2- Fill the remaining space in the jar with the dirt mixture. Use a funnel to neatly fill the extra space with dirt, or spoon it in. The dirt should not be tightly packed; make sure it's nice and loose, so the ants will be able to move around. Leave about an inch of empty space at the top of the jar.
You will now have created a layer of dirt that will serve as the ants' home.
The inch of empty space will keep the ants from climbing up the glass and out of the jar when you need to open the lid.
- How to Build an Ant Farm :
courtesy to : www.wikihow.com/Build-an-Ant-Farm
If you've ever examined an anthill and wondered what's beneath the surface, creating your own ant farm will be a fascinating learning experience. Introducing an ant colony to your own farm will give you a first-rate view of ants building intricate tunnels and paths, then scurrying through like they're on a mission. See Step 1 to learn how to make an ant farm using simple materials you may already have on hand.
Part One : Gathering Supplies and Ants
1- Get two glass jars with lids. You'll need a large jar and a smaller one that just fits inside. The dirt and ants will be placed in the space between the small jar and the large jar. The small jar functions as a way to take up space in the middle so that the ant colony will build tunnels and lay eggs close to the outer edge, putting these processes in plain view. Skipping this step will allow the ants to burrow deep toward the middle of the jar, which they'll naturally want to do.
Different-sized canning jars are perfect for this project. You can make your farm as small or large as you'd like.
Look for jars without etching, print or raised numbers and letters. Plain, clear glass will give you the best view of the ants.
If you'd prefer to have a flat ant farm, check out your local pet store and purchase a skinny aquarium. You can also order an ant farm setup from online retailers.
2- Prepare a soil and sand mixture. The ants will need a loose substrate that stays moist and allows them to dig and tunnel. If you're planning to source the ants from your yard or a nearby area, your best bet is to use dirt they already naturally live in. Dig up enough dirt to fill up the extra space in your jar. Use a fork or your fingers to loosen the dirt until it's nice and fine. Now mix 2 parts dirt with 1 part sand - less if your dirt is already naturally quite sandy.
If you aren't planning on getting your ants from a nearby location, and the dirt you have on hand doesn't seem suitable, you can buy potting soil and sand from a gardening store and mix it up to serve as your substrate.
If you order an ant farm kit, it should come with the right mixture for those particular ants.
You want the mix to be slightly moist, but not sopping wet. If it's too dry, the ants will dry out; if it's too wet, they'll drown.
3-Find an anthill. There are many species of ants, but by and large they nest in the ground. Look for anthills in slightly exposed areas in your yard. You'll know it's an anthill by observing the tell-tale volcano-shaped pile of small grains of dirt, with a tiny entrance hole near the top.
Tracking ants is another good way to find an anthill. If you see a group of ants walking, follow them back to their nest.
Observe the anthill to make sure you aren't dealing with fire ants or another type of ant that bites. Brown field ants are a good bet. If you want to be on the safe side, order your ants online as part of an ant farm kit.
4- Collect the ants. One you've identified an ant colony, bring a jar with a few holes poked in the top (not one of your ant farm jars) outside, alone with a large spoon, and scoop some ants into the jar. 20 - 25 ants should be a good amount to get your ant farm started. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
The ants probably won't reproduce unless you include a queen in your ant farm. An ant colony's queen lays all the eggs, an a group of worker ants - those you're likely to see close to the surface of an anthill - are likely to be sterile. Therefore, if you want to see ants go through the process of laying eggs, you'll need to get a queen - which can be tricky, and would require destroying the natural ant colony.
If you're set on seeing the reproductive cycle, a better bet may be to order a kit that comes with a queen ant. That way, you won't have to worry about digging deep into the ant's nest to get what you need.
If you create a farm without a queen, the ants will probably die within 3 - 4 weeks, which is their natural lifespan.
Part Two : Assembling Your Farm
1- Place a cap on the smaller jar and set it inside the larger one. To keep it centered in the middle of the larger jar, you can put a dab of glue or tape on the bottom before you set it inside. Make sure you put the lid on securely, since you don't want ants accidentally falling in.
2- Cover the jar when you aren't watching the ants. Ants do their tunneling at night, in the dark. To replicate the environment they're used to, cover the jar with black cloth or construction paper when you're not watching the ants. If you forget to do this, the ants will be stressed out and much less active. They'll also tend to stay away from the glass and spend their time as close as possible to the center of the jar.
3-Place the ants in the jar and screw on the top lid. Carefully drop the ants in the jar, making sure they all make it into the fine dirt you provided. Cover the jar and use an awl or a sharp knife to puncture it with tiny holes, to allow oxygen to reach the ants.
Make sure not to punch the holes too large, or the ants will escape and build a nest elsewhere.
