Worlds of David Darling > Children's Encyclopedia of Science > Could You Ever Speak Chimpanzee? > Hands On


a book in the Could You Ever? series by David Darling

Could You Ever Dig a Hole to China book cover Contents
The Challenge
1. Animal Chatter
2. The Secret of Monkeys
3. Ape Talk
4. Songsters of the Sea
Hands On

Hands On

Observe communication and behavior among social insects by keeping your own ant colony

homemade ant colony

A plastic home for a small ant colony can be bought ready-made, or you might try making the one of wood and glass (or perspex) shown here. Put soil in the nest chamber and transfer part of an ant colony to the food chamber. Since the ants are isolated from the outside, you will have to supply them with food such as honey, tiny pieces of raw meat, moist bread, and dead insects. Also, make sure that the soil in the nesting area is kept damp.

Observe how the workers build a new nest, with separate places for the eggs and larvae. What happens when you put in some fresh food? How do the workers communicate with one another? How does the ants' activity vary throughout the day and night? What happens if you introduce some new ants after the colony is established? Try other experiments, such as varying the light level in the feeding area or laying a scent trail across one of the notches to the nesting area. Keep a logbook of your observations.