Warrior Ants: No Wounded Left Behind

“Leave no man behind. That’s an old idea in warfare — it’s even part of the Soldier’s Creed that Army recruits learn in basic training. And never leaving a fallen comrade is also the rule for some warriors who are ants, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.” N. Greenfieldboyce, NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Ant carries a wounded comrade back to the nest . Photo- newscientisttiff

Excerpt: No Ant Left Behind: Warrior Ants Carry Injured Comrades Home,–N. Greenfieldboyce, NPR

“These ants, Megaponera analis, hunt and eat termites. Scouts will go out, find a group of termites, and then return to the ant nest to muster the troops.

Biologist Erik Frank explains that 200 to 500 ants will march out in formation. ‘Like three ants next to each other, in a 2-meter-long column,’ he says. ‘It’s very peculiar and it looks like a long snake walking on the ground. When the termites spot this invading army, they try to escape, but the fighting is fierce. You have a lot of termites lying dead on the ground, and the ants start collecting the termites to return.’

A major worker with termite prey. wikipediatiff

Ants sometimes lose a leg or two, which makes it hard for them to walk. Or, they can be weighed down by a dead termite whose jaws had clamped onto them. Either way, they’re slower than uninjured, unburdened ants.

By marking these injured ants with paint, Frank learned that in nearly all cases, they made a full recovery after being carried home to recuperate. They learn to walk with fewer legs, and their ant buddies apparently will pull off stuck termites. It doesn’t take long for an ant that’s been hurt to once again be ready for action.

‘We saw them again, participating in hunts the next day,’ says Frank.

‘It’s not so far-fetched,  to compare these ant rescue missions to those performed by human soldiers.

One big difference I would say, though, is that these ants are not doing it out of the goodness of their heart,’ says Frank.

He says they’re just responding to a chemical signal from the injured ants, rather than being motivated by empathy.’

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Map for assistance.

  1. These ants hunt and eat termites.
  2. The ants send scouts out to find a group of termites.
  3. It’s  a very peculiar  formation of ants.
  4. Scientists are researching animal behavior and evolution.
  5. The injured  ants  were carried home to recuperate.
  6. We saw them again, participating in hunts the next day.
  7. Ants  that couldn’t march fast enough fell behind.
  8. The ants are not motivated by empathy.
  9. Bringing injured warriors home has huge benefits for the ant colony.
  10. They’re making this substantial contribution to the ant colony.

Word Map by Against the Odds


Reading Comprehension


Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Does it ___me of ___helping? Well, not really…noting that the___don’t seem to be___ helping each other. One reason why one might___that they’re not is that if they ___that same___ ant on the way to the hunt, they ignore it…Wounded ants only get ___home if they’re ___after the battle.

WORD LIST: encountered, carried, injured, think, ants, remind, encounter, intentionally,  mammalian,

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

It’s clear/clean that bringing injury/injured warriors home has huge benefits/beneficial for the ant/aunt colony. The number of ants that are saved/save by this behavior is about equivalent/equally to the number of ants that are born each day in that colony. So they’re making/make this substantial contribution to the ant colony.

III. Post Reading Activities

Graphic Organizers: Finding the main idea

Directions:  Have students use this graphic organizer from Enchanted Learning  to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main points from the article.

Comprehension: Ask/Answer  Questions

Directions:  Place students in groups and have each group list 3  questions they would like to pursue in relation to  the article. Have groups exchange questions. Each group tries to answer the questions listed. All responses are shared as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class.


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