are on the surface. I had the lid off for only a brief moment to take this picture and one ant escaped and had to be pushed back into the AntWorks. You can see two live ants attempting escape in this picture.

If you’re thinking of purchasing an AntWorks colony, you may be thinking to yourself "it’s cool, but I don’t want to deal with all the dead ants. That’s really gross". Well, I can see your point, but that is also part of life sciences. The ants do die. It is also interesting the way the ants bring their dead companions to the surface and usually bury them. They seem to have gotten a bit lazier about burying them now, but in the past, they had them quite well buried in the gel chunks that they had moved to the surface. One thing this illustrates is how well the gel provides for the ants as food, water, tunneling medium, and burial material.

Dead Ants
The carnage!

As for clearing out the dead ants, I have heard from a student that was part of the original Ants in Space program with NASA, and she assured me that I could refrigerate the ants to slow down their metabolism without harming the ants or the gel. I knew it wouldn’t harm the ants from the first day, when we refrigerated them to put them in the AntWorks, according to the directions, but I wasn’t sure what would happen to the gel. But this information has given me the courage to try it.

I refrigerated my AntWorks for 10 minutes, but when I checked my ants, they seemed more active than before! How strange. So I left them in for a bit longer. It took almost 25 minutes before they began to show signs of slowing down even a little. So, I took them out of the fridge, and took the top off, but they were still pretty active, and I had to really hurry to get the little body parts out. I wasn’t able to get them all because a few ants kept coming to the top and trying to get out, so I got out what I could quickly and closed my AntWorks up again. Since I was rushing, I didn’t get any pictures of this, but I took a picture of the bits I did manage to get out.

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