Don't cover the jar with cloth, as ants will be able to chew their way out.
Part Three : Maintaining Your Farm
1- Offer them food and moisture. In order to keep your ants happy, you can feed them every few days with a few drops of honey, jam, or pieces of fruit - ants love sugar! Don't overdo it, or you'll have mold in your ant farm. Ants get most of the moisture they need from food, but if it looks like the dirt and sand mixture is getting dry, wet a cotton ball with water and place it at the top of the jar for a few days.
Don't give the ants meat or other cooked food. This will attract other types of pests to your ant farm.
Don't pour water into the jar. It'll get too wet, and the ants could drown.
This is how the formicarium of every beginner should look like. It’s simple, but highly efficient.
3- Don't shake the jar. Ants are fragile creatures, and shaking the jar or otherwise handling it roughly can cause them to die when their tunnels collapse on them. Handle the ant farm carefully.
4- Store the farm in a warm room. Place it in a room that tends to stay at a good steady temperature. Don't place it in direct sunlight, or the glass jar might heat up too much and overheat the ants.
When handling with ants make sure they all come from the colony or they will kill each other.
When you get your ants, to try to get them to be less aggressive while you get your queen, keep them distracted with sugar and water, just make sure not to use too much!
Red ants are usually very aggressive, and black ants are typically more passive
If you go away for a while an ant sitter is a good idea so your ants don't die of dehydration or hunger while you're away.
Ants must be cared for like dogs and cats. Pay attention to them!
Don't drop it in the house!!
A toilet paper cardboard tube makes a great tube; or you can make some out of recycled cards.
If you use the classic round fish bowl, you can use a balloon in place of a cardboard tube. To do this and have a long lasting effect you should fill the balloon with a hardening agent (i.e. plaster, clay, or even cement if you don't mind the weight; really anything that hardens will do). To fill the balloon first set aside a bottle or jug. Then inflate your balloon and (while holding the air inside the balloon) stretch the lip of the balloon over the end of the bottle or jug, this can be tricky and it helps to have a friend assist you. You can then tip the contents (the hardening agent) of the bottle into the balloon leave some air in the balloon, your substance will probably need it to dry. Practice with water before trying your hardening agent.
You can also plant grass seeds at the top for added effect. Keep the grass carefully watered, so as not to drown the ants underneath.
For more info on catching ants, see this article
If you decide to feed your ants dead insects, ensure that they weren't poisoned, as it can hurt, or even kill, your 'colony'.
NEVER mix two ant colonies together, they will fight until death and it is cruel to the ants. So if you're catching them not ordering them, make sure you only catch one hill.
Be careful of ant bites. If you can use gloves, that's great. To treat ant bites, use calamine lotion or a pharmacy approved itching cream. Ask your pharmacist for assistance.
All ants can bite you, but rarely will they, so don't let this put you off, but if you are keeping red ants, they can bite AND have quite a nasty sting, so be very careful. Use gloves.
Avoid any ants that are known to be very aggressive towards humans and have painful or dangerous bites.
Do not cover the ant farm - the ants could suffocate. If you must cover it, use a paper towel secured with a rubber band and poke small holes with an earring or pin. Or a fine wire netting.
Things You'll Need :
Two glass jars of different sizes, with lids
A jar to use for catching ants
Dirt and sand to serve as substrate
Ants or queen ant
Other Wikihow articles and method of statmnts For Ants :
- Ant Keeping Guide for Beginners :
So you’ve decided to keep ants as pets. You’re interested in watching their eusocial behaviour from up close. You want to see a colony grow from scratch into a cosmopolitan society consisting of thousands of individuals. Maybe the fascinating world of ants is completely new for you and your curiousity came out of the blue. But you don’t really know where to start. Don’t worry, because this guide will help you to successfully start an ant colony and introduce you to the world of ant keeping. Keep in mind that keeping ants is very rewarding, but it’s not hard and doesn’t have to be expensive at all. This guide is aimed at species for beginners. Follow the steps in this guide and you will be just fine!
- Preparations before getting your ants :
Of course, my very first recommendation would be that you prepare by expanding your knowledge about ants. I have written an article about basic ant biology to help you out. Keeping ants wouldn’t make any sense if you didn’t know how they reproduce. That’s how a colony starts anyway! Also, if you don’t know what certain words mean, check the section about terminology in the same article.
The next step is to put ready all equipments. Here is a checklist of stuff you will definitely need:
-Test tubes (this is where you will house your starting colony – I know it sounds weird, but trust me)
-Unperfumed talcum powder
-Alcohol (70% will suffice)
Go get this stuff before you even obtain an ant colony (or queen). It shouldn’t cost you more than a few dollars. Don’t go and immediately buy expensive stuff. If you really want to spend a lot of money, you can do it later anyways. Start cheap, so you won’t regret spending all your savings on fancy ant equipment if your colony fails to survive. Read further to understand why you need the random stuff listed above.
