Collecting Fire Ant Venom

Fire ants

Fire ant raft
Photo: PNAS

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
DOI 10.1007/978-94-007-6649-5_38-1

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, Biomaterials, by jjneal. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Collecting Fire Ant Venom

  1. Dear Prof. Neal,
    I just found your entry on my method for toxins extraction by accident. Thanks for taking an interest, I am still waiting to see what my colleagues and enthusiasts can make out of this venom extraction method. Not for evil purposes!!
    Thanks,

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