A Day of Parades

Collins Learning Center Summer Hours

1:30-3:30 Daily. Closed July 4th

Independence Day is a holiday celebrated with picnics, streamers and parades. The Collins Learning Center will be closed on July 4th, but there will be countless picnics and parades going on out in the preserve.

Ant parades happen throughout the summer and the parade route runs directly between a food source and the ant hill. Individual ants are out and about constantly, searching for food. When an ant finds something good to eat, it carries as much as it can lift back to its anthill. And when an ant is carrying food, it gives off  pheronomone, a special chemical scent which communicates to the others of its colony. On the first return trip to the anthill, the food-carrying ant might meander a bit, but by following the scent, other ants quickly find the food. 

The next any which followes the trail may cut a few corners and perhaps short-cut across the obvious meanders. Soon, other ants ease out the kinks making the trail straighter. With each subsequent food-carrying ant, the route becomes more direct.


All of the ants leave a scent as they return to their colony with food. As more and more ants travel in a straight line, the trail becomes increasingly compelling. Consequently  ants, even days later, will be able to parade along the the scent trail to and from their ant hill. However, once the food source is depleted,  the ants stop giving off the pheromone, the scent dissipates, and the trail disappears (or it would disappear if it were visible, which it is not.)

Tent caterpillars also parade. Some 200-300 little (at first) caterpillars live in web-tent, but several times a day, they leave this nest to picnic on their host tree. And yes, they too travel in tiny parades. But they use streamers in addition to pheromones to mark the route. 


As they leave their tents, each of the caterpillars emits a strand of silk, so by the time the parade passes by, there is a silky trail of fibers along the  return route. The caterpillars also leave a scent trail so they will be able to find fresh leaves to devour the next time they go out to eat.

Except on the 4th of July, Crossroads offers Summer Family Programs Monday-Thursday at 1:30. We  have also hosted YMCA Summer Camp groups. Last week, students from the NWTC Tech Camp learned about sustainable energy  (and also how to use the Human Sundial at the Crossroads Astronomy Campus.)


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