5 Mind-blowing facts about ants

  1. Globally, ants weigh as much as all human beings. Seriously! Ants outnumber humans a million to one and, even though individual ants weigh next to nothing, their combined weight is about the same as the combined weight of all people.
  2. Ants are farmers. Leafcutter ants, like in the picture, aren’t bringing the leaves home to eat. They use the leaves to grow a fungus, which they eat. The ant in this picture looks like a real fun guy.
  3. Ants herd and milk other bugs. People aren’t the only ones with domesticated animals. Some ants herd and milk aphids for their honeydew. They even protect the aphids from predators.
  4. The people-eating ants in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are real. Or, at least, modeled off of real ants: Dorylus ants from Africa. These army ants march in columns of up to 50 million ants and, like the Indiana Jones ants, kill and eat animals. The real Dorylus ants, however, usually limit themselves to large rats, though they have been known to eat small zebras.
  5. Slavemaker ants starve on their own. Slavemaker ants raid another species of ants, steal their larvae, and use the other species as slaves to care for slavemaker eggs and larvae, to get food, defend the nest, and even to enslave more ants. However, the slavemakers are so dependent on other species that without their slaves, slavemakers will starve to death, even if there’s plenty of food around.

Observe your own ants

Try an ant farm or ant hill. Some even come with 20 or so ants to get you started. Watch your ant dig tunnels and work together!

Learn more facts about ants

This post is part of a series on ants. Join us here and on Pinterest and Twitter to learn more about these fascinating creatures!

Teaching all about ants

ants

These resources, sorted by students’ ages, may help you in teaching about ants in your classroom or homeschool.

Pre-K

Ant unit: pre-writing, graphing, counting, craft, the letter A, patterns, and the ant life cycle.

Explore ants in the salt tray, Hey Little Ant story, ant snack, and the ant life cycle

Ant egg carton craft

Ant life cycle model

Elementary

Ant lapbook

Ants: pests or pals poll

Ant anatomy coloring page

Ant life cycle model

Ant zoom gallery: see an ant up close

Ant farm

Middle school +

Behavior of Ants 4-week lesson series

AntWeb: database of ant images and specimen records

Ant anatomy

Build a simple ant farm

Hands-on

Of course, one of the best ways to teach about ants is to allow students to experience ants hands-on in an ant farm or ant hill.

Fascinating videos

Sticky feet: how ants walk

Fire ants making a living raft in water

Ants herding other bugs

Excavating a colony

Underwater ant nest

Death spiral

More Resources

Do you have any great resources for teaching about ants in your classroom or homeschool? Share them in the comments!

Learn more about ants

This post is part of a series on ants. Join us here and on Pinterest and Twitter to learn more about these fascinating creatures!

Teaching Parallel Circuits to Your Students

Parallel Circuits

To start, we need to define current and voltage:

  • Current is the rate (or speed) at which the electrons are flowing through the circuit and is measured in amperes (Amps).
  • Voltage is technically the electrical potential difference between the beginning and end of a circuit….or simply, the force at which the current travels through the circuit. Voltage is measured in Volts (joules/coulomb).

We are going to start with the simple circuit we created in a previous post (connect the alligator clip to negative side of battery, then connect to knife switch, knife switch to lamp holder, lamp holder to positive side of battery).

Now let’s make some modifications and create a parallel circuit. In a parallel circuit, the voltage stays constant in each branch of the circuit.

Creating a Parallel Circuit

Using our simple circuit with the knife switch in the upright position, we are going to add another load (light) and create a parallel circuit.

  1. Take a wire with alligator clips and attach to one side of the existing lamp holder.
  2. Using a separate wire, attach one end to the other side of the existing lamp holder (*note: there will be 2 clips attached to each side of the existing lamp holder).
  3. Take the ends of the two wires that are free and clip one to each side of a new lamp holder with light bulb. When the knife switch is closed, both lights illuminate.

