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I would like to know as I want to contribute to a biodiversity project that wants to create a database with ant feature measurements. I'm not sure if I like the idea of killing ants however (even though it's just a single ant with limited ability to suffer, I know) so I'm looking for a way to immobilize ants long enough to take some detailed measurements but without having to kill them or harm them permanently.

Related question: how could I clean the ant so that it's not marked with the chemical used in the perception of other ants?

I know that for the database they may require keeping the specimen (and therefore killing it) in the name of science so that it can be checked by others but I'm more concerned with the question whether in principle these measurements could be taken without permanently harming the ant and how this could be done in practice.

Thank you for your help!

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  • $\begingroup$ You can try insect anaesthetics: peerj.com/preprints/2571.pdf scientists like to take ants home for the microscope and collecting. $\endgroup$ – com.prehensible Nov 21 '17 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, that article is pretty solid. Wish it were published so there would be more people looking into it. $\endgroup$ – W.Roamer Nov 23 '17 at 11:14
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CO2 is often used for temporary knockouts of insects. I've used it myself for fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), and it's quite straightforward and very effective to hit them with it until they're asleep. However, this was in a rather expensive lab that had CO2 on tap - not a particularly accessible method to the average person.

What I'd recommend instead is to chill the ants. Simply capture them and put them in the fridge for a while. Read this wiki article and go to the part about "quiesence" for more. Quote: "quiescence acts like an anesthetic". It's short term, non-harmful and fully reversible. Also much more accessible to someone who isn't working in a big expensive lab. I assume that the ants will stay still long enough for your measurements - if not: put them back in the fridge for a bit. And better yet, there's no chemicals used, so no need to clean the ant and there's no cost to you.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I will try quiescence first I think and if that doesn't work well enough I'll see how hard it is to get an affordable and portable CO2 applier. Found this tip so far: instructables.com/id/Rapid-Insect-Anesthesia $\endgroup$ – W.Roamer Nov 23 '17 at 11:47

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