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We have a question for the Consult-Ant today:

Hello

I wanted to ask you if wild Harvester ants, will learn to eat the gel in a antworks gel farm.

I have an empty one and put about 30 wild, I'm pretty sure they are harvester ants, same size same color, but I am guessing of course. But my main concern is if they will learn to eat the gel or will I have to feed them. Its real nice of you to answer ? from us newbies.
Thank you very much.

Ron

Dear Ron,

I am glad to hear about your interest in ants. You are correct to be concerned about whether your harvester ants will eat the gel supplied with your ant farm.

The blue gel used in ant farms was originally put together for a short science experiment designed by students. The students were sending ants up on the Space Shuttle for a few days and they needed something that they could see the ants through and that would stay in place with no gravity. Obviously, sand would not work.  They came up with the blue gel and it worked well for their experiment.

The problem is, it was never meant to be used to keep ants for a long time. Although it will keep the ants alive and they will tunnel in it, it isn't the best food for them. However, if you put a bunch of food into the gel habitat, there is a good chance you will get mold and bacteria growth, which will harm the ants.

In the video below, you can see how the person places the food on a small bit of aluminum foil. That would be a helpful way to feed your ants in the gel ant farm. Try to keep the food on the foil and replace it once a day.

Also, your harvester ants can eat the same sorts of things as shown in the video. They will accept a bit of dead insect, such as a small cricket and/or a few drops of honey and water mixed together. You can soak the honey and water into a bit of cotton or paper towel so it won't drip as much.

Here's an excellent video that shows some basic information about how to feed and keep ants:

I know it isn't as cool to look at as the gel, but people who are serious about raising ants use a test tube nest (the link shows you how to make one).

This link has a lot information about how to build/make several different kinds of ant farms, in case you want to try another kind.

It's great that you have decided to find out more about keeping ants. It can be a very interesting hobby. Let me know if you have any other questions.

(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.)

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Just had a question come in from a young ant enthusiast (edited):

If you have heard of an Ant-O-Sphere(eight pods) I’m trying to make a colony in there but so far the bulldog ants are too big and the Argentine ants are too small.

I don’t know what other ants I can find in Australia (where I live) Victoria Mornington.

I wonder is there an ant shop in Victoria?

I'm not familar with Australian ants at all, so I'm going to put this out to you the reader. Do you have any helpful suggestions?

It is easy to imagine that neither bull ants nor Argentine ants would be really the best choices for an ant farm. It also seems likely the Argentine ants are probably chasing out the local species of ants (see reference below), like they have done in California.

Does anyone out there have any ideas of suitable Australian ants that might be available and good for use in an ant farm?

References:

Argentine ants give weeds a boost at ABC Science

Ants of Australia

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Question:

I'm extremely interested in developing and maintaining a massive ant colony. I have been fascinated by insects since i was a child, and i now have the time to put forth some effort. So what kind of ants are good for ant farms, and by ant farm i mean i am converting my 40 gl breeder tank into a giant ant farm. So i got plenty of room because i want a self sufficient colony, so which types are the best for homes.

I am most interested in leaf cutter ants, or some exotic species, but i highly doubt they are available for homes.

-Adam

That sounds like a fascinating project.

The first thing to consider is what are the laws/regulations where you live. The rules about capturing and buying and selling ants/queens/colonies varies considerably from country to country and even state to state. There are other concerns about collecting wild animals, too. Where do you find out regulations? Your local department of agriculture, and/or game and fish departments will have information of local wildlife and transportation regulations. (Did you know it is illegal to possess a wild bird feather in Arizona?) Without knowing where you are located, I hesitate to give you any specific advice as to what you can and can not do.

The Ant Farm and Myrmecology Forum has a great deal of general information about obtaining ant queens. You might want to start with this thread, which talks about different policies in Europe and North America. You can find a wealth of information at the forum, and if you join, ask questions too.

The Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute has information about raising insects in captivity, including ants. At the home page, click in the left sidebar on Education Center. When the Education Center page comes up, click on the Arthropod tab at the top. Scroll down the arthropods page until you find "Casa Hormiga." Click on "Casa Hormiga" and a page of posts about various ants comes up. There are papers about several different ants in captivity, including leafcutters.

You also might take a look at the Antscanada website. He has many species in culture and offers advice.

I can fully understand your interest in Atta leafcutter ants, they are so amazing. If you are looking for  a self-sufficient system, however, then I would probably shy away from them. Atta need constant supervision and attention. Keeping leafcutters is rather like adopting a herd of cows that bite and are constantly looking for ways to escape. 🙂 You know about fluon, right?

Two popular kinds:

The ants that are sent through the mail for commercial ant farms are usually harvester ants. They are big and tunnel in sand or soil readily. The down side is that they do have stingers.

Camponotus carpenter ants are popular because of their large size. They are relatively docile and are abundant in many areas, so finding a queen is not too difficult. They do not have stingers.

With careful research and a bit of good luck, I suspect you are going to be able to achieve your dream and find an ant species that will fit your requirements. If you want to give me a general idea of where you live, I might be able to be more specific.

(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.)