Have you ever watched ants? Like, really watched them up close? They are amazing little creatures! If you’ve never observed them before or if it’s been awhile, take a moment to stop and watch the ants. They’ll amaze you! My appreciation of ants began when my preschooler has developed a fear of bugs. Even tiny gnats make her very upset. Today on the show, Magic School Bus, the teacher takes the kids on an adventure in an ant hill. This got me thinking….why don’t we study ants ourselves?! Maybe if she finds them interesting, she will not fear them. First I asked some questions about what we know about ants. She told me that: They are black. They are bugs. They are small.
Then we talked about what we want to know about ants. I had to help with the questions. What do you think the ants are doing? What questions do you have about the ants? Why are ants important?
I had an old piece of bread and had the girls crumble it up and we spread it on the patio. We watched the ants and there was one spot that seemed to have the most ant traffic. Then we waited…..and waited…..and waited…..for some ants to eat our tasty treat. It took a little while but eventually ants came around. It was so much fun to see them pick up a piece of bread that’s bigger than themselves. I got out the magnifying glass and we looked at the ants up close.
We decided to follow one guy until he went into the grass and we could not see him anymore. My daughter loved following the ant. He went very far. We were surprised. I thought his nest would be nearby.
We got the measuring tape to see how far he went. Do you have any guesses?
No peeking! Tell me your guess. 🙂
It was 15 feet before we lost him in the grass!
We didn’t have a lot of ant traffic with the bread, so I decided to get 2 sugar cubes and see if that would attract more ants. It did attract a few more, but they couldn’t break it down to take it back to their nest.
Then I crumbled up one sugar cube up and they kept trying to pick up the sugar but the sugar crystals were too small to pick up individually. It looked like they were eating the sugar, but I’m not sure if they were eating it or somehow storing it in their mouths to take home. It kept them busy for quite a while. Every few minutes they would need to take a break and would pull on their antennas as if they were cleaning them. Then they went back to the sugar and never really carried any away that I could see.
The next day we went outside and the non-crumbled sugar cube looked like it had gotten wet. But nothing else was wet and it didn’t rain so I’m not sure what happened! Did an animal try to carry it in its mouth? Who knows! But the ants sure did enjoy it.
We talked about why the ants were taking the food away. I told my daughter that they had to collect the food to take it to the nest to feed their babies. She seemed to like that idea and said, “Aww that’s cute.” We talked about how God made everything with a place and a purpose (Proverbs 16:4). Ants have a purpose in our lives. At school she learned about Earth Day and how we should pick up litter. Since then she’s been on a mission to pick up trash wherever we go. I explained that they help us clean the earth by picking up the scraps of food we accidentally leave behind, just like she learned to do in school with trash. We talked about what would happen if they didn’t take the food away. It’s been a couple of weeks since our investigation of ants and I have to report that she is not as afraid of bugs anymore. Instead of having a meltdown every time a bug looked in her direction, she just lets me know she saw one. She even told me that she’s not afraid of bugs. What?! I couldn’t believe that it really worked! We also saw some worms the other day and she was really interested in watching them. She started digging & saying how she was trying to find more worms. Have we started a new trend? I hope so! I think we might study worms next.
Future Experiments: Try different types of foods and see which the ants like best. Do certain foods attract more ants faster?
What’s the farthest distance you see an ant carry its food? Make a chart comparing the distances.
The similarities & differences of the different types of ants we observe – colors, different sizes, do certain ants like one food better than another?
What other insects or animals were attracted to the food?
If you study ants with your children, let me know how it goes and what you discover together! I’d love to know. Until next time, have fun exploring God’s wonderful creation!