SET UP THE SUB
COMPLEX AND COOPERATIVE ANT BEHAVIORS
USING A SNIPPET FROM "MICROCOSMOS"
Subject: Science/Biology (Insects -- Ants)
Ages: 5 - 12.
Length: Snippet: about 12 minutes;
Lesson: 30 minutes.
Learner Outcomes/Objectives: Students will know that ants employ complex cooperative behaviors to thrive and will recall striking images of these behaviors.
Rationale: It is important for students to understand the complexity and cooperative behaviors that have developed in the insect world. Seeing these behaviors in action will help students understand and retain these concepts.
Description of the Snippet: This is a series of three snippets showing ants in interesting and complex cooperative behaviors, including protecting aphids and collecting their honeydew, sharing water and draging large pieces of plant material to an underground storehouse, and fixing their nest after a storm.
"Microcosmos" consists of many extraordinary and beautiful shots of insects. There is almost no narration.
How to Use This Guide:
TWM suggests that teachers keep a pre-selected film in their classroom along with any handouts, readings, and other materials that a substitute will need. Be sure to get all of the required permissions from your administrators to allow this snippet to be shown.
To communicate instructions to the substitute, print this Guide and cross out any instructions or materials that don't apply. To make additional alterations, use the copy and paste function to add those parts of the Guide that are to be retained to a word processing document. Modify as appropriate and print for the sub.
Be sure to leave instructions about how to get a projector, if necessary; any indiosyncrasies of the A-V system in the classroom, etc. See Checklist for Teachers Setting up the Sub and Model Instructions to the Substitute.
Instructions to the Substitute:
Introduction to Segment #1: Tell students that aphids are very small animals that eat plants and emit a sweet sticky substance called honeydew. Some species of ants use honeydew for food. Ants will tend the aphids, stroke them to encourage the aphids to emit honeydew, take aphids into their nests during cold weather, transport aphids or their eggs to food plants, and transfer aphids to new feeding sites. Chemicals on the feet of the ants tranquilise and subdue the aphids. Ants store excess honeydew in a separate stomach and regurgitate it for other ants when needed. Ladybugs eat aphids and many gardeners buy ladybugs to release into their gardens to kill aphids. This sequence contains an example of a predatory relationship and a symbiotic relationship.
Start at the beginning of DVD Scene 2 and play it until the beginning of the segment on ladybugs mating.
Closure for Segment #1: Ask students to identify the predatory and symbiotic relationships. This can be in a quickwrite or through class discussion. Then ask students to describe what the activity engaged in by the ant would be called if it was engaged in by a human being. Good responses will include: farming, ranching, herding, or nurturing.
Introduction to Segment #2: Tell students that ants can lift five times their weight and drag an object 25 times their weight. Ants have two sets of jaws, one for holding things that they carry and one for chewing. Ask students to look carefully at what the ants are doing in the second half of the segmetn and ask themselves why the ants are doing this?
Start the segment at the beginning of DVD Scene 5 and play it for about 4 minutes, until the segment on wasps begins.
Closure for Segment #2: Solicit students' opinions about how the ants will use the plant material they are collecting. Tell them that the leaves and plant material will be cut up by the ants and used in a fungus garden. The ants will eat the fungus. These ants are acting like farmers.
Introduction Segment #3: Tell students that this segment shows what occurs in an ant colony after a large rain storm.
Start Segment #3 about a minute after the beginning of DVD Scene 8 (after the earth worm) and play it for about 2.5 minutes until the scene shifts to butterflies.
Closure to Segment #3: Tell students some interesting facts about ants from the Helpful Background section below.
If there is time, present the following information ot the class.
There are 8800 known species of ants. Most species are located in the tropics. Ants are found in all parts of the world except for the polar regions and places with extremely high altitudes. Ants are such a successful species because their collective mastery of social organization allows flexibility in their approaches to survival.
Ants contribute to the population control of their prey, recycling of plant material, aeration of soil, seed dispersal, and several other major ecological processes. Ants are "decomposers", i.e., they help the environment recycle matter from dead plants and animals. While different species of ants have different food preferences, ants as a species are omnivores, i.e., they will eat both plants and animals.
Some ants are farmers. Ants living in the southeastern United States and in tropical Central and South America cultivate a fungus in their nests. To feed the fungus, the ants cut sections of leaves and take them to the nest. As shown in the video, some ants keep herds of aphids. (For another photograph and more facts about the complex interaction of ants and aphids. Some species of ants also keep scale insects and lycaenid butterfly larvae as domesticated animals. Red harvester ants (central United States and Mexico) frequent fields of grass, harvesting and storing the grass seeds.
Some ants engage in slavery. The Amazon ant carries out forays against other ants and brings back to the home nest some of the unconsumed brood to serve as slaves when they mature. These slave ants perform excavation, brood tending and other work of the Amazon colony. Another species of ant has a queen that permits herself to be dragged into the nest of another type of ant, then kills the queen. The host colony then cares for and hatches the eggs of the new queen.
Ants have four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. What are commonly referred to as "ant eggs" are really the pupae. There are two types of ants in any nest: reproductive and nonreproductive. The queen and males constitute the reproductive class of ants. The non-reproductive ants include the female worker ants.
Army and driver ants make nests that consist of the clustered bodies of millions of workers hanging from the underside of a raised log or other surface. Enclosed in this mass are the queen and the brood.
If a line of ants taking food to its nest and returning for more is interrupted by the placement of an obstacle that breaks up the line, the ants will find the shortest way around the obstacle and reestablish the line of march.
Each day, colonies of army ants in the Amazon or driver ants in Africa organize a swarm raid. These raids have fronts that reach more than 45 ft in width. Advancing at a rate of about 12 inches a minute, these ants capture, tear, and carry back to their temporary nests any prey that cannot escape them. Their food consists primarily of other insects or spiders. At times, nestling birds, cornered snakes, or other small vertebrates are killed by stinging.
The biomass of the ants in the Amazon forest is estimated to be four times the biomass of all the vertebrate animals combined. Biomass means the total amount of living matter.
Ants do not have lungs, but rather tiny tubes that carry air to all portions of their bodies.
Published April 21, 2009.
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