Friday, 19 April 2013

ants in your pants!

Woodlands are waking up from their winter slumber, birds are nesting and bluebells are starting to push their way through the frozen earth. One species that emerges now is the wood ant. Wood ants are the UK's biggest ant, growing up to 1 cm in length, they live in colonies that are larger under ground than what you see above it (like an iceberg). Wood ants secrete formic acid (their Latin name is Formica rufa) as a form of defence. You can see in the experiment below, when threatened with a bluebell the wood ant sprays it with acid and turns it pink!

*please don't pick bluebells in the wild - the bluebell used for this experiment was found on a path already broken off. 


  1. If you put your hand or your arm touching the top a wood ant nest(carefully so as not to dislodge anything), the ants will attack your arm. It doesn't hurt, just feels like little pins and needles! Blow or brush them off carefully and you can smell the formic acid on your skin. It smells just like salt and vinegar crisps and gives children a good idea of how effective the acid is. The acid leaves brown marks on your skin too.

  2. The ant nests around here are huge - I'd fall in one if I tried! If they get up your trousers legs they nip too hard for my liking ;0)


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