Imagine that you have magic powers and you can transform into any creature. One day, you’re watching a line of ants walking back and forth between some cookie crumbs and a hole in the ground. That hole is the ants’ home. It’s called a colony. You want to know more about ants, so you decide to use your magic powers to transform into one.
You’re a little worried about becoming an ant. There can be thousands or even millions of ants in a colony. You don’t want to get lost. You also know that ants have a special odor or smell that lets other ants know they belong to that particular colony. If an ant with a different odor tries to enter the colony, it will be killed.
You decide it would be best to become a worker ant. All worker ants are female. Many workers spend their days foraging for food. This means they go and look for food and then bring it back to the colony. “I wish to become a worker ant that belongs to this colony,” you say. You are immediately transformed into a worker ant.
The Body of an Ant
Now that you’re an ant, your body has three main parts: head, thorax and abdomen. You also have two antennae or feelers. The feelers can feel, smell, and taste. You have an exoskeleton, which is a skeleton on the outside of the body. The exoskeleton is kind of like a suit of armor. You also have a strong mandible or jaw. You will need a strong mandible to carry food.
You watch the ants surrounding the piece of cookie. You find a crumb and pick it up. “How do I find the hole,” you wonder. “It's so far away when you’re tiny.” Then you smell something. “That’s right,” you say. “Ants follow a scent trail between a piece of food and their colony.” So, you follow the scent trail. It takes a while but you make it to the entrance.
Leafcutter Ant Song
The Ant Colony
You suddenly feel nervous. You hope you have the correct odor to get past the soldier ants guarding the entrance. Luckily, you walk past without any difficulty. You are amazed by the colony. It is filled with chambers or rooms. Each one has a purpose. You walk past the queen ant, who is laying eggs in one chamber. The eggs turn into larvae. The larvae become pupae and the pupae become adult ants. You remember that this process is called metamorphosis. A metamorphosis is a change from one thing to another.
Each ant in a colony has a specific role. This is called a caste system. Ant colonies have three castes. There are queens that lay eggs, workers and winged males. Each worker ant has a specific job to do. Some workers forage for food. Some take care of the queen. Some take care of the developing ants. Some build chambers and tunnels. Some guard the colony.
You take your crumb to one of the food storage chambers. Then you leave the colony with other worker ants that are on their way to gather more food. You follow the scent trail to the cookie crumbs.
As you watch the worker ants toiling away, you decide that being an ant is too much work. It’s more fun to be a child, even if that means school and chores. So, you transform back into a kid and continue to watch the busy ants at work.