1. ITV Report

University of York scientists to tag a thousand ants

Catching the tiny ants before tagging them Photo:

Researchers from the University of York are fitting one thousand northern hairy wood ants with tiny radio receivers. It's the world's first experiment to find out how they communicate and travel between their nests.

The three-year project will take place on the National Trust’s Longshaw Estate in Derbyshire - a hotspot for internationally protected ants.

This unique site contains more than a thousand nests and is home to up to 50 million worker ants.

Experts will catch the thumbnail-sized ants and attach a receiver to each one.

Sam Ellis, from the University of York, said:

"The radio receivers act like a barcode to mark out each individual ant. A single ant is not particularly clever, but is part of an elaborate system that is clearly performing very effectively at Longshaw. "

Tiny transmitter glued to the ant's back

"The radio receivers act like a barcode to mark out each individual ant."

– Sam Ellis, University of York

Facts about the ants:

  • The hairy wood ant is named so because of its hairy 'eyebrows' that can be seen through a microscope.
  • They can defend themselves from predators by spraying formic acid at them. Formic acid is a 'smelly substance' about as strong as vinegar and can blister the skin.
  • Queen ants can live as long as 15 years. Workers live for about a year.
  • The ants are carnivorous and workers can find food by hunting and scavenging, they locate prey by vibration although they can see for up to 10cm.