Fireplace ant rafts kind due to the Cheerios impact, examine concludes

Georgia Tech scientists found that the so-called "Cheerios effect" is the mechanism by which fire ants cluster together to form rafts.

Enlarge / Georgia Tech scientists discovered that the so-called “Cheerios impact” is the mechanism by which hearth ants cluster collectively to kind rafts. (credit score: Hungtang Ko)

Fireplace ants is likely to be the scourge of southern states like Georgia and Texas, however scientifically, they’re endlessly fascinating for instance of collective habits. A few hearth ants spaced properly aside behave like particular person ants. However pack sufficient of them carefully collectively, and so they act extra like a single unit, exhibiting each stable and liquid properties. They’ll kind rafts to outlive flash floods, organize themselves into towers, and you may even pour them from a teapot like a fluid.

“Aggregated, they’ll nearly be regarded as a cloth, often known as ‘lively matter,'” stated Hungtang Ko, now a postdoc at Princeton College, who started finding out these fascinating creatures as a Georgia Tech graduate pupil in 2018. (And sure, he has been stung many, many instances.) He is a co-author of two current papers investigating the physics of fireplace ant rafts. The primary, printed within the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics (B&B), investigated how hearth ant rafts behave in flowing water in comparison with static water circumstances.

The second, accepted for publication in Bodily Overview Fluids, explored the mechanism by which hearth ants come collectively to kind the rafts within the first place. Ko et al. have been considerably stunned to seek out that the first mechanism seems to be the so-called “Cheerios impact”—named in honor of the tendency for these final remaining Cheerios floating in milk to clump collectively within the bowl, both drifting to the middle, or to the outer edges.

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