Free Nature Studies: Ant Workers Part 1

Ants protect the aphids they rely on for “honeydew” (or the sweet nectar they produce) and ladybugs protect plants from aphids.

Read the current chapter online: “Ant Workers”

“Ant Workers” is broken up into two parts, and is continued in the next lesson. This lesson focuses mainly on the ant’s relationship with aphids and the ladybug’s role.

  • Read about the adult ants with wings at the University of Arizona.
  • Make a list of the various types of ants and what they do in the community (soldiers, nurses, milkmaids, undertakers, diggers and engineers, and grocers).
  • View a very interesting photo of an ant “milking” a “cow.”
  • Learn more about aphids at the University of Illinois Extension.
  • View the video below showing the relationship between ants and aphids.
  • Learn about ladybugs at
  • Something to do: For the ant study, you may want to substitute a contained ant farm. See the resources below for our suggestion. Another option is the Lubbock Ant-Nest suggested in the Handbook of Nature.
  • Memorize and recite Proverbs 30:24-28.
  • Use Colossians 1:16 for copywork or dictation.
  • More of the ant’s story from the Book of Knowledge:

Ants live in many different ways — as hunters, farmers, dairymen, slave-makers and parasites. All live in colonies; there are no solitary kinds. Each colony consists of three castes or types of ants. These are the queens, males and workers. Only the queens lay eggs, for the workers are imperfect females. In some kinds of ants the workers occur in several sizes and each does the work best suited to its size. Certain of the workers are called soldiers because of their unusually large jaws with which they may defend the nest. Soldiers among ants are all females. Some of them can sting, like their relatives the wasps. Others, with no useful sting, can drive enemies away by squirting a bad-smelling, irritant fluid on them.

Most ants probably use a combination of sight, smell and taste in finding their food. Many of them judge direction by the angle of the light rays coming from the sun. You can test this by shading an ant as it walks along, or try using a mirror to reflect the sunlight to the opposite side of the ant. Notice if she is confused and wanders uncertainly from her path or if she reverses her direction.

You can test the comparative importance of sight and smell in any particular kind of ant by simple experiments like the following, which were used in a study of harvester ants. The experimenter let an ant walk onto a sheet of paper; then he carried the paper to the opposite side of the nest and let the ant run off. She went straight home, independent of any trail. When her eyes were covered with flour paste, however, she could not find her way home.

You might then suppose that the harvester also found her food by sight. Another experiment provided that this was not true, for if her antennae were stuck to her head by flour paste, her eyes uncovered, she walked right over seeds, her normal food, without recognizing them….

Most common ants rely almost entirely upon odor trails. This is how ants form an odor trail to and from food supplies. When a worker ant finds a lot of good food she becomes quite excited. She hurries back to the nest with her abdomen lowered until it nearly touches the ground. A faint scent comes from glands on her abdomen and clings to the surface on which she runs. When she gets home, she gives some of her food to other ants. They also becomes excited and run out to find food. At the outside of the nest they notice the first worker’s scent and follow it, each one adding a bit to strengthen the odor. Soon, many ants are following, until a steady stream flows to and from the nest.

“The Ant Family,” The Book of Knowledge

Further Investigation

The Relationship Between Ants and Aphids
(You may want to install an adblocker before viewing.)

Ant Rearing Information
For older students. From the University of Arizona.

The Behavior of Ants
Information for older students, including the symbiotic relationship between ants and aphids, from the University of Arizona.

Free Nature Studies: Ant Workers Part 1

Uncle Milton Giant Ant Farm
We have used three of these over the years and have been quite happy with the results. The ants do not come with the farm. You send in a form to purchase them for around $4-5. As long as you follow the instructions (particularly temperature), you should have good success. Please note, the ants will only survive as long as their lifetime. They will not reproduce.

Ladybug Dominoes
Cute go-along from

Apple Ladybug
Cute and yummy craft at!

Ladybug Appetizers

Free Nature Studies: Ant Workers Part 1

A Ladybug’s Life
by John Himmelman
Part of the Nature Upclose series, these are beautifully illustrated books for younger readers with a surprising amount of information within. Recommended!

Free Nature Studies: Ant Workers Part 1

by Gail Gibbons
Gail Gibbons has written over 170 books, including several in the Let’s Read and Find Out Science series. Always a favorite.

Young Collector’s Handbook of Ants, Bees, Etc. {Free Bug eBook}
You’ll find a section on ants with instructions for observing and collecting.

The Lady-Beetle
Chapter from An Elementary Study of Insects that covers observing and collecting ladybugs.

The Ladybird
From the Handbook of Nature Study (pgs. 364-366).

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Ladybugs to the Rescue
Cute lesson plan from the University of Connecticut covering the relationship between aphids and ladybugs.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

Bugs Poster
At Answers in Genesis.

Nature Journal Notebooking Sets {Free Download}

Nature Journal Notebooking Sets {Free Download}
Free blank nature journal sets for drawing, illustrating, copying, or narrating.

Ant Workers Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

Enjoy the complete series:
Free Nature Studies: Our Wonderful World
Free Nature Studies: Our Wonderful World

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