Tuesday 31 August 2010

Learning About Ants

This has to have been my favourite 'bug week' so far. Ants are fascinating creatures. They are industrious and clean and I have discovered loads of new things about them. Our Little Garden Helpers also seemed quite fascinated with these little creatures. There didn't appear to be very many of them in our garden when we first went out to look, which surprised me, because earlier in the year we had loads.  But then, quite by accident, we discovered a colony of them in one of our potato bags when we harvested them at the weekend. I assume they liked it because it was lovely and warm inside the black bag. They weren't too impressed with being tipped out however!

Things To Tell Your Toddler 
  • There are over 12000 species of ant worldwide
  • Ants can lift 20 times their body weight. That would be like a child lifting a car!
  • Ants don't have ears. Instead they feel vibrations in the ground through their feet
  • Only Male ants and Queen ants have wings but Queen's lose their wings when they create a new nest
  • Only the Queen ant can lay eggs but in some species a colony can have more than one Queen
  • Ant colonies also have soldier ants to protect the Queen, defend the colony and attack enemy colonies.
  • Ants are very sociable within a colony but will attack other colonies for food or nests
  • Ants live for about 50 days
  • Ants are very clean and tidy; they even have some worker ants whose job it is to put the rubbish out!
  • Ants cannot chew and swallow solid food. Instead they suck all the juice out.
  • An ant has two eyes but each eye is made up of lots of smaller eyes
  • Ants have two stomachs, one for its own food and one for food it will share with other ants
  • Just like caterpillars, ants have little holes in their bodies which they use to breathe
  • Ants usually nest underground. The mound is really just to provide heat in the nest.
  • Some worker ants will sunbathe outside the nest, then share the heat they have soaked up with other ants in the nest. That is the job I would apply for if I was an ant!
  • If you want to keep ants away from your house plant mint close to anywhere they are likely to sneek in. They don't like it.
Activities We Did
  • We made fingerprint ants using an ink pad and black pen. They absolutely loved doing this and it was so simple. Garden Boy's ants (1st photo) look a little like they might have been squashed, but knowing him this might well have been intentional, while Garden Girl put a lot of concentration into hers (photo 2).
  •  We cut food pictures out of magazines and stuck them on paper plates to make a picnic, then drew ants over them, stealing the picnic. It took a lot of effort for me to persuade Garden Boy that ants would not want to eat Ben Fogle and there is quite a difference between their two plates. Fresh fruit and veggies for Garden Girl and a whole variety for Garden Boy. Whose plate would you tuck into? (These first two ideas were pinched  from here.)
  • We printed out 10 pictures of ants from hereand coloured them in. Then drew and cut out a variety of foods for them to carry. I then spent far, far longer than the activity itself cutting out the ants and food and cellotaping them to our window. The result is a line of ants marching across our window. It was worth the time. Our Little Garden Helpers love seeing them there. Garden Boy points excitedly at them at intervals during the day, saying 'There's an ant' with an astonished tone. I keep thinking we have real ants in the house, so I look around saying 'where, where?' before I realise he his looking at the paper ones with a big grin!
  • We looked close up at an individual ant while it scurried over my garden trowel, across a raised bed and under the fence. 
  • We read 'The Ants Go Marching' delightfully illustrated by Dan Crisp.
  • We searched the living room for delicious food I had hidden for them to find. Then we marched in a neat row to the table to sit and share what we had found, just like ants. They loved this. 
  • We intended to watch 'A Bug's Life' but I have yet to acquire it so this will have to wait but I have seen it before and its a great film to watch if you are learning about ants. 
  • We also visited these websites; http://www.schools.ash.org.au/elanorah/inhoney.htm and looked up Jack Jumper ants as suggested by _vtg_ over at This Growing Life. This gave Our Little Garden Helpers a sense of how different ant species can be from each other. 
If you teach your toddlers about just one garden bug this would be my pick of the bunch so far. They are truly fascinating creatures and there is much more to learn about them than I could possibly write here.


  1. Thanks for sharing those creative ideas about ants.

  2. What a fantastic resource your creepy-crawly studies are! I especially love the ants crawling along the window sill.

    I heard somewhere that ants in pot plants were a sign they were too dry...

    Ants also hate lavender- I wipe it over their trails into our house, and found ant eradication a good application for an unused gift of lavender-scented baby wash. On that note, ants hate talcum powder (another unused baby gift)!