After several days of November weather, Illinois has warmed to more seasonal temperatures. Perfect conditions to participate in the School of Ants!
The School of Ants is a Citizen-Science project run by ant expert (and my former labmate) Andrea Lucky. The goal is to collect information about the distribution of urban ants across North America on a broader scale than would be possible through the efforts of a few lone scientists.
The School mails a kit with two sets of baited vials, one for paved or stone microhabitats like sidewalks, and the other for green spaces like lawns. After the vials have set out for one hour, participants cap them and throw them in a freezer to kill the catch. After recording relevant data (like temperature and time of day), participants then mail the packets back to the School of Ants for identification and data processing.
I set up mine Saturday afternoon. It was really easy- I spent more time photographing the vials than I did placing and retrieving them.
If you’re unclear on the process, the School has created an adorable explanatory video:
I don’t think New Orleans jazz is necessary to attract ants, but you might want to play some just to be safe.
I’ve heard rumors that 10,000 kits have been mailed out so far. That’s a truly staggering number.