When you hear the word “fire ants,” it’s only natural for your skin to start crawling. And yet, these tiny creatures are not to be overlooked, especially when they work in tandem. That’s why scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology are gathering to study the social and physical behaviors of red imported fire ants.
More often regarded as pests throughout much of the Southern United States, fire ants are actually one of nature’s most cohesive species on Earth, often forming elaborate globs as a means of survival. The best part? These ant aggregations often display complex material properties that are characteristic of both liquids and solids.
For mechanical engineers working at the Georgia Tech laboratory, studying these ants could be the key to understanding how to successfully program swarms of miniature robots. For example, high-speed cameras have recently captured ants banding together in a bell-shaped structure, in an attempt to tower around a slippery rod. Scientists believe this type of behavior is what fire ants employ to survive during floods.
Now, here comes the fun part. By studying how ants form these robust raft structures, researchers are hoping to learn how robots can ultimately be programmed to form bridges and rafts of their own. “Imagine robots that need to construct a barrier or patch a hole during a disaster response,” said David Hu, one of the researchers at Georgia Tech in an interview with National Geographic.
As for the ants themselves? Considering they’ve been roaming the Earth for 92 million years, it’s safe to say they’re a force to be reckoned with. To see their remarkable shape-shifting abilities for yourself, check out the video below!
Is a colony of ants getting a little too comfortable in your home? The pest control experts at Delcon can help. Give us a call today or contact us online to schedule a consultation.