What Do Ants Like Best: Artificial or Cane Sugars?

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Updated on Apr 24, 2014

Grade Level: 6th-9th; Type: Zoology

Objective:

Discover whether ants are more attracted to natural cane sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Research Questions:

  • What is artificial sweetener made of?
  • What is the composition of sugar? Where is it obtained?
  • Are there different types of sugar?

Ants like picnics, and, like humans, they're especially attracted to sweets. But can ants tell the difference between natural and artificial sweeteners? Why might they prefer one over the other? Let's find out.

Materials:

  • Pure cane white sugar
  • Artificial Sweetener, such as Equal, Splenda, and Sweet N' Low
  • Common ants (you can find these outside on warm/hot days, but if you are doing the experiment in the winter, then obtain from a specialty breeding source)
  • A clear box with just a few holes on top

Experimental Procedure

  1. Count the amount of ants you have obtained. This can be very tedious and difficult, so please be patient.
  2. In the clear box, put one pile of pure cane sugar on one side and one pile of artificial sweetener on the other. Be sure to leave enough space for the ants in the middle, at least a full hand's width to separate the sugars.
  3. Release the ants into the clear box and put the lid on to prevent them from coming out. Observe their behavior.
  4. After 30 minutes, count the number of ants in each pile. Again, this may be difficult, but hang in there!
  5. Repeat the above step in 30 minute increments for 3 hours and then overnight.
  6. Record your results in a chart. What have you noticed?

Terms/Concepts: Fructose; Sucrose; Lactose; Carbohydrates; Sugar; Sweetness; Ant behavior and diet

References:

Sofia PC is currently a college student with a deep interest in science who is aspiring to become a writer. She writes about all sorts of things across all subjects including, but not limited to; science, crafts, and fashion. She hopes to become a good writer so she can share her thoughts and experiences with the world and future generations.

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