Our team had a meeting before spring break to figure out how to process the ant collecting. We decided to collect the ant samples from Spring Break to April 12th. (Date has been extended due to the weather.) Bait can be set any time of the day that works best with team members schedules however the highest temperature peak (about 3-430pm) is preferable.
Based on the advice of Amy Savage, a Ph D. student at North Carolina State University, we decided to place the bait on the green space and paved space around the areas each one of us selected. Team members took four 3×5” notecards and Pecan Sandies Cookies on a warm sunny day, broke the cookies into pieces and put them on top of a card, and placed it on the site.
Since we were collecting samples during the daytime, we needed to write a notice for people passing by so that they would not throw them away accidently. We observed the site about an hour. If we found ants, we took detailed pictures and gathered them to identify the species in our next meeting. The photo needed to be clear and close enough to count segments in antennae and note the shape of the bump at their waist. We also took a picture of places where the card was located along with detailed records about the surroundings. In case of inability to get detailed pictures, we picked up each card and quickly poured the crumbs, ants, and card into a zip‐lock bag. We needed to be careful since some ants can sting. We left a bit of air in the bag to preserve the ants from squashing, and we put it in the freezer to prevent from decomposing until our next team meeting.
Our team members struggled to find any ants however, due to the tremendous snowfall and cold weather. So far we have had no luck collecting samples. Ants do not hibernate, but they store food in their nest and also lower their metabolism when it is cold. Hence, one of our members asked Professor Beatley for advice and he gave us a few suggestions. As he suggested, we will also try to survey ants indoors without baiting them. We will keep our eyes wide open to find them. When we find them, we will take a detailed pictures as we planned. If it is necessary, we will use an insect collecting device called an aspirator that basically sucks air thorough one straw, ants go through another straw that connects to a glass tube.
Moving forward, we plan to continue collecting ants for now until the second weekend of April. If we are successful finding ants, we will set a meeting to identify them and analyze the collected data. In case of we do not see any ants by then, we will do extra research on ants to provide interesting knowledge that we will like to share with blog readers.
Post by Prisca Kim, Third-Year, Psychology