Help protect Hawaii-join thousands of other students and residents across the state that have surveyed for the little fire ant. Protecting your community is as easy as grabbing the peanut butter and a chopstick.
Below are activities you can do on your own or with a group, organized by time:
- One Person: Survey your own yard–that is, use peanut butter (or mayonnaise) on disposable chopsticks to attract and collect ants and submit them for ID. Test plant material, soil, compost, or mulch. Click here to learn how
- Small group (3-10): Spread the word — Show a video to your family, friends, co-workers, or another group + Survey your yard
- Large Group (10-30): Show a video and send survey instructions home
- Class: Share the LFA PowerPoint presentation, which contains the 7 minute video + 3 minute video on how to survey for ants, OR, contact your Island Invasive Species Committee to see if they may be able to present it. See below for more info
- One Person: Spread the word — Show an LFA video to your friends or family
- Small group (3-10): Full or abbreviated lesson in class, survey at home, and basic ID following day, or assign collecting ants as homework and complete lesson the next day. Use video resources as appropriate.
- Large Group (10-30): Full or abbreviated lesson in class, survey at home, and basic ID following day, or assign collecting ants as homework and complete lesson the next day. Use video resources as appropriate
Based on a module from the Hō‘ike o Haleakala Curriculum, this abbreviated 1-hour LFA lesson can be taught in class. Students then survey their yard or local park and bring the ant samples back to class. Teachers may choose to conduct a second day “lab” where students log their data (sheet provided below), and sort their samples (Quick sort key below). Or, teachers can contact their Island Invasive Species Committee to arrange to submit the samples for ID. On Oahu, students are providing real-world data to help guide the LFA response. survey is an engaging way to get your students interested in invasive species, entomology, and even using a dichotomous key. This activity is ideal for middle and high school students but has also been successfully adapted and used for 5th grade through college classes.
- 2-page lesson/directions on how to survey for LFA, if you can’t give the PowerPoint: Abbreviated Hō‘ike lesson
- If you would like to do the second day lab, here is the ID key: Quick sort key
- NEW PowerPoint for Teachers! Spot the Ant Stop the Ant for Citizen Scientists
- NEW Data Sheet for Teachers! Spot the Ant, Stop the Ant Data Sheet for use with above PowerPoint
- NEW Spot the Ant Oahu Display for Libraries and Schools 2017 printable info display
- NEW Survey slip sheet for Teachers! Spot the Ant Stop the Ant survey slips to keep track of samples
Original Hō‘ike Student Survey: Fire Ants and the Future of Maui Wetlands
Materials & Setup In Advance of Collecting Ants
- Three (or more) clean disposable chopsticks
- Optional: Bright orange paint or felt-tip markers
- Peanut butter (the cheaper generic kind works best; the “natural” kind doesn’t work as well)
- A spoon
- Small paper cups
- Small self-sealing plastic bags, such as Ziplocs (sandwich size or the even smaller snack size)
- Sharpened or mechanical pencils
- Specimen labels (see Student Page “Survey for Little Fire Ants,” p. 20)
- Optional: tongs or gloves if you do not want to pick up bait sticks without them and possibly get ants on yourself
For each student
- Student Page “Finding the Little Fire Ant” (pp. 12-15)
- Student Page “Survey for Little Fire Ants” (pp. 16-20)
Class Period – One or more
- Frozen ant specimens collected by students
For each student or lab groups of two to four students
- A hand lens of at least 10x or a dissecting microscope (one for each lab group or student)
- Student Page “Wasmannia Identification Key” (pp. 21-22)
- “Color Wasmannia Key” (master, pp. 10-11)
- Ruler with mm markings
For each student
- Student Page “Finding the Little Fire Ant” (pp. 12-19)
- Student Page “Little Fire Ant Quiz” (pp. 23-24)
- Divide students into lab groups of two to four students each. Or allow students to work on their own if you have enough magnifying lenses or dissecting microscopes to go around.
- Instruct students to keep each specimen with the appropriate bag and label. That way if there are questions about identification or if the specimen appears to be a little fire ant, the correct information about where it was collected will be readily available.
- Hand out the Student Page “Wasmannia Identification Key” and the “Color Wasmannia Key.” Explain that students will be looking for ants that match the distinguishing characteristics of the little fire ant.
- After your students (with your help, if necessary) have eliminated all ants they know are NOT Wasmannia auropunctata, gather all remaining specimens, put them in their bags with the correct label inside, and store them in the freezer. These specimens may include:
a) Ants you have identified as Wasmannia auropunctata, and
b) Ants that MAY be Wasmannia auropunctata (i.e., you are uncertain about the identification).
- If there are specimens that you believe are or may be little fire ants:
• Write your (the teacher’s) contact information on the back of the corresponding specimen label.
• Put the label in the bag along with the ants and the chopstick. Seal the bag.
• If there is more than one questionable collection, keep each in its own bag with its own label.
• Mail the bags to your local Invasive Species Committee, listed at the bottom of this page.
A trained biologist will identify the ants and notify you if you have found a little fire ant.
- Assign the Student Page “Little Fire Ant Quiz” as homework.
- Based on your experience collecting ants, what do you think it would be like to be a field researcher studying insects? Is this a job you think you would like? Why or why not?
- What safety precautions did you take while collecting ants? Why are precautions like these important for people who study insects?
- Participation in and conduct during the lab
- Student Page “Little Fire Ant Quiz” (teacher version, pp. 8-9)
- Journal entries
Find more Hawaii specific science lessons on the Hoike o Haleakala website: www.hoikecurriculum.org
Invasive species experts are often available to work with your students or organization.
Contact your local Invasive Species Committee for more details: