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Jessi and Squeaks talk about some surprise visitors that came to check out their picnic: Ants!

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Squeaks and I just got back from a picnic outside.

We brought all of our favorite picnic foods: sandwiches, fruit, and even some cookies for dessert. That’s true, we also got some unexpected visitors!

Some ants came to check out our picnic, too. They carried away some of our crumbs! The ants that came to our picnic were worker ants, and it’s their job to collect food.

See, ants live together in homes called anthills. If you’ve ever seen a little pile of sand on the sidewalk with ants crawling all over it — that’s an anthill! The different ants that live in the anthill have different jobs.

There’s one big ant called the queen. Her job is to lay all of the eggs that will hatch into baby ants. Then there are the males, all of the boy ants that take care of the queen.

The queen and the males hardly ever leave the anthill. The rest of the ants are called workers. They do things like build the ant hill tunnels, protect the anthill, and go out to find food to bring back for the queen and the males.

The worker ants do have to work really hard, Squeaks. They need to find enough food to feed themselves, the queen, and the males, not to mention the baby ants. Luckily, the workers have some special skills that help them to find plenty of food.

When a worker ant is out looking for food, she uses her great sense of smell to sniff out any food in the area. But instead of using a nose like us, she uses her antennae, the two little things sitting on top of her head. An ant’s antennae are actually better at smelling than a human’s nose.

They can easily smell things that people can’t smell at all. And when a worker ant’s antennae smell some tasty food, like the fruit at our picnic, she can follow the smell until she finds the food. Now that she knows where the food is, she can use her eyes to look around at what’s near the food, like a tree or our bright picnic blanket.

If she needs to find the food again, she’ll look for those familiar sights until she finds the food. And ants will eat just about anything. Most ants are omnivores, meaning that they’ll eat plants, other animals, and all sorts of things.

The different foods they like to eat all have different smells, so the ant can smell out which one she wants to bring home today. Ants love sugar, so it makes sense that they went after our cookie crumbs! They were really big pieces for one tiny ant to carry, Squeaks.

But ants are incredibly strong! They can carry something that’s up to 50 times heavier than they are. That would be like you picking up a small car!

But if something is too heavy even for an ant, a bunch of other worker ants will come help her out. Squeaks, how do you think the other ants find the first worker ant? That’s right, they use their antennae and their sense of smell.

When a worker ant is on the trail for some tasty food, she can leave a smelly trail behind her, which the other ants can follow using their antennae. When a whole group of ants is following a trail like this, they form a line of helpers ready to use some teamwork to move some big food. At our picnic, they even managed to move a whole cookie together.

One ant is pretty strong by herself, but by working together, these ants are incredible. I’m glad they came to visit our picnic, too! And I’m glad that the whole anthill will have food now.

What about you? Have you ever seen worker ants looking for food? What would you look for if you had super-smeller antennae?

Grab a grownup to help you leave a comment below, or send us an email at We’ll see you next time, here at the fort.