How to paint ants

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Andrew Quitmeyer has made a charming instructional video on how to paint ants:

Painting insects may sound arcane, but applying unique color combinations to individuals is a standard technique for researchers who need to keep track of the activities of each ant within the colony. It’s like name tags.

8 thoughts on “How to paint ants”

  1. What I’ve always wondered about painting ants – either to identify individuals as in this video, or to do population measurements etc. – is how much effect the process has on the ants’ own recognition of one another as well as their physiology. While the visual change is probably not very significant in recognition, at least in most species, most paints have a distinct smell to the human nose, and to chemically communicating animals this seems like an more important modification. I have personally observed ants marked with fluorescent paint being aggressively repelled and attacked by nestmates upon attempting to reenter the nest. Also, what effect might a drop of paint have on sensory ability, cuticular flexibility, moisture retention, temperature regulation, etc.?

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