Making your first artificial nest :
Before you get ants, you need something to keep them in. This is often called an ‘ant farm’, but we will refer to it as a formicarium (like an aquarium, only for Formicidae, or ants). A formicarium consists of two major parts: a nest and a foraging area. I often see beginners make the same mistake: they want a big, awesome-looking formicarium, with many nest chambers and tubes and a huge foraging area. But there is really no need for all that. You might have noticed that ants are actually tiny creatures. They don’t need a lot of space. At least up to a hundred ants will thrive perfectly in a test tube. So that’s exactly what we are going to do. We are going to house our ants in a test tube. That’s right, the test tube will be their artificial nest.
It might sound boring, but trust me (and trust most other ant keepers), this is without doubt the best way to start an ant colony. It’s cheap, it’s expendable, and it creates perfect conditions for colonies if prepared correctly. They also provide the ant keeper easy and clear visibility of his or her ants. You don’t want to keep your ants in a sand formicarium, or you will never see them back again (they tend to hide). What’s the point of keeping ants if you can’t see them? Furthermore, providing a small colony with a formicarium that’s too large will cause your ants to dump their waste in an empty section of their nest, where you can’t reach to remove it and where the waste will surely mold, ruining your formicarium. Make the nest size right and your ants will keep their nest clean themselves.
When your colony outgrows the test tube, there are several other methods to build a formicarium. I will write about that in the near future (subscribe if you’d like to get a notification). But for now, just stick with the test tube.
So how does one create such a test tube nest? Well, it’s very simple:
-Get your stuff together.
-Fill the test tube with tap water.
-Push a cotton ball halfway through.
-Remove excess water. Done.
Preparing a test tube is easy: (1) You’ll need a test tube, a cotton ball and something like a stick. (2) Fill the test tube with water. (3) Use the stick to push the wet cotton ball halfway through. (4) Remove excess water. Your first ant nest is done!
That’s it. Your artificial nest is now ready to be used. Why it’s made this way? Because ants need water in their nest. Not only can they drink from the water reservoir you just created, but their brood also needs a certain humidity in order to survive. It might take some experimentation to get it right (like everything in ant keeping). If you use too little cotton, the test tube might flood, drowning your ants.
You might want to cover the test tube with aluminium foil to make it dark for the ants (they like that). You can even close the test tube off with another cotton ball. This way, you can carry it around. For example when you catch or buy ants and want to bring them home. Consider it a Poké Ball. You will catch and house all your ant species in your “Poké Ball”. Gotta catch ’em all!
Attaching a foraging area :
The test tube will serve as a artificial nest, but ants need to come out of their nest in order to gather food. In the wild, they have the whole world to forage (search) for food. In captivity, we must provide them with an foraging area or “outworld”. This is the part of the formicarium where you will offer your ants their food and where they will get it to bring it back into their nest. An artificial foraging area is nothing more than a small container where you can stick your hand in to feed the ants and to remove waste. Just place the test tube in a container and you are ready to go. Your beginners’ formicarium is now finished.
Preventing your ants from escaping :
You might have noticed that the container in the picture above is not closed off with a lid. “But aren’t all my ants going to walk out of their formicarium?”, I hear you ask. You would be right if the ant keepers wouldn’t have already thought of that. This is where the talcum powderand the alcohol finally come to use. Mix both to obtain a thin paste and smear it gently across the upper walls of the container (a paint brush works fine). The alcohol quickly evaporates and the talcum powder will remain there to form a barrier to your ants. Most ant species can’t climb up the talcum powder covered walls, because the particles will – along with the ant – fall off when touched. Don’t make the paste too thick, otherwise the talcum powder will be too dense and your ants will still be able to walk across it.
This is how to apply talcum powder: (1) You will need talcum powder, alcohol, and a paintbrush. (2) Mix talcum powder and alcohol. Don’t make it too thick. (3) Apply on walls of foraging area. (4) Wait until dry. Done!
There are other methods to prevent your ants from escaping, like paraffin oil or Fluon, but these are harder to obtain, so I’d recommend experimenting with talcum powder.
I hear you thinking, “why all the trouble, why not just close the container with a lid?”. There are two main reasons why a lid wouldn’t work on the foraging area of a formicarium:
1- The foraging area will also be the place where the ants drop their waste. Prey carcasses, dead ants and everything else will be there, waiting for you until you clean it up. Considering that the humidity in the nest and probably also in the foraging area will be relatively high, closing the foraging area with a lid would obviously cause molding and stench. Keep the lid off, so the foraging area can get some frash air.
