European Wasp vs. Bull Ant - Phenomenon

Richard Jones Photographer/Videographer
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Phenomenon , Animation/Movie
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This short, high-definition video shows a struggle between a wasp and an ant in extreme closeup. After viewing, students should be able to make inferences about the functions of certain specialized structures of each insect and support their ideas with evidence from the video. This can be used an introductory lesson to the study of Performance Expectation 4-LS1-1 or as an assessment during or after the lesson sequence.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 3
  • Grade 4
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

4-LS1-1 Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

Clarification Statement: Examples of structures could include thorns, stems, roots, colored petals, heart, stomach, lung, brain, and skin.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to macroscopic structures within plant and animal systems.

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students viewing this video could be asked to identify or describe the insect structures they see. They could construct an argument connecting each to the function it’s performing in the video. This might be done individually at first, and then shared in a small group or with the whole class to refine and extend. Most students will be aware that wasps have stingers, but not realize that some ants do as well. Although not really visible in this video, they may infer that the ant is stinging the wasp when it curls its abdomen and presses it against the wasp. Additional background information about bull ants can be found here:

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students who understand the relationship between structure and function should be able to make observations that provide evidence for their explanations. Teachers that are interested in incorporating engineering design elements into a unit could use the video as a starting point for students designing their own insects or other organisms to demonstrate and deepen their understanding.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This resource could be used to introduce the idea of structure and function at the beginning of a unit. It could provide an opportunity to assess whether students can make evidence-based claims about the structure/function relationship. It could be used formatively to gauge understanding during a unit or as a summative assessment after a series of lessons and activities. An additional resource could be a longer video of a group of bull ants attacking a cicada in the process of hatching ( Teachers should use their judgment before showing this video, as it may be too disturbing for some children to watch the ants work as a team to dismember the cicada and carry it off to their nest. But it does provide additional structure/function examples (e.g. the slicing power of the ants’ mandibles, the anchoring legs of cicada as it emerges from its nymphal exoskeleton), as well as connecting to an additional Performance Expectation (Construct an argument that some animals form groups that help members survive. 3-LS2-1). Many other videos can provide additional examples. Videos addressing similar topics can be found on the Monster Bug Wars YouTube channel which offers short segments with dramatic narration and CGI structure details that may be very engaging for elementary students.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The focus of student attention will likely be on the insects’ individual structures, but this phenomenon provides an opportunity for the teacher to reinforce the concept that each structure is a substructure of the more complex system of the organism as a whole. For example, the mouth is a substructure of the digestive system, which itself is a subsystem of the ant. Showing videos of other animals that highlight the role different structures play or asking students to consider how their own various body parts or subsystems can provide further engagement with this crosscutting concept.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: - none -

  • Instructional Supports: - none -

  • Monitoring Student Progress: - none -

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -