Our current Zootles issue on Ants is the perfect complement to the Oakland Zoo’s exhibit featuring a tiny world run by leaf-cutter ants. Visitors can follow one ant as it works, or take in the activity of the whole colony. And a colony is a busy place! Not only is there a queen’s chamber, where ants feed and care for the queen as she lays her eggs, but there is a nursery for the larvae, food storage areas, and even a garbage dump. Ants stop off in side tunnels to rest, too–something you might not guess. And always, the work of creating and repairing tunnels goes on at a relentless pace.
If you don’t live near enough to Oakland to see the colony for yourself, we encourage you to visit the Oakland Zoo’s website and click on the “slideshow” to see ants in action. The ant education can continue if the children in your house decide to maintain a traditional toy ant farm, or conduct ant experiments in the backyard. What foods do ants swarm or avoid? How long does it take for them to devour something they find tasty? Children can even emulate ant scientist Deborah Gordon, whose work is discussed in Zootles, by seeing how ants deal with sudden obstacles in their path. Just make sure that when children are exploring, they are careful not to get so close that the ants explore them.