Monday, February 04, 2019

It's an ant infestation!!


we've been pretty into ants these past few weeks. 

It was boy #2 who started it. He found this youtube channel, called AntsCanada, which is run by some completely ant-mad guy who is presumably Canadian but lives in the Philippines. Let me tell you, he's got some serious ant-geeking going on! It's kind of mesmerising to watch. He has huge colonies of different types of ants, in different set-ups, some natural, with plants and even running water, and some more 'artificial' if you like, with a formicarium where you can lift a lid to watch the colony in their nest. He's really rather entertaining to watch because he's good at spinning a yarn - he makes you care for these ants the way he clearly does. He has made me care for a colony of probably well over a million fire ants. Me! Fire ants! (I swell up like a balloon animal when an ordinary red ant bites me). 

And look at this gorgeous set-up!

The kids and I have been watching this channel so much these past few weeks, it's bordering on obsessive. And obviously it was only a matter of time before the boys decided that they clearly needed to keep ants too. 

It's not the first time they've done this. A couple of years ago we had one of those flimsy plastic ant farms that they sell for kids, so we caught a few ants in the garden and they dutifully made some tunnels and lived in there. It seemed kind of wrong, though, because we didn't have a queen, and they seemed sort of ... lacking in purpose. It didn't seem far-fetched to think of them as forlorn and sad, because for an ant the primary purpose is the colony and the queen - remove those two things and there really isn't a lot left for them. We eventually released them back into the garden near their old nest and judging from the way the guy at AntsCanada explains it the chances are pretty good that they made their way home and, due to the pheromones that ants communicate with, were accepted back into the nest.

This time, inspired by the AntsCanada guy, we are doing things differently. First it was boy #2 who decided that with the money he had left over from his birthday he would invest in a proper expandable ant formicarium. Boy #3, always eager not to be left behind, quickly followed suit. So we researched it and ant formicariums were ordered from AntKit UK. Look at them, don't they look great? There are extra exits that can be connected to extensions of the habitat. 

We also ordered two mated Lasius Niger (that's the common black garden ant) queens in their own test tubes. They are basically sandwiched between two cotton wool wads with a water reservoir at the end that will allow them to drink and also to keep their eggs moist.

I was initially a bit iffy about the test tubes - wouldn't that be cruel? But it turns out that actually they like it because it's very close to how a mated queen would sequester herself to start a colony. They make a closed-off dark chamber and they basically stay there until they have enough workers with them to get going on actually making a nest. 
Our two ant queens currently live on my bedside table in a cozy dark cardboard box and I've told the boys they are not allowed to check on them more often than every other day because they don't like to be disturbed too often.

Once they have around 15 workers they can move into their new homes.

Obviously now that the formicariums and ants are here, boy #1 has decided that he wants ants too. Unfortunately he has hardly any birthday money left because he's spent it all on his scooter, so D went into the shed and they  found a clear plastic box that they drilled a few holes into for future expansion. I found an online tutorial of how to make an ant hill out of clay and plaster of Paris so he can observe them in a nest through the clear plastic. 


  1. My goodness Iris, I am impressed by your strength and patience I am not sure that I would want ants living in the house.

  2. should receieve "Mother of the Year" award. I had a hard time having hamsters and Gerbils in my house. Don't think I could have done the ants.

  3. What fun for your boys. I have never seen a Queen Ant so to see yours was a neat experience.