– So the other group of ants
[Dr. Corrie Moreau, curator/ants] that we have today are bullet ants.
[Dr. Corrie Moreau, curator/ants] – Why are they called bullet ants?
[Bullet ant, Paraponera clavata] – Well, they’re called bullet ants
[Bullet ant, Paraponera clavata] because their sting is so painful
[* causing excruciating pain, numbness & trembling] it feels like you were shot by a gun.
[* causing excruciating pain, numbness & trembling] – And you’ve experienced
this firsthand? – I have, just once, I’d like
to keep it that way. And so you can see they’re
actually quite tremendous ants, I mean, they’re really foreboding,
[* worker bullet ants are 18–30 mm long] they’re crazy big and they’re cool.
[* worker bullet ants are 18–30 mm long] – Are they the largest ant? – They’re one of the largest ants. There’s another genus called Dinoponera.
[Dinoponera, Dinoponera australis] In some ways larger.
[* females may surpass 30–40 mm in length] Not as painful of a sting, though.
[* females may surpass 30–40 mm in length] This is Paraponera.
[Bullet ant, Paraponera clavata] We’re studying the gut bacteria
actually in this group of ants. But we’re also
interested in the venom. And so what I was telling
you is part of the reason I brought them back
alive is that at one point I had tried to milk them, because
my colleague was like, “It’s because we weren’t sure if
we’d have permits to bring back alive.” – Yeah.
– You can just milk them. So I can show you how
I attempted to do it and I will tell you that it
didn’t work in the end. When I got the venom back
it was actually not usable. But let me grab my equipment. – It’s not every day you get to
milk a venomous ant. At work. – So this is our fancy equipment. So if you think about, like, how they milk the venom
from spiders, right? Usually they just have
them bite something and squirt the venom inside
and it’s the same principle. So again, we just have
our empty tubes, and we have a little
bit of parafilm, right, which is essentially just like
a waxy kind of paper-y thing that we can stretch
across the top of this. And we’re going to get them
to try to sting through the tube and deposit their venom
on the side of the tube. – Wow.
– Yeah. One thing I have noticed is, what’s really interesting
actually, is with these bullet ants, when you collect them in the
wild they’re incredibly aggressive. You disturb them at all, and they
just go into immediate attack mode. In fact in the field, if you
even like blow on them, you can physically
hear them stridulate, which is a way of communicating
between individuals. And now that they’ve been
in the lab for just a few days, they’re actually almost docile. And so I’m curious to see whether
they’ll even sting through this. But we’ll try. Yeah, see, this one stridulates. So now let’s see if we
put her abdomen up, yeah, she is depositing
her sting through. – Oh!
– See that? – Sting it! Sting it! – So you see, she’s got her sting out, this is where I don’t want
to lose control of her. She’ll try to sting through, oh, there, you saw that sting go? That’s huge.
– Yeah. Wow. Focus your anger. – We will try to get another one to sting
– Come on, ladies. – You look like a new victim,
raaah, let’s get her all mad. – Yeaaaah! Oh, she’s stridulating. – She’s actually kinda not
mad as much anymore. – They’re—they’re just
like, they’re like, “Corrie, we wanna hang out,
I thought we were cool.” – I know, that’s probably
exactly what they think. – Like, “Come on, Corrie,” “I read your latest paper about
climactic regional distribution” “of my sister species.” I don’t even know if that’s
what you’ve written about, I don’t even know if that—
those words even make sense. – You don’t read all my
scientific publications? – Um, I probably couldn’t
get through the abstract. Not—not just yours, but most. – I won’t take it personally. Oh, yeah, she’s got a very big sting,
so let’s see if I can get her to— – Yeah. Sting it. – So that’s how you milk a
bullet ant for their venom. So essentially, just getting them
to sting through this material, they have now
deposited their venom all over the top of this
and inside of that tube, so I can just shove
that in there and then take it back
to an analytical lab to look at what are the—what’s
the chemistry within the venom. Now, I’ve already told you that
that didn’t work so successfully, so in a sense, what we need to do
is dissect out the venom glad, and that’s where it
gets a little more tricky, because in this case, you
can see they’re big and— – Cranky. – Cranky. And they
don’t like to hold still. Do this under the microscope. Okay, so now, again, we’re
gonna just pull off her abdomen, oh God, these are some tough ants.
[* abdomen] Even tougher than the bullet ants.
– Wow. – So now we’ve got—
– You did it. – —her body separated
from her abdomen. I wanna just tease apart some
of the parts of the abdomen and then we can usually pull the
venom gland out through the sting. So I’m just gonna start
pulling apart the body, and since I don’t want to
rupture the venom gland, I wanna try not to stab too much. – Yeah, this is meticulous work, dissecting ants.
– Yeah. – What is the smallest ant that
you’ll work on under a microscope? – Oh, I’ll work on anyone. – Even the ones
that are so small that you can’t even see
them on the labels? – Yep, even those. I’ve had to
dissect out their guts, too. – How do you even get
forceps that small? – Suspense, right?
– Yeah, the pressure. – Yeah, nothing like having
to dissect on camera, too. As if it’s not hard enough, right? – Yeah, all the viewers are
at home, quietly judging you. They’re like, “Well, when
I dissected ants last—” – I was thinking they were biting
their fingernails in suspense. – Yeah, that too. – So at the one end, let’s see if I can put it
in a good orientation— you can actually
see the left side, if you look through
the microscope, you can actually see the sting hanging all the way out.
[* sting] – Oh yeah!
– It’s like a giant hypodermic needle. – Yeah. – And then starting at the
other end on the right side, we can actually start to see
those parts of the digestive system. So first you have the crop, right?
[* crop] So it’s that social food sharing organ,
which then transitions into the mid gut and then into what’s called the ileum
[* mid gut, * ileum] and then finally into the rectum,
[* rectum] and then alongside that is where the venom gland sits.
[* venom gland] – That’s amazing.
– Yeah, it’s really awesome. One of the things that’s cool
when you first open them up is that the contents within the gut, you can see fat and
you can see the trachea and all those other things,
and even within the gut, it’s either clear like it
almost looks like water, or sometimes you can see
things that look like waste, but within the venom sac,
it’s actually almost like oil. And so when you burst it,
it’s literally like oil coming out, not like liquid, like, you
know, in the same sense. – Cool.
– Yeah. – Nice.
– So now the question is, are you gonna hold
a bullet ant for 10 seconds? The Brain Scoop is brought to you by the Field Museum in Chicago It still has brains on it.