We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Sticking QR Codes on Ants, For Science

Researchers are using them to study how the colony defends itself.

By Ernie Mastroianni
Mar 12, 2019 5:00 PMDec 20, 2019 10:06 PM
QR Code on Ants - Brusch
(Credit: Timothée Brüsch)


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

A queen ant and her nurses sport unique QR code labels as part of a study to observe how an ant colony defends itself against pathogens. European researchers observed thousands of tagged ants, photographing them every half-second to precisely document the social interaction among the different kinds in the colony. “I personally tagged 4,400 ants,” says biologist Nathalie Stroeymeyt of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. She anesthetized each ant with carbon dioxide before placing a drop of glue onto the insect’s thorax to hold the tag in place. “At top speed, this takes me about one minute per ant,” she adds, “so this represented over 75 hours of work.”

[This story originally appeared in print as "A Code for Colony Health."]

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.