Harvester Ants. Background Information: The Ants Bert Holldobler

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1 Harvester Ants Objective: Students will expand their knowledge and understanding of the characteristics, life cycle and behaviors of Harvester Ants. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the living world and relationships of various organisms in their environment. Performance Objectives: Grade 3: Strand 1 Concept 1 PO1 & 2; Strand 4 Concept 2 PO1 & 2; Concept 3 PO3 & 4 Grade 4: Strand 4 Concept 1 PO1; Concept 3 PO1; Concept 4 PO1 & 2 Grade 5: Strand 1 Concept 1 PO1 NGSS: 3-LS2.D; LS4.B; LS4.C; 4-LS1.A; 5-LS2.A. CCSS: 3.W.2; 4.W.2; 5.W.2 Grades: 3-5 Key Vocabulary: Exoskeleton Larva Pupa Granaries Related Literature: Ant Cities Arthur Dorros Ants James P. Rowan Background Information: The Ants Bert Holldobler Ants are known to be one of the smartest of all insects on Earth. These little creatures have a scientific name that is much longer than the body of an ant. Western Harvester Ants are also known as Pogonmyrmex Rugulosus. That is their scientific name. These ants come from the order Hymenoptera and the family Formicidae. Ants have been known as a very successful species, and it is felt that there are about 20,000 different types of ants on Earth. The ants that live at Butterfly Wonderland are called harvester ants. Scientists think that ants have been on Earth for over 100 million years and can be found in almost every area on the planet. Ants are also known for having a 1

2 complex society where every ant has a purpose and a job to do in maintaining the colony. Ants seem to be tireless workers carrying food and storing sizable quantities for the colony. Harvester ants are primarily seed gatherers but will sometimes eat dead insects. These ants get their name because they harvest the food (mainly seeds) and store it in the nest for later use. The underground chambers used for storage are called granaries, and are found in the tunneling system built by the ant colony. In the wild, harvester ants make a visible mound on top of the ground. They tunnel underground creating many different chambers that are connected by various tunnels. These chambers have different uses. For example, some chambers may be used for food storage while others are used for nesting and sleeping areas for the workers. It may be easy to spot a nest of harvester ants because they will clear an area of 3 to 6 feet around the mound. The absence of plant life is a good indicator of the nesting mound for harvester ants. Harvester ants are interesting to watch as they construct their habitat by digging and tunneling deep into the ground. Given the right conditions, these tunnels can go as far as 15 feet down into the ground and connect in all directions. The body of a harvester ant, like other insects, has six jointed legs, a three-part body, a pair of antennae and a hard exoskeleton. The antennae are special organs that help the ant taste, smell, touch and sense sound. The three parts of the ant body are the head, thorax (middle) and the abdomen. Ants have a tiny claw at the end of each jointed leg to help them dig and carry food. Many types of ants have compound eyes that allow them increased visibility. Harvester ants have fairly large heads containing powerful jaws so that they can crack the seeds open to eat. Ants are generally considered social insects. They live in colonies that can reach extremely large numbers into the thousands. The queen ant begins her life with wings, sheds her wings after mating and devotes the rest of her life to laying eggs. She is important to the colony because she keeps the colony growing with new generations of ants. The queen generally stays at the bottom area of the nest. Next in the colony are the worker ants. These ants are non-producing females who are the daughters of the queen. The worker ants collect food, feed the members of the colony, tend to the young and guard the nest. Most of the ants in a colony are workers. Once the male ant has mated with the queen, his life is short and death is imminent. The life cycle of the ant takes place in four stages: the egg, larva, pupa and adult. The queen begins the process by laying the eggs in the colony s nest. The eggs are 2

3 minute in size and white. In a short time the eggs hatch into larva. The larva is also white in color and has no eyes or legs. The larva spends its days resting, eating and growing. When the larva has consumed enough food energy and the time is right, it spins a cocoon over its body and is called a pupa. The pupa stage is when the greatest metamorphosis takes place. Soon the adult ant will emerge from the pupa and begin its life as a vital part of the colony. The entire life cycle takes about 6 to 10 weeks. An ant habitat allows you to look inside the world of ants and watch the amazing structure of the colony. In the natural world, ants are an important part of the ecology. Some ants help to clear decaying animal, insect and plant material from the ground while others turn the soil and disperse seeds. Sources: University of Georgia WPCI Department of Entomology All About Ants Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service ehow: Facts about Ants Procedures and Pre-Activities: 1. State the learning objective. 2. Read one of the books on ants so students become familiar with the scientific name and classification of ants, specifically harvester ants. 3. Discuss the general characteristics of ants, the colony, food sources and impact on the environment. 4. Present the background information with added discussion and open-ended questions. 5. Allow students to study the life cycle of the ants and complete their own drawing. Reflection and Assessment: After visiting Butterfly Wonderland, discuss the harvester ant colony and the habitat. Discuss the difference between ants in the natural world and those in a contained habitat. Have students make estimations about the numbers of ants in both locations and how specific variables may impact colony expansion. Assessments: Quiz Label the parts of the ant 3

4 Quiz on Harvester Ants Please respond to the following questions in complete sentences. 1. Explain how ants are a benefit to the environment. 2. Describe the interaction of the members in an ant colony and their specific tasks. 3. Compare and contrast the ants in a contained habitat and ants that are in the natural world. 4

5 Name: Draw and color each stage of an ant's life cycle. eggs larva pupa adult 5

6 Life Cycle of Ant (Photo in Public domain Redants.net) The life cycle of the ant involves 4 stages: 1) Egg; 2) Larva; 3) Pupa; 4) Adult The fertilized eggs are produced by the female ant. She digs a burrow and places her eggs inside. The eggs are white and very tiny. The tiny eggs hatch into white larva, which grows until it forms a pupa. The pupa stage is when a cocoon covers the pupa and the metamorphosis takes place. Soon an adult ant emerges. The life cycle usually takes about 6 to 10 weeks. 6

7 Label the parts of the Ant Label the parts of the ant and explain how each part functions

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