Walk across the lawn to the left of the main house and head straight down to the lake shore. Go to a large old stump on the shore and turn left on the gravel path. Walk 150 m to a white wooden bridge on the path. Walk 15 m past the bridge and stand in the grassy area between the two paths on the left.
Enter the world of small and become an ant. You are a worker ant sent here to scout out a place for a new ant city, called a colony. This is where many ants live and work together, just like in a human city. Explore different areas to see where you can meet your needs for food, shelter and recreation. Be ready to crawl to see things from an ant’s point of view. Put on your ant costume and become an ant. Since ants are very social insects, practice the ant greeting:
- Find a partner and get down on your hands and knees and face each other.
- Bow your heads to each other and gently touch each other’s antennae together.
Stay in the grassy area on the left.
Explore this grassy area and look for ant friends already living here:
- Get down on your hands and knees and scan the ground very closely for ants.
- When you find an ant, let others know—but not with your voice.
- Wiggle your antennae and make “follow me” motions.
- Show your new ant friends to others.
Ants have poor eyesight, so they use their antennas for feeling, smelling, picking up vibrations and taking air temperature.
Some ants make their colonies in the ground. Dig in the soil with your fingers. What is it like here?
- sandy and dry
- dark and moist
Use a twig to make a small tunnel in the soil, big enough for an ant. Is this good soil for digging tunnels and rooms for the colony?
Do You Know – Ants
Ants help to aerate the soil with their rooms and tunnels and provide food for other animals. The nest or colony has pantries for food and rooms for eggs, larvae, pupae and waste materials. Ants are nocturnal; they are generally active outside of the nest at night but are active inside during the day.
Continue along the lake shore for 80 m on the Drumlin Field Trail to some decayed logs and a stump on the left. Stop 10 m short of a large hemlock tree that has branches which form an archway over the trail. There is a big dead spruce tree growing horizontally over the lake at this point
You are a hungry ant. Get down on your hands and knees and search around the old stump and decaying logs to find ant food:
- dead leaves
- small live insects
- dead insects of any size
This is a good ant restaurant if you could find all of them.
Ants communicate using smells in addition to touch. They leave scent trails for other ants to follow and smells that warn other ants of danger. Try sniffing as an ant. As you walk down the trail, find six really neat smells. Here are three to start:
- Scratch and sniff the green needles of a tree.
- Smell the soil.
- Smell the leaves of a small plant.
Share your favourite smell with another ant.
Do You Know?
There are about 100 species of ants in Canada. They meet their needs through a fascinating social system of roles and responsibilities. There are three types of ants: the queen, workers (female) and drones (male). The workers forage for food, defend the colony and take care of the young. The queen produces all of the young for the colony and mates with the male drones who die after mating.
From the last spot, walk about 200 m and stop at a large mound of rocks on the left of the trail.
Discover some of your neighbours by looking beneath the rocks on the left. Rocks and logs are basement windows. When you lift the window up, you catch a glimpse of what is in the underworld of the forest. Make sure to immediately replace all the rocks because they are your neighbours’ homes!
- Find a basement window and gather everyone around to look in it.
- Carefully lift the object to see what creatures are under it.
- Gently return the rock or log to its original spot.
- Take turns opening basement windows.
There are many basement windows along the path ahead. As you walk to the next stop, have each person find and share one. Shut each window as soon as you are done!
You must be dirty after all that rooting around. Ants are very tidy creatures. They wash themselves using tiny combs on their front legs, paying special attention to their antennae. Clean yourself off like an ant before you arrive at the next stop.
Just like an ant colony, each member of a traditional Mi’kmaw community had their own roles and responsibilities to the community. Families would plan hunting and fishing trips. The men and boys would seek out the tools needed for these trips such as spears, bows, arrows and sharp tools made from stone. The women and Elders would stay in the community during these planned trips and “watch over the small children, tan animal hides, sew clothing, gather edible plants like berries, and collect firewood.” Today, often times, the roles are reversed as many Mi’kmaw women go hunting and many Mi’kmaw men take on more domestic duties.
From the last stop, walk 170 m along the trail and stop at a small opening to the lake with a large pine tree leaning out over the water. Below it is a long dead stump hanging out over the water.
Worker ants are very strong. An ant can lift up to 50 times its own weight. If an ant finds a piece of food too heavy to carry by itself, it gets help from others. How much can you lift? Try lifting someone on your own. Now try it with some help:
- Stand facing a partner.
- Using the right hand, each person grasps the other’s right wrist.
- Do the same for the left arm so that your hands are crossed.
- Bend your knees together so that you are about as low as a chair.
- Get someone to sit on your arms and clasped wrists.
- Slowly, lift the person as you straighten your knees.
- Carefully let the person down and switch roles.
Ants and people accomplish a lot when they work together. Another part of an ant’s job is breaking down the forest’s waste materials (dead plants and animals) into new soil. They are recyclers. Can you find some other forest recyclers? Search for:
- mushrooms (do not eat or touch!)
