Critters co-operative

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 September, 2008, 12:00am

Wild World of Ants

Ants live in big groups. Each group has one large winged queen. She mates with a small winged male ant, and spends the rest of her life laying eggs.

Most of the queen's children are sterile wingless female ants. Some of these become workers that gather food and build the nest. Others become soldiers who keep the community safe from attack.

Ants build and live in huge nests. Ants set aside part of the nest for the nursery. Another part is a store cupboard where they keep their food.

Some ants go for long walks to collect their food. Some build underground farms and grow their own fungus. Some keep small insects called aphids. Ants protect aphids from predators, feed them with fresh leaves, and then milk them for the sweet juice they produce - just like we keep cows and goats.

Not all ants are peaceful farmers. Many species are fierce warriors.

Soldier or army ants march through the forest, killing spiders, beetles, lizards and other creatures. They also attack other ants and steal their food. A few species kidnap and enslave workers from other nests.

They may be tiny, but ants live very complicated lives.

True or false?

1. Worker ants are female.

2. Each colony has several queens.

3. Some ants enslave other ants.

Ant Super Colony

Choose the correct alternative:

Argentine ants have built a nest that stretches 6,000 kilometres across Italy, France and Spain. Billions of ants live in this super colony.

Ants from different nests unusually/usually fight each other. But when scientists put ants from different parts of the super colony apart/together, the insects didn't fight.

Myrmecologists (pronounced MUR-mur-col-oh-gists) - those who study ants - still don't know how these insects can none/all recognise each other.

The Fearsome Red Fire Ant

Find words that mean:

upset, in the beginning, tell

Red fire ants have a nasty temper and a bad sting. If you disturb a red fire ant nest, these ants rush out and attack. If you don't brush them off quickly, their stings can make you ill.

Red fire ant stings will kill birds and small mammals. If there are lots of ants, they can kill calves and other young farm animals.

Red fire ants originally came from South America. But because of international trade in fruit, vegetables and plants, red fire ants now live in other countries, too.

Several hundred red fire ant hills were found in Hong Kong a few years ago. They have been destroyed, but if you do see a nest, inform the authorities.

Ants as Household Pests

Fill in the gaps with the following words:

remedies, eco-system, insecticide

Ants are a very important part of the ________________, but ants in your kitchen are a pest.

If you have ants in your home, try not to use ________________ sprays. These sprays are poisonous and can kill other creatures like butterflies, spiders and beetles. When these insects are eaten by birds and other animals, the poison hurts them, too.

Also, these sprays leave a fine layer of poison on tables and counters. If you're not careful, this poison can end up on your sandwich or in your pet's dinner.

Instead, sweep away all crumbs and food. You can also protect pot plants by putting a layer of petroleum jelly on the rim.

Want to know more clever ways to keep away ants? Ask your mother and grandmother for traditional ________________. They may have some tricks that surprise you!

Ants in Hong Kong

There are at least 235 ants species living in Hong Kong today. Ants range from two to 25 millimetres long, and can be black, brown, yellow or red.

Small black ants called crazy ants live in cities. They love to steal sugar, breadcrumbs and other food from your kitchen. Small brownish yellow ants called Pharaoh ants also love to make their home in apartments.

But army ants prefer to live in forests. These insect commandos march in huge columns, attacking other creatures. Army ants will attack spiders, worms, cockroaches, lizards, and even other ants. The best way to find army ants is to go to the woods and to look through the leaf litter on the ground.

If you enjoy watching bugs, visit a nearby nature park. Try the Peak and Nam Fung Wood on Hong Kong Island, Pak Ngan Heung on Lantau, or visit Shing Mun Wood, Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden. Don't forget to take your magnifying glass so you can see them clearly.

fab fact!

The first ants appeared in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago. Today there are more than 8,000 types of ant

fab fact!

Red fire ants love electrical equipment. They are the main cause of traffic light failure in Texas, United States. Experts say they cause more than HK$1 billion in damage each year


Ants can lift between 20 and 50 times their own body weight. If you had the same sort of body, you could pick up a horse or a truck

Answer the following questions. To test your memory, try answering without referring to the text. If you can't remember the details, read the piece again.

1. There are about ______________ known ant species.

a. 800,000

b. 80,000

c. 8,000

2. The first ants appeared:

a. about 110 and 130 million years ago

b. about 210 and 230 million years ago

c. about 310 and 330 million years ago

3. The ant that rules the nest is known as the:

a. king

b. queen

c. empress

4. Myrmecologists study:

a. bees

b. insects

c. ants

5. Red fire ants originally came from:

a. China

b. Europe

c. South America

6. Ants from different nests usually:

a. fight each other

b. share territory

c. swap worker ants


True or False: T, F, T

Correct alternative: usually, together, all

Synonyms: disturb, originally, inform

Fill in the gaps: eco-system, insecticide, remedies

Quiz: 1. c, 2. a, 3. b, 4. c, 5. c, 6. a