The kids and I love backyard science experiments because it gives them the chance to explore and examine all the creepy crawlies of nature. After a discussion on ants and their eating habits, we came up with this simple kids’ science experiment using a lollipop and a lemon to see if ants have a preference when it comes to sweet vs. sour.

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Science Experiment

Getting Ready

Before we got started I asked my kids to make a prediction by asking if they thought the ants would prefer the lollipop or the lemon.

Both kids {who are 6 and 3} chose the lollipop and when I asked why, they said ants probably like to eat the same things they do. Great logic if you ask me!

I had their help slicing a lemon and grabbed a lollipop from the pantry. I let the kids have a few licks of the lollipop to make it extra sticky and then we headed out back to find a line of ants.

We found a spot where the ants were scuttling back and forth to place our food items. We tried setting them on a place mat, but the ants weren’t interested in crawling on the mat so we moved the lollipop and lemon directly to the cement.

What We Found

We watched for a few minutes and noticed the ants went out of their way to avoid the lemon. The ants would get within an inch of the lemon and then head off in the opposite direction. While the ants didn’t avoid the lollipop, they weren’t overly interested at first.

The kids were hungry so we went inside to have lunch and left the food to {hopefully} tempt the ants. During lunch we talked about how ants work together and communicate with one another when they find something good to eat.

Science Experiment

After about 30 minutes, we came back out to check our experiment. We didn’t see any ants on either item at first, but when my daughter picked up the lollipop to look underneath there were ants everywhere!

My son picked up the lemon and didn’t find a single ant on the underside.

Our conclusion? The ants not only preferred the lollipop over the lemon, they didn’t even want to TRY the lemon.

Science Experiment

The Science Behind It

Ants use chemical signals to communicate with one another, find their nest and locate food. Positive signals attract ants while negative signals serve as a warning.

The sugar in the lollipop in our experiment was a positive chemical signal that attracted more ants, while the lemon emitted a negative chemical signal and repelled the ants.

Books to Use

The Little Red Ant and the Great Big Crumb by Shirley Climo
One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J Pinczes
The Magic School Bus Gets Ants in Its Pants: A Book about Ants by Joanna Cole

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