- shelf fungus on trees, logs or stumps
- lichen (light green flaky stuff on trees or logs)
Share your discoveries with others.
Creatures in a forest have different jobs near their homes– just as people do. Ants perform the recycling or decomposing job as well as being a food source for other creatures. In return, ants receive services from other creatures. Trees provide them with oxygen to breathe and flowering plants provide seeds to eat. Other insects are food for ants. Ants are an important part of a forest
Walk 150 m and stop at a trail junction where the left trail leads uphill.
Look for ant homes in the wood along the edges of the path on the left.
- Find an apartment building (a stump or log) or a skyscraper (a standing dead tree).
- Investigate your home. Since ants have poor eyesight, close one eye and place your third eye over the other.
- Zoom your head in close to the surface of the stump, log or tree.
- Search for entrances, windows, balconies and other features of a good home.
Take turns giving tours of your homes. Point out special features and explain what makes it a good home. Draw your home in your Adventure Journal at the end.
Search for other potential ant homes as you walk to the next stop. Use your third eye to discover their special features.
Do You Know – Composting
Composting is the equivalent of ant recycling for our communities—ensuring that waste is broken down and turned into new soil. Here’s how you can do it:
- Compost as much food and yard waste as possible in your backyard. You are taking responsibility for your waste and you get healthy soil in return.
- Worm composting is excellent for those who don’t have a backyard. The worms live in a box where they need minimal care and compost the food waste for you. For information on this approach, check out Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.
- The Green Cart municipal collection system composts everything else. Food and yard wastes are picked up and taken to a large composting facility where compost is made.
Turn left at the junction and go 10 m and then turn left again on the main Drumlin Field trail. Walk uphill 250 m. Stop when you reach a 15 m high dead tree trunk on the left side of the trail.
This old tree trunk is like an ant apartment building. See if you can find any ants on the outside or in some of the holes. The holes are due to creatures looking to gobble up some of the ants. Who do you think is making these holes?
Ants like to have fun, just like people. Parks are places that protect land for hiking and wildlife. Create a mini park for ants and other insects off the trail in this area:
- Search for a special place such as a neat moss-covered stump or rock.
- Place your string tool around the park, creating a boundary.
- Use your third eye to discover the neat features in your park.
- Use your flags to mark the neat spots.
- Be creative in flagging spots that would interest insect tourists.
- Be careful not to destroy plants as you create your park.
- Come up with a name for your park and prepare to give a tour.
When everyone is finished, tour the parks as a group:
- Each park’s guide collects admission—a certain number of neat dead leaves (the guide decides).
- The guide provides a quality tour and describes the flagged spots and other neat features.
- Make it a no-trace park. Pack up the boundary and the flags at the end.
Being environmentally friendly is a lot more than just recycling. It means taking only what you need and working to reduce and reuse things.
- Make sure you really need something before you buy it and choose options with less packaging such as bulk foods.
- Use tea towels or cloths instead of paper towels.
- Buy some extra dishes at a second-hand store cheaply so you don’t have to use paper plates at parties.
- Use your own cloth bags for shopping and reusable containers for lunches.
- Find ways to reuse products. For example, milk bags are strong and excellent for storing food in the freezer.
Walk 200 m up the Drumlin Field Trail, staying to the left, until the trail enters a large field. Walk 50 m to the clump of trees. This is a great place for a snack.
Ants are tasty food for predators such as woodpeckers, bats, squirrels, shrews and other small mammals. Practice keeping away from these enemies. Play Ant-Shrew Tag:
- One person is “it” and plays the shrew. The rest are ants.
- Everyone must crawl.
- Ants roll onto their backs when the shrew tags them.
- Tagged ants can crawl again only if another ant touches (frees) them.
Look on the tree trunks in the forest for ants. Move into the field nearby to see if you can find any of the ants in the grass.
Continue down the trail through the field for 230 m to the bottom of the hill where there is an interpretive sign. Turn left and head 20 m over to the white wooden bridge.
Try to decide as a group where the best home for your ant colony would be:
- in a grassy clearing
- in an apartment building or skyscraper
- in a basement window
- somewhere else
Which place did you choose? Why?
Try exploring one of the other trails or discover the rich history of the estate by taking a tour of Uniacke House (there is an admission fee). It was built between 1813 and 1815 for Richard John Uniacke, the Attorney General of Nova Scotia at the time. He enjoyed escaping Halifax to spend time with his family and friends on his English style estate. To learn more about Richard Uniacke and his role in Nova Scotia’s history, try reading The Old Attorney General by Brian Cuthbertson (Halifax, NS: Nimbus, 1980).
Before heading back, find the plaque hidden within 15 metres of this spot. Make a rubbing of the mystery creature on the plaque in your Adventure Journal with the side of your pencil.
The plaque symbol is:
Take a picture to upload of the spot you would pick for your ant home.
Congratulations, you have worked together to find a good home for your ant colony. Celebrate by singing the song “The Ants Went Marching One by One”. Continue left for about 50 metres until you reach the bridge where you started.