Audiences have been entertained by flea circuses for centuries. Can technology help a new insect performance art emerge?British artist and designer Ollie Palmer, is working on the concept of “Ant Ballet”. Ants communicate with chemical odors called pheromones. When ants find a source of food, they lay a trail of pheromone from the food source back to the nest that will lead their nest mates to the food. The pheromone “Trail Following Behavior” can be used to direct the movements of the ants.
The pheromone for the Argentine Ant, a pest species in California has been identified and can be produce synthetically. Palmer hopes to use the pheromone to direct the movement of the ants in an intricate ballet. One complication with the project is the invasive nature of the Argentine Ant. They are not present in Britain and bringing them into the country is not allowed for obvious reasons- they could escape and become a pest.
A simulation of his “Ant Ballet” is available as a video on the BBC website.