Week 8, Day 3: Ants

The entrance to a harvester ant mound in Northern New Mexico. (Photo by Mike Lewinski)

This week on Take It Outside, we are learning about some of the smallest inhabitants of Northern New Mexico — bugs!

Today, we are learning about ants! You should be able to find ants in your backyard or along a nearby trail. Spend some time observing these fascinating insects today, but be sure not to get too close — some of them have painful bites.

Blog Post:

PEEC volunteer, board member, and biologist Jennifer Macke explores the fascinating social structures of ants. Learn how ants communicate, work together as a colony, and more in today’s blog post.

Craft & Outdoor Challenge (Beginner):

These ants came upon a cicada head in Northern New Mexico. Do you think they were strong enough to take it back to their nest? (Photo by Mike Lewinski)

Ants are omnivores and can lift up 10 – 50 times their own body weight! You may have seen them trying to carry heavy loads of food back to their colony. 

Experiment with feeding ants by watching them devour different food sources. In the wild, ants eat a variety of food, including plant nectar, dead insects and other animals, and fruits and seeds. See one example of feeding ants honey here.

What else can you offer ants? What do they like most? Try following the ants’ path to see where they are going! Can you find any ants that are gathering food from a natural source?

 

Outdoor Challenge (Advanced):

We have several different species of ants on the Pajarito Plateau. Try to find at least two different kinds of ants, and compare and contrast them!

  • What do their anthills look like?
  • What are they bringing home to eat?
  • Are all the ants the same size and shape, or do you notice differences among individuals?
  • Can you see them communicating with each other?
  • What can you notice about their paths?

Other Resources:

Share Your Experience:

What bugs can you find this week?! Tell us in the form below! We’d love to see your photos, too. Please send them to takeitoutside@peecnature.org or share them on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #peectakeitoutside.

Join us tomorrow to explore more about insects!