Taking care of ants and bees

Observing the animal kingdom

Nothing in nature is more fascinating to watch than the family affairs of ant colony. The endless toil of the workers as they clean and feed the queen, forage for supplies, and tidy the nest; the care of the eggs and larvae by the nursemaids; the spinning of the cocoons and appearance of the young ants - all these and many other activities may be observed in a properly built ant house.

It's easy to build a simple ant house. You just have to use two pieces of photographic plate glass or window glass, about 10 by 8 inches, and four wood frames to serve as bases, sides, and top cover that will hold the window glasses securely. In each of the four pieces of the frame, cut two grooves for the glass. In the top of the frame bore two holes for food and water. Plug these with corks or bits of sponge. The bottom, sides, and bases of the ant house may be glued or tacked together and the wood-to-glass joints sealed with glue or tape. The top is removable. Fill the assembled house two-thirds full with eath found near the anthill.

If you make black paper shiled for the sides, the ants will burrow down along the glass, and you will be able to see them clearly when the shields are removed. Replace the shields between observations or the ants will try to shut out the light with earth.

Collecting the Ant Colony

Ant colonies may be found under logs, stones, and debris in practically every backyard, pasture, and woodlot. The best time of year to go hunting is from July to early September, when the winged males and females are present in the nests as well as the common workers. Be sure to capture the queen, for the colony will not work without her inspiration. You can recognize her by her large size. Try to get larvae, eggs, pupae, and parasites such as aphids.

Take the ants home in a jar and transfer them to a box. Place the box in a dark closet for about a week and do not disturb it. The ants will need to recover for their violent house-moving. They are easily excited and you should avoid jarring the nest at any time. Unless you are careful you will unable to watch their normal behavior.

Feeding the colony is very simple. Into the food opening of the ant house drop bits of ground beef, dead insects, bread crumbs, and watered honey. Keep the sponge in the water hole moist. Ants must have moisture.

Owning an Observation Beehive

An observation beehive must be purchased from a bee supply house. No amateur should attempt to capture these well-armed insects. The hive stands on the windowsill with one side open to the outdoor and requires no attention. Many activities go on inside the cells where they cannot be seen, but you may watch the building of the cells, the feeding and development of the larvae, the storage of honey, and perhaps even some of the duties of the queen. The hive may be brought indoor during the winter and its inmates fed with water and honey.