Making an Ant House

This lesson developed by Reach Out!

Recommended Age: Elementary


How do ants work and live together?

What you need:

  • Glass jar with lid
  • Soil
  • Rubber band
  • Black construction paper
  • Sugar
  • Garden gloves
  • Small shovel
  • Pie pan
  • Water
  • Magnifying glass
  • Nail and hammer
  • Rubber band

What to do:

  1. First, prepare your ant house! Carefully punch some little holes in the glass jar's lid with your hammer and nail. Cut a piece of black construction paper that you can wrap around the jar. Ants like it dark. So when you aren't watching them, you'l l want to wrap the paper around the jar. If it is too light for them, they will tunnel towards the center of the jar where it is dark and you won't be able to see them! You will want to put the glass jar in the center of the pie pan. Put some water in the pie pan. This way, if some ants somehow get out of the jar, they'll drown in the water and not escape into your room! When you have the ants in the jar, you'll want to sprinkle a little water in the dirt every few days. Ants like the soil a little moist. To feed the ants, just put a little sugar on the top of the soil every couple of days. You can also try feeding them other things to see what foods they like the best.

  2. Got the house, now where are your ants? Go outside and look for ants! You often see them walking along in lines. Follow the ants to see where their nest is.

  3. Put gloves on. With the shovel, dig down into the outer edge of the ant nest or anthill. Be careful not to touch the ants with your bare skin. They often bite or sting!

  4. Try to dig down pretty deep so you get the queen ant. She is bigger than the rest of the ants. If you can, dig up some of the eggs, too. You may need to look for the ant eggs with your magnifying glass. They are really small!

  5. Put the ants in your glass jar. If you need to, add some more soil so the jar is filled pretty much to the top. Put the lid on. Put water in the pie pan and place the jar in the middle. Wrap the black paper around the jar. Use the rubber band to hold the black paper in place.

  6. Every day, take off the black paper and observe your ants! These little creatures are quite amazing. They all work together to make tunnels, to find food, and to take care of their queen. The ants work together to take care of the eggs. Do you see some ants picking on and fighting with each other? Do they all work hard or are some kind of lazy? Outside, one ant colony will even fight another ant colony if they think their home is being invaded, their queen is in trouble, or their supply of food is being taken away from them.

  7. You might want to get a bigger glass container and put two different kinds of ants in it. Watch what happens! Ants do not mingle with each other. Each group has their own colony, their own group, and their own home. ant diagram

  8. With your magnifying glass, check out the body of an ant. See if you can see the body parts labeled above.

  9. Here are the body parts we cannot see—the parts inside of them!

What is happening?

Ants are funny critters. They live in colonies or groups. Ants tend and take care of their queen ant and her eggs. They usually work together to find food, to fight off any invaders, and to make tunnels to get around. Some ants eat wood and some e at plants and stuff in dirt. Some ants will bite and others will sting. Some are brown, others are red or black. Some are quite large and others are teeny tiny. We can learn lots from observing creatures, even tiny ones like ants!

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