Amped up ant project

Eleven-year-old’s re­search into in­dus­tri­ous in­sect leads him to start his own colony

Cape Breton Post - - HOBBIES - DANETTE DOO­LEY

Af­ter re­search­ing neat facts about ants for a school pub­lic speak­ing project, 11-year-old Ethan Jamieson of St. John's, N.L., told his par­ents he'd like to start his own ant colony.

His fa­ther, Cam Jamieson, agreed to buy him the queen ant he'd need to get started on one con­di­tion: Ethan was to clean his play area and keep it clean for an en­tire week. If he did that, Cam said, he would know his son was in­vested in the project.

“Ethan cleaned up his area much faster than I ex­pected. That's when I re­al­ized we were go­ing to be all in with the ants,” Cam said dur­ing a phone in­ter­view on June 25.

“It took a while to get it all or­ga­nized. I'm pretty sure when (dad) came home and it was all clean, the day af­ter he said (to clean the area), I think he was re­ally sur­prised,” Ethan added.

Ethan is head­ing into Grade 6 at École des Grands-Vents in St. John's.

His mother, Cindy Butt, said when COVID-19 set in, they started home-school­ing their son.

What bet­ter a sub­ject to ex­pand upon than one al­ready started, she thought.

Ethan amped up his ant project, in both French and English, for when he would head back to class, Cindy said via Face­book mes­sen­ger.

When back to class never hap­pened, she said, her son con­tin­ued his re­search.

How­ever, she said, at this point she had no idea or­der­ing a queen ant and mak­ing a nest “in our house!” would come to fruition.

“I didn't be­lieve it was hap­pen­ing un­til I kept hear­ing so many facts about ants,” she said.

ANT FACTS

Dur­ing a phone in­ter­view, an en­thu­si­as­tic Ethan ex­plained some of the facts he's learned about ants.

“Be­fore hu­mans, ants were the most ad­vanced so­ci­ety ... a lot of things that hu­mans think they did first, ac­tu­ally ants did. They built cities, they had wars, they ne­go­ti­ated,” he said.

In his school project, Ethan spoke about sev­eral dif­fer­ent species of ants in­clud­ing the pow­er­ful army ant which “will dis­mem­ber its ad­ver­saries im­me­di­ately.”

He ex­plained how army ants kills more than 500,000 an­i­mals world­wide ev­ery day and can eas­ily de­stroy a wasp nest.

An­other in­ter­est­ing type of ant Ethan in­cluded in his project is the elec­tric ant, named be­cause it is at­tracted to elec­tric­ity and elec­tri­cal de­vices.

Then there's the “crazy yel­low ant,” Ethan said, which was brought to Aus­tralia by boat and has be­come a pest. The coun­try is now try­ing to con­trol the yel­low ant pop­u­la­tion, he said.

GET­TING STARTED

As his in­ter­est in ants con­tin­ued to grow, Ethan be­gan re­search­ing what it would take to start his own ant colony.

“He was on the phone with busi­nesses that sold wood. He needed to build an ant nest and got (the wood) for free,” Cindy said.

His fa­ther bor­rowed a router to carve the wood into a nest.

“Then, only then, did I be­lieve that we would be or­der­ing a queen ant! I do not like red ants crawl­ing on me in my yard and now we're or­der­ing ants,” she said.

Ethan's fa­ther ordered him the queen ant on­line and had it shipped from On­tario to their home in St. John's.

His mother helped get the pack­age de­liv­ered in what she re­ferred to as the “COVID stay home si­t­u­a­tion.”

The queen is cur­rently in a test tube set up, Ethan said, and he is now wait­ing for her to lay eggs.

“She has water but I don't have to feed her un­til af­ter she lays eggs ... those eggs be­come work­ers then you feed the ants and they make more work­ers, and more and more,” he said.

Ants need pro­tein, sugar and water, he said.

When he has about 10 work­ers, he said, he'll move his ants into the nest.

In ad­di­tion to his on­line re­search, Ethan is also read­ing a de­tailed book about ants.

“Lots of peo­ple think there are only two kinds of ants: black ants and fire ants. But, ac­tu­ally, there are over 16,000 species of ants and more are get­ting dis­cov­ered ev­ery day,” he said.

How does Ethan's mom feel about her son's new hobby now that she re­al­izes just how in­vested he is in the project?

“I still don't want ants on me. How­ever, I now know what a queen ant looks like and that she's big­ger (than other ants) and you can see the scars where she lost her wings. And that early sum­mer here is mat­ing sea­son when all ants fly into the air and re­lease pheromones to at­tract ants for a mat­ing frenzy rit­ual. Ants will be for­ever here and my lit­tle boy is teach­ing us,” she said.

CAM JAMIESON PHOTO

Eleven-year-old Ethan Jamieson is start­ing his own ant colony af­ter re­search­ing them for a school project.

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