Sweet and Sour Science Experiment

Aug 10, 2015

Activity for ages 3 to 8.

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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Getting Ready

Before we got started I asked my kids to make a prediction and asked, “Do you think the ants will prefer the lollipop or the lemon?” Both kids {who are 6 and 3} chose the lollipop and when I asked them why, they said that’s what they would choose. Great logic if you ask me!

To prepare for our experiment, I sliced 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, 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 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.

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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 underneath.

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

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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

[amazon_link id=”0395720974″ target=”_blank” ]The Little Red Ant and the Great Big Crumb[/amazon_link] by Shirley Climo
[amazon_link id=”0395971233″ target=”_blank” ]One Hundred Hungry Ants[/amazon_link] by Elinor J Pinczes
[amazon_link id=”059040024X” target=”_blank” ]The Magic School Bus Gets Ants in Its Pants: A Book about Ants[/amazon_link] by Joanna Cole

More Backyard Science

Looking for more simple ways to practice science in your backyard? Make worm observations, see if ice melts faster on black or white, and try some sunscreen science.

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