Lab 7: Social Insects!

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1 Lab 7: Social Insects! Name: Rationale: In lecture we learned that social insects are some of the most abundant and successful animals on the planet. Honey bees are essential pollinators for many of our crops. Termites, when they are not eating our homes, play a vital role as decomposers in their ecosystems, and ants truly rule the world; some maurade throughout the rainforest killing everything in their paths (army ants), while others cultivate large and elaborate fungus gardens (leaf cutter ants), and still others ants farm aphids! Clearly there is strength in numbers, and the fact that ants, bees, wasps and termites are social allows them to accomplish many great things. However, as we know from living with roommates and family members, there are some unique challenges that come with living in groups. Communication is key, as is protecting what is yours. Today we will explore how termites and bees communicate with each other, and how ants and honey bees defend themselves. In this lab you will work in groups of 4. We will again be asking you to develop hypotheses, but additionally, we expect you to come up with your own unique experiments for some activities. Part 1: Termite Trail Following Materials: - petri dish with termites - computer-printed designs - blank white paper - designs by Megan (drawn yesterday) - black BIC pen - permanent marker - red BIC pen - forceps/tweezers - pencil - black construction paper - a desire to play with some ADORABLE insects 1.) Have one group member retrieve the necessary supplies. Draw a line on the blank white paper with the black BIC pen provided. Now sprinkle some termites on the paper with the line, and see what happens. Describe the termites behavior. 2.) You should have seen the termites following the line (more or less). Why do you think the termites are behaving in this way? Using the materials provided, how would you test this hypothesis?

2 For example, if you think the termites are following the line by sight, perhaps you could try drawing a line with the black BIC pen on black construction paper and see if the termites still follow the line. Feel free to do this experiment if you d like (meaning that it is optional), but be sure to design 1-2 of your own. For each experiment have one group member record: a. The hypothesis to be tested ( Termites follow trails by sight ) b. The materials you will use to test the hypothesis ( Black paper and a black BIC pen ) c. The procedure you will use ( We will place termites on black construction paper with a black line and see whether they follow the trail ) d. Your results/what you saw e. Your conclusions/ how you explain what you saw, and whether your hypothesis is correct. Ask Dr. Shetlar or Megan for help, and be sure to tell one of them what you are going to do/what you found before and after each experiment. 3.) What body parts do you think termites use to sense trails? How would you test this? For example, if your previous experiments seemed to indicate that termites sense trails by sight, you could opaque paint to cover the termites eyes or use opaque permanent markers to mask the eyes. Again have one group member record: a.) The hypothesis ( Termites use their eyes to sense trails ) b.) The materials you will use ( Termites and permanent makers ) c.) The procedure you will follow ( Cover over termites eyes ) d.) Your results e.) Your conclusions 4.) What body parts do you think termites use to produce trails of their own? How would you test this? For example, if you think that termites leave faint foot prints on the paper, and that is what the other termites are following, you could rip off a leg of a termite using the forceps and drag it along the paper to see if other termites follow its trail. Keep trying body parts until you find something that works! 5.) When all of the groups are finished we will have a class discussion to answer the following questions (*Hint: these could show up on a quiz, so it would be in your best interest to record the answers *): a. What are termite trails made of?

3 b. Why do termites follow BIC pens? c. What are characteristics of termite trails? How long do they last? Are they direct or circuitous? d. What body parts do termites use to sense trails? e. What body parts do termites use to produce trails? Part 2: Honey Bee Communication or the Waggle Dance! For this activity, we will watch a YouTube video on the honeybee s waggle dance. Answer the questions below. 1.) How do honey bees use the waggle dance to communicate? 2.) What does the angle (direction) of the waggle on the comb symbolize? 3.) What does the intensity of the waggle symbolize? 4.) What does the length or duration of the waggle dance symbolize? 5.) What is so amazing about the waggle dance? 6.) Why does your TA like the word waggle so much? (Just kidding!)

4 Part 3: Ant Colony Recognition For this activity, we will be using turfgrass ants from 2 different colonies, provided by our very own BugDoc, and we will observe how ants from the same colony and from different colonies interact. 1.) BEFORE you start playing with the ants, describe what you think will happen when: a. you place ants from the same colony in a petri dish, b. and when you place ants from different colonies in the same petri dish. 2.) Now, send a group member up to collect 2 petri dishes with ants from 2 different colonies (marked with pink and purple permanent markers). And use either forceps or your fingers to: a. FIRST borrow an ant from a neighboring group that originally came from the SAME colony into your petri dish (i.e. an ant from the pink colony into a dish with other pink ants). What happens? Was your hypothesis correct? b. Next, move an ant from a different colony into your petri dish. What happens? Was your hypothesis correct? 3.) Based on your observations, how do you think ants are able to recognize members of the same or different colonies? 4.) Watch after Dr. Shetlar and Megan takes an alcohol-treated ant (i.e. we ve dipped her briefly in rubbing alcohol) from the purple colony and return her to her sisters in the purple colony. What happens? Why?

5 Activity 4: Honey Bee Defense Enjoy the YouTube video the instructors will show you on how native Japanese honey bees have learned to defend themselves against the giant hornet. Feel free to take notes as there may be a question about this on your next quiz!

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