Science KS2: Life cycle of an ant

A leafcutter ant colony from Trinidad has been rescued and re-housed in a giant man-made nest in the UK, allowing an in-depth study into their normally hidden world. It’s the first time a man-made colony has been built on this scale and Professor Adam Hart gives four primary school scientists a tour.

The young scientists are not able to see the queen as she is hidden deep within the nest. But, in the lab, Adam is able to show them a similar queen from another leafcutter colony.

They learn that the queen is much larger than all the other ants, with the smaller ants that surround her tending to her every need.

The life cycle of ants is described; the queen lays the eggs which hatch into larvae and then change to become the ants in the colony.

When the eggs are laid they are all the same, but what and how much they are fed results in different kinds of ants, such as soldier ants and minima.

The ant colony is very clever; if it comes under attack it produces more soldier ants, and if they need more leaves they will grow more ants to become foragers.

This clip is from the series Life on Planet Ant.

Teacher Notes

Students could role-play how an ant colony adapts to outside forces. One student could be selected as the ‘queen’ and two others as worker ants. Everyone else could stand in a ‘holding zone’.

The ‘queen’ could tap students in the holding zone on the shoulder and they would then become ‘eggs’. Once the eggs are created, the worker ants should hand out different coloured bands, depending on whether the ant in the egg will become a soldier or a worker ant.

Once a few ants have been ‘born’, a caller could describe an outside force which is affecting the colony. For example, ‘another colony is attacking’. The workers should then hand out more ‘soldier’ bands. Outside forces should lead to killing a number of ants at once so that students can return to the holding zone, begin their life again as ‘eggs’ and continue the flow of the game. Examples include humans stepping on the colony, or doing battle with other ants.

Students could draw the different stages of the ant life cycle in the correct order.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Science/Biology at KS2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 2nd Level in Scotland.

More from Life on Planet Ant

Inside an ant colony
How ants communicate
Why are ants different sizes?
How to build a mini ant nest
What ants eat and what eats ants