I think today we’ll talk about an animal that lives all around us. I will give you some clues to help you guess what it is.
It doesn’t matter if you are in the city, completely surrounded by sidewalks, streets, and buildings, or if you are on a very large farm in the country with plenty of open space. You can find them in either habitat.
If you live in a small apartment with no yard at all, chances are you can find these animals by the thousands living in cracks in a sidewalk or parking lot that surrounds the building where you live.
One scientist discovered a new species to science living in a flower pot on his office desk! Some of us probably find these animals living in our own homes!
They are so small that we probably step on them by accident every day.
If you could weigh every single one on Earth and then weigh every single person, they would probably weigh more than all the people.
There are a lot of them. They outnumber us by at least a million to one.
Have you guessed yet what animal I’m referring to?
Today, I’m talking about ants. Have you ever watched ants in action? I suggest you find some and observe them closely.
A few years ago, I met a scientist who is an ant specialist, Mark W. Moffett. He wrote a book titled Adventures Among Ants, A Global Safari With a Cast of Trillions.
He begins the book like this: “My first memory is ants. I was down in the dirt in my backyard, watching a miniature metropolis. A hundred ants were enraptured with the bread crumbs I had given them, and they enraptured me as they ebbed and flowed, a blur of interactions.”
I’m going to suggest you do exactly what he did. You don’t have to get right down in the dirt with the ants, but you may need to get close to see what is going on.
I use a pair of binoculars for birdwatching. I’ve discovered they are great for insect watching, too. I can sit nearby and using the binoculars, I still see the ants very well. I have enjoyed doing the following experiment many times.
Here is experiment. I hope you’ll try it. If you find an ant mound where ants are coming and going, put a tiny piece of bread near the opening. How long does it take an ant to find it? What does it do then? Does it immediately begin eating the bread, or does it go find other ants to tell about its find? How do the other ants react? Do the ants seem to work together?
Are the ants large or very small? Are they brown, red, or black? Did more than one kind of ant find your bread crumb “picnic”?
You might also place a crumb far away from any ant mound to see how long it takes an ant to find it. What happens then?
You might be pleased to find that this is good stuff to put in your nature journal.
I tried an ant experiment yesterday and got a big surprise when a guest I didn’t expect showed up! I’ll talk about that tomorrow.