Friday, June 6, 2008


This week we started summer school and our theme is insects. I decided to start off with the topic of ants. On Monday, we put out plates that had: honey, cake with icing, and Doritos. We wanted to see what would attract ants the most. In the beginning the honey attracted the most - but just little small ants. By later in the day, the cake was covered with larger ants. No ants ever decided to touch the Doritos. (makes you wonder why???)

My experiments are NOT why I am making this post...this post has to do with my ant farm I had INTENDED to have. Last weekend I purchased a gel "space-aged" ant farm. The advantage is that you are able to see all of the tunnels and the ants inside the tunnels. My next intention was to catch some of the ants from my Monday experiment.

With the help of my students, we started licking our fingers to pick up the ants (as suggested on the gel ant farm pamphlet - I know, I know...just shake your head, cause I am now- lol). This worked great to pick up the ants. The problem was every time we opened the ant farm to put one in, 2 more would crawl out. In the end, we had caught and KEPT about 6 ants. I sent my students home with the task of catching and bringing in more ants.

On Tuesday, I had one boy bring in ants. These ants were much bigger and what I always call "tree ants" because that is where I see them. I told him I didn't think these ants would tunnel, BUT since only three of our ants from Monday were still alive and kicking. I decided to place them in. BIG mistake!! The small ants, I guess, had decided that this was now their home and did NOT like the tree ants invading their space. A lovely war went down between the two sets and in the end only 2 tree ants survived. A great lesson learned, I guess... just not the one I was hoping for.

Wednesday... we mourned the lives given in battle - Just kidding - it was rainy and so we couldn't collect any more ants that day. I also let the two reigning champions loose. :)

By Thursday, I was pretty desperate to have some ant specimen. So, once again, we put out cake and icing to attract the bigger ants. This time we just picked up the whole plate and put ants, cake, and all into a bucket with a lid. The trick then came down to how to get them out of the bucket and into the gel farm. After school, my friend, Laura had the suggestion of freezing them. We placed them into the freezer for 2 minutes. This worked perfectly!! We easily took out the plate and the cake and poured the ants (about a dozen of them) into the gel farm. It was exciting to see them "unthaw" and begin exploring their new home.

On Friday morning, I was excited for my students to come and see the dozen ants we had collected. All of the ants were balled together. (I guess the air conditioner was set a little low :{ ) I placed them in the window sill to warm them up. Within a half hour, we could see movement. We were SO excited!!! That is until we noticed the movement was on the OUTSIDE of the ant farm. Those smart little ants had found the air holes and had crawled right out!

Who said I wanted to have an ant farm anyways!!???

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