Monday, January 10, 2011


Last Friday, my Biology professor turned out to be completely serious when he told us on our first day that we'd be experimenting on termites...

test tube of five termites
petri dish
white computer paper
black pen
paint brush

Draw a circle in the middle of the paper about two inches in diameter with the black pen.  Put the termites in the circle, and see what they do.

The termites will stay inside the circle, seeing the black line as a barrier.

The termites found the line, and treated it like a path.  They traveled along it without stopping for almost the entire half-hour.  When we drew lines from the first circle connecting to others, they followed that line and either stayed on the new circle or just added it to the path.

When we were asked why, we were forced to consider if it was the indentation, the color, or the scent they were following, and then we had a few minutes to conduct our own experiment.  My group decided to test indentation, so we could prove it wrong, since none of us actually thought it was the answer.  Then we decided to use pencil also, to prove it was scent.  We drew lines of varying indentations on the other side of the paper, with pen and pencil. The termites always followed the pen, regardless of the indentation, and never even hesitated at the lines in pencil.

Personally, I think color and scent, to termites, are the same thing.  Colors would smell different to an insect, because different chemicals and dyes make different scents.

I'd love to do more experiments to see what dye they like the most.  I know they like black but don't like blue.  Perhaps one of the chemicals they like in black is the one most commonly used in red.  I'd like to try that...  But I don't have a stock of termites.

Oh, the paint brush was for moving them away from the edge of the paper or desk if we needed to.  We also needed it to scoop them up and put them in the petri dish when we were done.

Well...  I honestly think this Biology class is going to be very beneficial, and a lot of fun! :)

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