I have an ant question! We just got an ant farm and I think they are soldier ants and they just sit on the surface of the sand all day. What should I feed them and water them? Will they ever tunnel?
If you got a standard commercial ant farm, the ants you have are worker ants. This just means that you don't have a queen ant. Soldiers are extra big workers, which often perform special tasks.
Usually the type of ants sold with commercial ant farms are harvester ants, because their large size and tendency to tunnel makes them fun to watch. They are also relatively easy to collect.
Have you ever made a sand castle? If so, you have probably found out that if the sand is too dry it simply falls down when you try to build with it. If the sand is too wet, it is like mud and you can't shape it properly. The sand has to have the right amount of water in it to build a good castle.
Ants have the same requirements. They prefer their sand to be a bit moist. If your sand is too dry or too wet, however, they won't be able to tunnel in it.
Try adding some water to the farm with an eye dropper. Add a small amount at a time to dampen the sand a bit. Be careful, because too much water and food can make it moldy.
Another reason that ants won't move around much is if they are too cold. Do you have your ant farm indoors? Is it warm enough for you to visit them without a sweater? If not, you might try moving them to somewhere a bit warmer.
As for food, adult worker ants mostly drink liquids. Mix a bit of honey or sugar with about the same amount of water in a small container. Soak the sweet-water mixture into a bit of paper towel rolled up into a ball or a piece of cotton ball. Make sure it is small enough so it will fit into the opening of the ant farm. Place it on the surface of the sand near the ants. Be sure to change the food often, as it might get moldy and/or dry out.
(Note: As I mentioned previously, I have been the “Consult-Ant” on the Leaping from the Box website. I answer questions about ants and ant farms. From now on I will post the answers here, and when Karen has time she will also post the answers on her site.)