May 30, 2009

Ants Infiltrate The Smithsonian!

The prestigious Smithsonian Museum has been overrun with insects.

A brand new exhibit, "Farmers, Warriors, Builders: The Hidden Life of Ants," debuts Saturday at the National Museum of Natural History and is open through Oct. 10.

The display will include a living leaf-cutter ant colony from Ted Schultz, the museum's curator of ants.

Also on display is a 6-foot-tall cast of an ant colony collected by Walter Tschinkel, a student of ant-nest architecture at Florida State University.

There will also be 39 close-up photos of ants from around the world.

Mark W. Moffett's photos consist of a weaver ant looking for food, marauder ants killing a frog, a fire ant and an Argentine ant battling over a dead grasshopper and a bulldog ant caring for larvae.

"I use my camera as a microscope to watch ants," Moffett said in a statement. "The trick is not to be seen, to catch the ant in everyday behavior. You may only get one chance. Like any animal, ants are easiest to photograph when preoccupied."

On the opening day, visitors can talk with Smithsonian scientists about their ant investigation and can view a slide presentation by Moffett over ants and macro-photography.

Also on display will be a picture of biologist Edward O. Wilson, capturing him in his office at Harvard University, encircled with his research- microscope, magnifying glass, books and ant models.

The Natural History museum also houses the National Collection of Ants, a collection created in 1881 that now has 1 million specimens of more than 5,000 ant species.

The global collection is concentrates on North American, Central American and South American species.


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