Why ants don't get IRB boards

In contrast to the terrible white buffalo stories, there is a fairly genetically enlightening story about Argentine ants, by Jeanna Bryner.

The problem is that these ants are invasive in California, and succeed so well because -- being descended from a single founder -- their limited genetic variation makes them all behave as if they were in a single colony. All the ants across California acting as a single colony. This is like the real worst-case ant scenario -- much worse than Them, where you can just sort of find the big ants and hit them with artillery. These aren't fire ants, but fire ants also pose a similar problem -- adjacent colonies that would have competed and fought if they were genetically variable, instead just help each other out.

Eventually this situation will degrade, as ants will slowly gain genetic variation. This is a really interesting question about intergroup selection, though -- because an ant colony that expresses a "foreign-looking" pheromone will be set upon by every other colony it ever encounters. It's hard to see that as being advantageous unless population structure reinforces it. For instance, a large and successful colony might hold off repeated attacks from lots of small itinerant colonies around it, and being able to recognize them and attack them helps to police its territory.

But until this gets sorted out, scientists want to do something to help the poor native ants, who are all getting annihilated. They're coming up with pheromone formulas, smearing them on the ants, and seeing if they get attacked:

Getting the chemical treatment was dizzying. First, Tsutsui and his team coated the inside of a vial with the chemical. They plopped an ant into the tube and spun it in a machine for 90 seconds to make the chemical stick.
"After all that shaking it's a little bit wobbly, but usually it's still alive," Sulc said. "Then, we put it back into the Petri dish with 10 of its friends from the same colony and then we observe how aggressive they are toward him."
The other ants immediately attacked, using their large mandibles, or jaws, to bite and tear off its legs, Sulc said.

Nice. Pummel them around the face and jaw, and then send them in for the kill.

Still, it's hard to figure how they are going to get this pheromone onto bajillions of ants in the field. Maybe they can engineer a virus to do it. An ant body odor virus.