Termite Trails

honey beesHave you ever heard of the term 'social insects'? 
You may think these are insects who like to party and, while that may be pretty funny to think about, it's just not quite what it means. 

Social insects are insects such as bees, ants, and termites, for example, that care for their young, have overlapping generations, and have a division of labor (also known as a caste structure).  In this activity, you will be able to experiment with some social insects and even "teach" them to do some pretty neat tricks! 

What You Will Learn

By the time you finish this activity, you will be more experienced with social insects and will have a better understanding of pheromones and how insects use them.

What You Need

  • Paper
  • crayonsVarious types of writing materials
    (Pencils, Pens (including at least one Paper-mate pen), Crayons, ball point penMarkers, etc.)
  • Termites
    (You might want to ask your parents for help with this part. . .You can find termites pretty easily if you know where to look!  Try rolling over an old log or fallen piece of wood that has been lying in your backyard for a while . . . you might be surprised by what you find!)

What To Do

  1. First, you need to gather together all of your materials.
  2. Next, use a different writing tool on each piece of paper and draw either a shape, a curvy line, or a cursive word or letter.  It doesn't really matter what you draw as long as it all connects.
  3. termiteNow, you are about to "teach" your termite friends to follow the lines that you have drawn on your paper!  The trick is to try to figure out which ones they like . . . is it a certain color, a dark line, a light line, a certain writing tool?  Test it out by dropping the termites on each page and watch what they do!  Can you figure it out?
    Which trail did they follow?»

Think About It

Now that you can tell all your friends you are a professional termite trainer, see if you can impress them with your new knowledge, too!  Think about this . . . if termites leave a pheromone trail to get to their colony, what might honeybees or ants use pheromones for?