Activity 1 – Finding the Little Fire Ant
Download Teacher Pages PDFActivity (Teacher Verison) PDF Download
Download Student Pages PDFActivity PDF Download
Materials & Setup
In Advance Collecting Ants
• Three (or more) clean disposable chopsticks
• Optional: Bright orange paint or felt-tip markers
• Peanut butter (the cheaper generic kind works best; the “natural” kind doesn’t work as well)
• A spoon
• Small paper cups
• Small self-sealing plastic bags, such as Ziplocs (sandwich size or the even smaller snack size)
• Sharp or mechanical pencils
• Specimen labels (see Student Page “Survey for Little Fire Ants,” p. 20)
• Optional: tongs or gloves if you do not want to pick up bait sticks without them and possibly get ants on yourself
For each student
• Student Page “Finding the Little Fire Ant” (pp. 12-15)
• Student Page “Survey for Little Fire Ants” (pp. 16-20)
Class Period One
• Frozen ant specimens collected by students
For each student or lab groups of two to four students
• A hand lens of at least 10x or a dissecting microscope (one for each lab group or student)
• Student Page “Wasmannia Identification Key” (pp. 21-22)
• “Color Wasmannia Key” (master, pp. 10-11)
• Ruler with mm markings
For each student
• Student Page “Finding the Little Fire Ant” (pp. 12-19)
• Student Page “Little Fire Ant Quiz” (pp. 23-24)
1) Divide students into lab groups of two to four students each. Or allow students to work on their own if you have enough magnifying lenses or dissecting microscopes to go around.
2) Instruct students to keep each specimen with the appropriate bag and label. That way if there are questions about identification or if the specimen appears to be a little fire ant, the correct information about where it was collected will be readily available.
3) Hand out the Student Page “Wasmannia Identification Key” and the “Color Wasmannia Key.” Explain that students will be looking for ants that match the distinguishing characteristics of the little fire ant.
4) After your students (with your help, if necessary) have eliminated all ants they know are NOT Wasmannia auropunctata, gather all remaining specimens, put them in their bags with the correct label inside, and store them in the freezer. These specimens may include:
a) Ants you have identified as Wasmannia auropunctata, and
b) Ants that MAY be Wasmannia auropunctata (i.e., you are uncertain about the identification).
5) If there are specimens that you believe are or may be little fire ants:
• Write your (the teacher’s) contact information on the back of the corresponding specimen label.
• Put the label in the bag along with the ants and the chopstick. Seal the bag.
• If there is more than one questionable collection, keep each in its own bag with its own label.
• Mail the bags (on Maui) to: Maui Invasive Species Committee, PO Box 983 Makawao, HI 96768.
A trained biologist will identify the ants and notify you if you have found a little fire ant.
6) Assign the Student Page “Little Fire Ant Quiz” as homework.
• Based on your experience collecting ants, what do you think it would be like to be a field researcher studying insects? Is this a job you think you would like? Why or why not?
•` What safety precautions did you take while collecting ants? Why are precautions like these important for people who study insects?
• Participation in and conduct during the lab
• Student Page “Little Fire Ant Quiz” (teacher version, pp. 8-9)
• Journal entries