Investigation of the venoms of stinging Hymenoptera necessitates collecting tiny amounts of venom from a large number of insects. It would be time consuming to extract venom from fire ant individuals so a method was developed* to collect venom in relatively clean form based on fire ant behavior.
Fire ants are native to areas prone to flooding. When nests are flooded, fire ants move to the surface and form rafts of multiple individuals. On the raft, fire ants will clean and groom themselves, removing soil and other contaminants in the process. Once the fire ants are sufficiently cleaned, they are immersed in a biphasic mixture of pentane and water. The alkaloids and cuticular hydrocarbons partition into the pentane phase. Active venom proteins and peptides partition into the aqueous phase. This method yields venom in large enough amounts for experimentation.
*Eduardo Gonçalves Paterson Fox. Venom Toxins of Fire Ants. Venom Genomics and Proteomics