ANTacid: Indicator Paper on an Anthill

Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
In this activity, learners make acid/base indicator paper, place the indicator paper on an anthill, disturb a bunch of ants, and then observe what happens! Some stinging insects spray formic acid into the air when threatened. This activity is a way learners can see the invisible formic acid spray of the insects with an indicator paper they create from paper towels and boiling red cabbage. The indicator paper can also be used to test acids and bases around the house, like soap or lemonade.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • red cabbage
  • hot plate
  • pot and bowl
  • strainer
  • newspaper
  • scissors
  • paper towel
  • water
  • ant hill!
  • safe liquids that could be acids or bases found around the house


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Human Impact
  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Acids and Bases
      • Chemistry of Life

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Outdoor Activity
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, Science Museum of Minnesota, 1995

Funding Sources:

  • Science Learning Network Resource
  • Unisys
  • National Science Foundation