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Ant Picnic

Main Project Information
Presented By Rob Dunn Lab
Goal Inform scientists about ant diet preferences around the world.
Task Create a picnic for ants, wait an hour, record number of ants.
Where Global, anywhere on the planet

Prepare a picnic for ants to learn more about what they’d like to eat, then count the ants, tell us a little about the environment you found them and report the results.

Since 2011, the Rob Dunn Lab at North Carolina State University has been asking the question, “What ants live where?” and citizen scientists have been answering by collecting ants with cookies in their backyards and schoolyards and mailing them to the lab with The School of Ants Project. Ant Picnic is the next stage of this research, which allows researchers to answer the question: What do ants prefer to eat around the world?

The nutrients that ants forage for at different times of year will give us a lot of information about their dietary preferences as well as the types of food that ants might seek that would balance their diet.

How to Join

Prepare a picnic for ants to learn about what types of food they prefer in your neighborhood! The ingredients you need are nothing more than what you should be able to find in your kitchen. Collect the bait materials (sugar, salt, water, olive oil, L-Glutamine powder, and Pecan Sandies cookies), 12 index cards, 10 cotton balls, 12 zip top bags, and a pencil to get started. Select two sites, one green and one paved, both should be in the shade if possible. Mix the baits following the detailed instructions below, label the cards, two for each bait, one "paved" and one "green", soak a cotton ball in the appropriate bait (for the cookie, just crumble the cookie) and put one on each card in the appropriate location. Wait about an hour and record how many ants are at each bait at each site by putting the entire card + bait + ants in a zip top bag and count the ants through the bag. After you are done, release the ants in the place where they were collected so they can make their way back to their colonies.

• Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• Pure L-Glutamine powder in solution (20%-L glutamine from GNC), see instructions below.
• Sugar Water (20% sucrose solution), see instructions below.
• Salt Water (1% solution), see instructions below.
• Water
• Cotton balls (10 total)
• Pecan Sandies cookies (or a similar shortbread cookie)
• Class Bait Data Cards (link)
• Sandwich sized Ziploc bags (12 total)
• White 3×5 index cards (12 total)
• Pencil for data recording and labeling

How to make the baits:

Amino Acids in solution (20%-L glutamine) from GNC (protein): Put 14 tablespoons (200g) of pure L-Glutamine powder in 1000mL of water

Sugar Water – 20% sucrose solution (sugar): Put 14 tablespoons (200g) of sugar in 1000mL of water

Salt Water - 1% solution: Put 2 teaspoons (10g) of salt in 1000mL of water

You will soak these in the cotton balls.

Social Media
Expenses $10
Materials List L-Glutamine Amino Acids, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sugar Water, Salt Water, Cotton Balls, Pecan sandies, sandwich ziptop bags (12), white, 3x5 index cards (12)
Ideal Age Group Elementary school (6 - 10 years), Middle school (11 - 13 years), High school (14 - 17 years), College, Graduate students, Adults, Families, Seniors
Average Time An hour or so
Spend the Time outdoors
Type of Activity On a hike, At home, At the beach, On a walk, run, At school, At a science center, zoo or aquarium, At night, At sports stadiums, On a lunch break
Training Materials
Class Materials,,,
Tags ant, ant picnic, ants, cookies, diet, dunn lab, fall, food, fun, girl scouts, north carolina, nutrients, nutrition, outside, picnic, rob dunn, rob dunn lab, spring, summer, wildlife, winter, your wild life
Project Updated 09/22/2017