In a parallel circuit, the voltage stays constant in each branch of the circuit. So, using a 1.5V battery, both bulbs are receiving 1.5V of electricity. This is the reason both light bulbs have the same brightness. If you measured the current, you will find that the current is divided into each branch. Therefore, if 10 amps of current were flowing through the circuit, each light (or branch of the parallel circuit) would be receiving 5 amps of electricity. Adding the amount of current in each branch together, will give the total amount of current introduced into the circuit.

Now you’re well equipped to teach your students all about parallel circuits. Amazon has a many experiments to teach and explain how circuits work. Check out Energy Ball and Energy Stick.

Zombie ants

Zombie ant

Look out! Here comes the zombie apocalypse!
But they’re not after you. The zombies are coming to attack ants, in four different ways.

When Fungi Attack

One way ants turn into zombies is through a fungus which gives ants that peculiar stumbling, staggering zombie walk.

Infected ants, instead of returning to the canopy where they live, go down the leaves closer to the ground. They bite a leaf with a death grip, leaving the fungus in a perfect place to grow and reproduce.

Parasitic infections

In pop culture, zombies are often created through an infection. So are ant zombies. A particular kind of virus will invade an ant and make its gaster (the ant’s butt) turn red like a delicious, ripe berry. Birds, which don’t eat ants, come eat the infected berry-butts and then spread the parasite through the forest in their feces.
Brainwashed

Like the fungi attack we saw earlier, another fungus takes control of an ant’s mind and body. The fungus attaches to the ant and makes its way to the ant’s brain, where it make chemicals to change how the ant perceives pheromones. The changes make the ant climb to the top of a plant and chomp down in a final death grip. The fungus eats the ant’s brain, then sprouts from the ant’s head, ready to spread throughout the forest.

Just a Fluke

A fluke (a kind of flatworm parasite) takes a more complicated route to turn ants into zombies.

The adult fluke lives inside a grazing animal–like a cow. It lays eggs there, which get passed out through the animal’s stool.

Snails then eat the egg-filled stool and become infected. The parasite reproduces in the snail, gets coated in slime, and is left behind in the snail’s slime trail.

Ants bring the slime home to their nests to eat, where they become infected by the parasite, which gets into their nervous tissue and changes their behavior.

In the mornings and evenings–when animals like cows are grazing–the ant, contrary to its normal behavior, crawls to the top of a blade of grass and hang out there. likely to be eaten. But if it’s not eaten, the ant goes home and acts normal until it’s grazing time again.

When the ant is eaten, the fluke happily lives in the grazing animal and produces eggs, starting the cycle over again.

Braiiiiiins

The phorid fly, while it doesn’t turn ants into zombies, eats ant’s brains, a delicacy we all know zombies love.

This fly lays eggs in a fire ant. The larvae get into the ant’s head–literally–and start eating the ant’s brain. The fire ant eventually gets decapitated when the larvae turns into a fly.

Fire ants–which are vicious and usually seem incapable of fear–will cower in their mounds if phorid flies are around, eventually starving to death.

More Zombies

Ants aren’t the only creatures in nature that get infected by the zombiepocalypse. See more zombie animals at Mental Floss.

Related Products

Ants, whether they turn into zombies or not, are fascinating creatures. Watch them in an ant farm or ant hill.

Learn more about ants

This post is part of a series on ants. Join us here and on Pinterest and Twitter to learn more about these fascinating creatures!

Stocking stuffers of science

stocking stuffer

These fun and educational toys would make great stocking stuffers.

1. Make your own bouncy balls!

2. Freeze dried ice cream. Enjoy ice cream like the astronauts do, freeze dried. Try NeapolitanIce Cream Sandwich or both. Yumm!

3. Create a Diet Coke geyser powered by Mentos. If you haven’t seen the awesomeness that is a Diet Coke geyser, check out this video, then recreate it with this Geyser Tube. Messy, explosive science: what kid could want more?

4. Add water to one of these instant snow packets and watch the magic! Create perfect snow, giant flurries, sleet and more.