Zombie ants…

I know this sounds like a Halloween blog title but, I have a biology story for you.  On Wednesday during Microbiology lab, my class was able to help some researchers from Penn State.  We researched Zombie ants!  Zombie ants have been infected by a fungus that takes over their brain and tells them to climb up a tree.  When they have climbed up the tree, they latch on and die there.  From this point the fungus can reproduce and infect more ants by spreading spores from the high elevation of the tree.  My class went to the site where the researchers were studying these ants.  We searched for ants in nearby trees.  I was so excited when I found my first Zombie ant!  Next we helped dig up ant colonies so that the researchers could use the ants in the lab for further testing.  We moved to another site to set bait traps for ants.  The baits consisted of honey, Pecan Sandies, and cat food.  This does not sound very appetizing to you but, the ants love the combination of s
alty and sweet.  We had so much fun getting out of the lab for the day and going on an adventure!  I have included some pictures taken by Roel, who was in the research group, of us making our way towards the Zombie ant site and making baits! (I am the one in the Camo hat!)  I hope you enjoyed learning a little about Zombie ants =)