Submitted to: Insectes Sociaux
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/9/2003
Publication Date: 6/15/2004
Citation: King, J.R., Porter, S.D. 2004. Recommendations on the use of alcohols for preservation of ant specimens (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Insectes Sociaux. 51:197-201. Interpretive Summary: Alcohol preservation is an important method for storing many kinds of insect specimens. Alcohol is the standard method for long-term storage of large numbers of ants. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of several concentrations of isopropyl alcohol and ethyl alcohol, USDA-ARS scientists working at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology preserved three species of ant workers for different lengths of time in several alcohol treatments. The ants were examined after 1 day, 1 month and 6 months. Ants stored in either 95% isopropanol or 95% ethanol for time periods longer than 24 hours produced the best specimens for mounting. A literature review revealed that DNA is best preserved in 95'100% ethanol due to the ability of ethanol to more rapidly penetrate cellular membranes and deactivate enzymes. Therefore, the scientists recommend that ants intended for mounting or DNA extraction should be killed and stored in 95% ethanol. Following this recommendation will result in ants that are better preserved for DNA studies and easier to mount for museum specimens.
Technical Abstract: Existing literature, experimental evidence, and expert myrmecological advice were used to make recommendations on the use of alcohol for the study of ants. We killed and stored Solenopsis invicta, Camponotus floridanus, and Dorymyrmex bureni workers in isopropanol and ethanol at a variety of concentrations over different lengths of time. We then compared specimen condition and amenability to manipulation for mounting on card points. Specimens stored in either 95% isopropanol or ethanol for time periods longer than 24 hours produced the best specimens. Additionally, a literature review revealed that DNA is best preserved in 95 ' 100% ethanol due to the ability of ethanol to more rapidly penetrate cellular membranes and deactivate DNase activity than other primary alcohols. Therefore, we recommend that specimens intended for mounting or DNA extraction should be killed and stored in 95% ethanol. The mechanisms of alcohol preservation and numerous other killing and preservation techniques relevant to the study of ants are also discussed.