1. What’s the main idea?
2. Name one way ants and bees are the same. Name one way they’re different.
3. What’s your favorite ant fact? Defend your answer.
Answers are at the end of this post.
Last week I wrote about the research I’ve done on bees. This week I'm writing about ants. They’re fascinating!
I googled and used multiple sources to confirm my facts, just like I did with bees. Many facts are the same. Here are the ones that shaped my ant story:
* Their jaws are called mandibles. They’re compound tools, like our jaws and hands. Ants use them for biting, crushing, cutting, digging, fighting and hunting.
* Their antennae help them sense the world around them, literally. They’re used to smell, touch, taste and communicate. They’re bent in the middle like our elbows.
* Ants have both compound and simple eyes.
* Ocelli, or simple eyes, come in sets of 3. They’re at the top of their head. They detect light levels (high or low) and polarization (the light source). Simple eyes are weak, and they don’t seem to be important. They're not even in my story.
* Compound eyes have lots of tiny lenses stuck together. They make those big bug eyes. BTW, their eyes detect motion, but send them blurry images (see below). When I googled eyesight, my sources only mentioned compound eyes.
* This week I discovered a new fact, neither ants nor bees have eyelids. They can’t wink or blink so I had to change a couple sentences to fit my new fact.
*Another fact I got wrong is how ants breathe. They don’t have lungs. They have spiracles or breathing holes that let air in and out. Ants can't take a breathe. They open their spiracles and wait. Go figure!
*This diagram shows a stinger. Stingers were never in my story. I googled them for this post. Only ants, like fire ants, have stingers. The rest bite. That’s probably why I never read or wrote about them.
* Ants use their claws to grip, climb, hang and detect vibrations/sound.
* All workers are female whether they work inside or outside the hive, just like bees.
* Drones ants, like bees, have one job, to mate with a queen. They’re smaller than other workers. They have wings and live outside the colony. I found no evidence that drones return to the nest after they leave. My guess, they find food outside.
* Ants, like bees, have queens. They have 1 job, to lay eggs. Minor ants take care of the queen and her new children, keeping them clean and fed. Major workers are soldiers and food foragers.
As promised, here's how you look to a bee. Would you rather have your eyes, or an ant's? I like mine!
I love these pictures. They’re worth 2000 words! The first shows how ants compare, size-wise. The queen is the big dog, I mean ant! She has wings when she leaves home for her maiden flight. When done, she’ll dig a new home, ditch the wings, and lay her first eggs. The queen will never, ever leave home again. If you follow the life cycle diagram, her eggs hatch and become soldiers (major ants) or workers (minor ant). A few eggs become young queens and kings (drones), and the cycle begins again.
Home sweet home, for ants, whether it’s a bug-created habitat, or a human starter-home. My 2nd graders had an ant farm every spring for years. We started with all our sand at the bottom. I pushed a straw in 3 times to give them starter tunnels. Within a week the ants had passages like this, and, had brought sand to the top. No one works like an ant!
When our ants arrived, we sent them to a refrigerator to fall asleep. That way I could put them into their new habitat and remain bite-free. A student once got confused and put them into the freezer. Poor ants! They didn’t wake up. Cold temperatures put ants to sleep. Freezing cold kills them.
My kids promised every year to keep their hands off the farm. Why? A tiny bump is like an earthquake in the ant world. Tunnels could collapse and leave our ants in danger. My 2nd graders took this promise seriously…we never had a fatality.
The best part of having an ant farm, is watching the ants. They carry food to their storage corner. They move sand from the bottom to the top. They even have graveyards. Really! Look at the black spots on the second picture. Those are dead ants, and this is their cemetery.
Do you recognize the bugs above? They’re aphids, and they’re the most interesting thing I learned about ants. Ants farm aphids, really!
Some new queens take aphid eggs to their new colony. They put them out to pasture on a juicy stem. The aphids drink the plant juice. Then when an ant’s hungry, she strokes the aphid with her antenna. The aphid poops, and the ant eats it. YUCK!
The poop is called honeydew, and to an ant it’s like pure sugar. Would you believe ants even clip aphid wings so they won’t fly away?
FYI…this post was easy to write. Why? I’ve been reading and writing about ants for over 6 years, but I’m still learning about them.
A Little More Research…Ants, Please!
1. What’s the main idea?The main idea is to learn facts about ants from what research says..
2. Name one what ants and bees are the same. Name one way they’re different.Same: Both ants and bees have queens who lay eggs.
Different: Ants farm aphids. Bees don’t farm other bugs.
3. What’s your favorite ant fact? Defend your answer.
Ants eat bug poop. YUCK! I can’t believe any creature would do that!
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!