2-When your colony grows to serious sizes, ants will be abundant all over the foraging area. Their numbers will be so high, that you wouldn’t be able to lift the lid and feed them without letting dozens of ants escape. The talcum powder prevents them from escaping while you leisurely provide them with food.
Three of my colonies, years ago, in the test tube setup. Old photos, but they show you the idea. On the left: Messor barbarus (up) and Lasius niger with Lasius fuliginosus (down). On the right: Lasius niger, actually my first colony ever.
Getting your queen :
Now that your formicarium is ready, you need a queen (or female). Never get workers without a queen. Get a queen with some workers. Also, don’tbuy a female without workers if you don’t want to lose your money, as there is no garantuee that she’s fertilized and will be able to lay eggs. If you want to start from scratch (and you should, because it’s fun), catch your own female that has no workers yet. If she fails to found a colony, at least the attempt was free. Catch multiple females and one of them will most likely succeed.
But in the end, you need a queen. The queen lays eggs and without her your colony won’t grow and ultimately will die. Read the basic ant biology article to understand why. I have also written an entire article in which you can read how to get and start an ant colony. The article explains and reviews the different methods on obtaining a queen (including buying one).
Wondering which species you should get? I recommend Lasius niger. This species is very resistant to stress. It will most likely survive many mistakes beginners make. In addition, the ants are rather aggressive and the colony grows very fast. And last but not least: they are harmless. They can barely bite you, can’t sting, and are not pest ants. This species is also abundant in most countries of the northern hemisphere. If you live in Europe or in the United States, they shouldn’t be hard to find at all.
Starting your ant colony
Once you got your female, she has to found a colony. I assume that you have caught a fertilized female and that she didn’t create any offspring yet. In my opinion, this is the most interesting way to start a colony. Let’s say you have a Lasius niger female. You should now place the queen-to-be female in her artificial nest (the test tube with water reservoir) and leave her alone. You don’t have to feed her, because she’s loaded with sufficient nutrients to raise the first generation of worker ants. She will most likely lay eggs. It will then take about 45 days until the first workers come out. At this moment, the queen is depleted of nutrients, so that the workers must search for food in the foraging area. It is now the ant keeper’s duty to provide the ants with food.
Feeding your ants :
You must be very proud now of your colony. “It’s time at last! I have raised a colony. But what to feed my ants?” Ants need two main nutrients: sugarand protein (or amino acids). The colony needs protein for the queen to produce eggs and for the larvae to grow, while sugar is needed as a energy source, mainly for the worker ants. You can offer these nutrients in several ways, but remember that ant nutrition must be liquid, because most ants can’t consume solid food (there are exceptions however). Below are two list of possible sources of these nutrients that ants can eat.
Insects (e.g. fruit flies, crickets, cockroaches), other arthropods (e.g. spiders)
Free amino acids, protein whey
Sugar water (sugar solution)
Honey, honey water and maple syrup
Fruit (apples, oranges, grapes)
I would personally not recommend anything that spoils easily, such as eggs, meat or fruit. Honey isn’t recommended either, because it’s too sticky, causing ants to get stuck and die. I never use these sources for my colonies. For beginners I would recommend a combination of sugar water and insects. Regarding insects, fruit flies are great for small colonies.
You might have noticed that honeydew surrogate is in both lists. It is a solution of sugars and amino acids invented by Dutch ant keepers onAntForum.nl, and its composition is designed to imitate honeydew (the sugary liquid excreted by aphids), the natural sugar source of many ant species. You can find the recipe here. I personally prefer and use a combination of sugar water, honeydew surrogate, crickets and cockroaches for my ants.
You have to try for yourself to determine the quantities that have to be given. A starting colony with only one generation of workers will suffice with a tiny drop of sugar water and a fruit fly a day. If you overfeed your ants, they will just leave it there for you to clean up. Slightly overfeeding won’t be a problem if you just make sure you keep the foraging area clean. On the contrary, if you underfeed your ants, the growth rate of your colony will decrease. Once a colony is quite large, you will be surprised of how much ants can eat.
Myrmica rubra drinking sugar water
The ant keeping starts:
Congratulations! You have succesfully raised your first colony. Even the founding of the colony was a great experience. But now you’re an ant keeper, it really starts. You can enjoy seeing your colony grow, interact, and hunt. You will see how the ants communicate with each other and how they work together in perfect harmony. Your efforts will be rewarded by this great play of tiny creatures. And that’s not all. There are many other beautiful species out there. Ant keeping is a hobby that never bores, because life’s simply too short to exploit it.
If you have succesfully raised a colony, please subscribe to ANTfinity to stay updated and for further readings. Share your experiences with us, so we can all learn from each other. Good luck and enjoy your ant colony.