Ants glorious ants...
We had so many stories about ants last week that I thought we could focus a little on ants this week… did you know there are over 50 species of ant in the UK?
This week I have some Ant projects for you…
Go on an ant hunt…
Flying ant day… yes, it is a thing! see more info below.
Build your own ant farm…
10 Cool Ant Facts
ANTS ARE GREAT! why...
Improving air and drainage - We talked about how good earthworms are for the soil, but in fact, ants do a better job of improving soil structure than worms do. As ants build nests and construct tunnels in the ground, they improve the soil. They move nutrients around as they move soil particles from place to place, and the holes created by their tunnels improve air and water circulation in the soil. Great hey!
Improving Soil Chemistry - Ants also store large amounts of food in and near their nest sites, which adds organic matter to the soil. They also excrete waste (yes, they poo just as worms do!) and leave food scraps behind, all of which change the soil's chemistry—usually for the better. Soil affected by ant activity is usually closer to a neutral pH and richer in nitrogen and phosphorus, which s great for plants
Moving Seeds - Ants are great at transporting seeds to the safer, more nutrient-rich habitats of their nests. Here the seeds are better protected from seed-eating animals and less likely to succumb to drought, and they take root and grow
Project 1: Go on an Ant Hunt
Can you find 3 different types of ant.. take some photos and compare them - can you find a rainbow of ants? Try and draw one if you can get it to sit still for long enough.. how many legs and body parts does it have?
Can you find any any eggs (remember not to destroy the nest, even though you might not like them, we need our ants!)
This website will give you some more information about UK species, latin names for them, what they eat and where to find them if you are interested…https://www.antnest.co.uk/ant-species-uk/
Project 2: Flying Ant Day
Keep your eyes peeled!.... This is a one day event that happens in July or august (well, it is called flying ant day, but most likely a few days or even weeks) and it coincides with a period of hot and humid weather. Winged ants appear at different times around the country and local weather conditions are critical for the coordination of swarming activity.
What to look out for…. In the few weeks before the swarming event happens, you may see heaps of soil appearing above the nests… they are getting ready
The flying ants are only the queens (with large wings) and the smaller winged males. If you see them flying together it is their nuptial flight and afterwards the queen chews off her wings and then looks for a place to start a new colony. Did you now the same thing happens with bees? (except the chewing off of her wings!). The male beens are only good for mating and die within a day or 2.
For more information have a look at… https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/when-why-winged-ants-swarm-nuptial-flight.html
Project 3: Build your own Ant Farm... Click on the image to download a PDF
TOP COOL ANT FACTS
1. There are over 12,000 ant species worldwide
Ranging from the ant you might find scuttling across your picnic to the ants building underground fortresses in the rainforest, to flying ants!
2. The bullet ant is said to have the most painful sting in the world
Living in humid jungle conditions such as the Amazon, their sting has been compared to being hit by a bullet – ouch!
3. Fire ants cause over £3 billion worth of damage a year
North America’s red imported fire ant might only be little, but the tiny critters have a painful bite which causes a burning sensation – hence the name “fire ant”, which costs the US millions in veterinary and medical bills every year! They’ve also been known to cause damage to farmer’s crops.
4. Ants are the longest living insect
Unlike some bugs who might only live for days or even hours, the queen ant of one particular species – the Pogonomyrmex Owyheei – can live up to 30 years – so be careful not to stand on her!
5. The ant is one of the world’s strongest creatures in relation to its siz
A single ant can carry 50 times its own bodyweight, and they’ll even work together to move bigger objects as a group!
6. Ants hold the record for the fastest movement in the animal kingdo
The aptly named species of trap jaw ant, can close its jaws at 140mph, which it uses to kill its prey or injure predators. Image if that bit you on the bum!
7. Ants can be found on every single continent except Antarctic
Ironic really, when you consider the name…
8. Ants are social insects which live in colony
The colony, also called a formicary, is made up of one or more egg-laying queens and a large amount of female “worker” ants who tend to her, build and maintain the nest, forage for food and and care for the young. Male ants have wings and their only function is to mate with the queen.
9. Ants don’t have ears, and some of them don’t have eyes
Ants “listen” by feeling vibrations from the ground through their feet, and eye-less ants such as the driver ant species can communicate by using their antennae
Plus, they can send chemical signals (called pheremones) released through their body to send messages to other ants! They send out warnings when danger’s near, leave trails of pheremones leading to food sources and even use them to attract a mate – a sort of ant love potion!
10. The largest ant’s nest ever found was over 3,700 miles wide!
Found in Argentina in 2000, the ginormous colony housed 33 ant populations which had merged into one giant supercolony, with millions of nests and billions of workers!