Feeling adventurous? Why not build your own ant farm?
Just brought yourself an ant farm and what a guide on how to get it going? Click
Here’s another small guide on how to create a foraging arena for your ant farm which
was created by one of the Forum’s bin lids (kids).
Build You Own Ant Farm
Ant Farms are fairly easy enough to build yourself; you just need two sheets of glass,
of whatever size you wish, and some wood. You will need to construct a fairly wide
base so as to prevent the ant farm from toppling over, especially if you are attempting
to build a large one. It is probably best to carve two deep grooves in the wooden
base which are just wide enough to slot the two panes of glass into. The wooden sides
need only be a little wide enough so the grooves can be carved into them so as to
slide onto the side of the glass. You could use glue as well to give it extra strength,
but I doubt that glue on it's own (without the grooves) would be strong enough to
hold the glass, but you could experiment a little here. The lid should fit snuggly
onto the top of the ant farm so as to prevent the escape of ants. You don't even
need a lid if you are a little adventurous, you could simply line the top edges of
the glass with Vaseline, which should prevent the ants from crossing (though it needs
frequent replacing, and the clever ants will drop stuff into it in order to safely
cross it). If you place a lid on the ant farm you shouldn't even need to worry about
air holes, as you can always take the lid off for a few moments every few days.
Glass fish tanks are a lot easier as there is no real building effort involved -
just simply use an empty fish tank and fill it ¾ with a nesting material. You can
also place in some twigs or stones onto the surface of the sand/soil, just to give
your ants something to explore, and it provides useful landmarks for your ants to
navigate with (just try not to move them once the ants have moved in).
The next thing is what do you use for the ants to tunnel in. I use either compost
peat or sand, depending on the colour of the ants; I use sand for dark coloured ants,
and compost peat for light coloured ants - it's just easier to see the ants that
way. Once you have placed the soil/sand into the ant farm/tank you will need to
dampen it or any tunnels that the ants try to build will just collapse; so just progressively
pour in a little water and allow it to soak through. It is best to cover the sides
of your ant farm once it is complete, as ants hate light getting into their nests.
Where To Get Your Ants
There are various ways that you can obtain ants; you can simply capture some workers
from a large nest and place them into the ant farm/tank and they will soon settle
in. However, a colony without a queen will not last long and will eventually die
out leaving the ant farm empty. If you wish to have a queen in the colony then you
can do either of the following:
Wait until the mating flights. These take place between late spring and late summer
depending on the species of ant involved, though for most ants it is late summer.
I am sure you have all seen the flying ants that emerge from ant nests by the thousands
every year, much to the annoyance of many of the unenlightened. These are the mating
flights. If you look closely at the flying ants as they scurry around outside the
nest you will notice that they come in two sizes; larger than the normal worker ants,
and smaller. The large flying ants are the ones you will be interested in, these
are the new queens. However, do not take them yet as you will not get them to make
a new colony. You have to allow nature to take its course and allow the ants to fly
away to mate. The time to get your queen ant is after they have mated. How do you
know when they have mated? As the ants start to fly have a walk around and keep
your eyes on the ground; it's probably best to wait for 30 minutes to an hour after
you first notice the ants starting to fly. As you scan the ground you should notice
larger than normal wingless ants running around on the ground. These are the newly
mated queens who have shed their wings and are looking for a suitable nesting site.
Grab one and place her in your ant farm, replace the lid, cover the sides of the
ant farm up, and wait. Alternatively, there are various places that you can purchase
queen ants from; most notably is the German company called "Ant Store", a company
that I have used before, and highly recommend (they also sell ant farms.) Based
in Germany they stock many species of ants from around the world. A links to this
company can be found on the “Contact” page.