Today in school we read Scholastic's The Magic School Bus Gets Ants In Its Pants- A Book about Ants. Bean enjoyed this book about Ms. Frizzle and her class shrinking down in their magic school bus to learn about ants and their jobs!
The back of book features a neat project for parents and kids to do together. Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for our poor yard, we have no shortage of ants around right now. Red ants in fact, which seem quite resistant to all treatment we have tried so far, but that is another story for another day. Red ants and all, no humans or ants were harmed by this experiment!
The project in the book called for filling several jar lids with different foods, specifically honey, salt, maple syrup, and flour. We had ran out of honey, so I substituted some brown sugar.
The instructions told us to place the lids in a circle about one yard from the anthill, and then to answer some questions. First we made some hypotheses about what we thought would happen, and answered the questions based on those. Then we went outside to observe!
The questions were as follows: 1) How long does it take the ants to find the food? 2) Which food or foods do the ants seem to like best? 3) What do you notice about the way the ants travel to the food? 4) How do you think the ants tell one another about food?
We sat and waited and in under a minute the ants had found the brown sugar.
We waited a little bit longer, and after about a minute the ants went for the flour.
The ants still had not gone near the salt or the maple syrup. The ant in the brown sugar must have notified the rest of his buddies because we now had a steady little stream of ants going to the brown sugar and carrying little pieces of it back to the hill.
After five minutes there were still no ants in the salt, or the maple syrup.
After our five minute time period was up we answered our questions and compared our hypotheses to the actual outcome. What we found was that we were mostly correct on the first question-ants would find the food in a minute or less. On the second question, Bean had thought they would find the maple syrup first, when it ended up being the brown sugar. For the third question Bean had guessed that a lot of ants would come to the jar lids. We noticed that for the most part it was one ant who found the food first and then more would show up. On the fourth question, Bean had guessed they would wiggle to tell the others. Clearly, they did have some communication which is why after the one left the hill, the rest came to start carrying the sugar back to the hill. Overall, we were surprised that they never came close to the maple syrup, and that they seemed interested in the flour.
It was a fun little experiment, and was very easy since it was just basic household staples. We learned some things about ants and were able to work on our very basic scientific method.