Buying Ants for Ant Farms: A Basic Guideline
You may frequently stumble upon the little insects known as ants in your lifetime. They may mind their own business up against your wall, stroll casually outdoors, or even steal your favorite food along the way!
It may seem troublesome, especially when they bite you unexpectedly. Do not worry! They are not harmful creatures, but they are known for their defense mechanism in order to survive a little longer.
What many of us do not know is that they are smart creatures. In fact, each and every one of them belongs in a colony. Find out their survival needs and daily lives as you build your own ant farm! It is fun, intriguing, and stimulating in the works of the mind.
Top 3 Best Ants for a Newbie Owner
Keep in mind that ants are living animals which require maintenance and care despite giving entertainment. Of course, as a starter, you need to be familiarized with the different types of ants, especially those that are easy to work with.
All of the 12,000 species have unique and unfathomable characteristics, and to have a bearable type which suits your pace, here are some you may consider.
1. Camponotus or “Carpenter Ant”
It is known to be one of the most common species that is kept within the beginner population in terms of ant farming. Its location typically lies beneath the moist stumps or logs within the area, which makes it hard to find than the usual. They also have a large frame despite being harmless and cannot bite humans.
You may ask yourself, “what makes them different that they are easy to maintain?” In this case, they grow slowly, which abides the ability to sustain them. IIt would take at least a year for them to be moved in a formicarium.
The queens are monogamous, so it is best to have only one. With this said, it does not speed the replication and growth process. In fact, they take breaks within the process of laying batches of eggs.
In short, the time delays depending on the length of break which may take up to a month, and during winter when they hibernate.
It is not suitable for those who want instant growth in their farm, but instead, it is preferable for those who like to take their time and be patient in terms of maintenance. In addition, some also prefer their large frame since they are easy to track from outside the ant farm enclosure.
Accordingly, the ant workers come in different body frame size depending on how they grow. The minor part of the community has the duty to take care of the brood and queen, while the major part of the community is in charge of the food sector unto they cut it and store in their nests.
If you want polymorphic ants which organizes their nest into different castes, this type is for you!
2. Myrmica Rubra or “Red Ant”
This type can be found in coastal areas where the large region of water is present because they live in a damp environment. As seconded by typical red ants that are introduced within our lifetime, they may bite and hurt you unexpectedly, so take precaution.
There are also those that do not sting ever so often, which gives you a variety of choices.
If you prefer to have more than one queen in your ant farm, this is the type for you! Nevertheless, it is not recommended for those who have ant allergies since it may be severe the effect within the contact of a sting.
Moreover, the queens lay eggs fast, but the amount is lesser than most types though this can be aided by attaining more queens since they are polygynous.
Similarly, they are known to be adaptable within their environment. This is a form of advantage since you can make their nests in any material available. In addition, you need to feed the queen for it to start breeding, which gives you control!
3. Lasius Niger or “Black Ant”
These ants are easy to find since they are mostly situated in stones, dirt, or pavement. With its color coordination, we are taught that these kinds do not sting, and that is true! That is for humans, though.
You should not be deceived with its fighting mechanism since they can take down some insect with the help of their mates.
Consequently, if you are planning for an ant farm that can last longer than expected, consider this type! Their queen can live up to 15 years on average, and can also reproduce fast. Even with this, do not be alarmed! The ants will surely not reach up to 10,000 in population.
Like the Camponotus, do not store the queen in the same ant farm. That may be the cause of many deaths in the colony. They do not also need food to reproduce, which makes your maintenance a step easier. All she will need is water, and that would do the trick.
The ants are also not picky with foods in general. They can eat any food you give them, it could be fruits. Moreover, they hibernate during winter. If you find them a lot of work even if they are not, you can always safely release it into the environment since we mostly see it in our surrounding anyway.
The lifetime of your ants depends on certain factors such as the condition of the farm, age, source, and type. Typically, for worker ants, they can live for one to six months since they cannot reproduce. Although the overall makeup depends on the queen, it will be solely up to her extent the growth of the population.
Do not worry about how to reach and clean up the dead ones since most of the time the live ants move them to the top of the farm.
Keep in mind that the farms can be used more than once, mostly twice before the whole thing is rendered useless which would bring you to start from scratch. For those who use sand material, the sand can easily be replaced.
However, for gel kit farms, there is no replacement gel as of this moment. This means that it cannot be used for more than two batches of colony.
Food for Ants
Their diet depends on the material of the ant farm. For gel kits, all you need to do is to keep the farm sealed at all times. This prevents the gel from drying out and keeps it away from pathogens. The gel-like form already contains the water and nutrients that the ants need, so they would not necessarily need any other food form.
Nevertheless, you would need a hands on maintenance for sand kits. Specifically, you would need to apply bits of food and drops of water whenever needed. If you are feeling enthusiastic, you can give them a sugar that is dissolved in water. This is mainly what you call a “treat” for them.
Even with this, never forget that they would need clean water every once in a while depending on demand. Also observe if you are giving too many as it is not advisable to do so. Excess food may result in molds, while excess water may result in the drowning of the colony.
A Step-By-Step Process: How to Catch Ants?
You can either buy ants or catch them by yourself, depending on your liking. If you prefer a straight-up species for your colony, many settles with buying. However, many likes to catch their ants by themselves so that they do not need to spend a few dollars to find something to work with.
It also gives you a hands-on job, which will make you feel more connected and entitled to the ant farm that you have envisioned. To know how, here is the step-by-step process of catching ants:
1. Get the Materials in Order to Get You Started
All you need is a hand shovel and a container. That’s about it. The container can be a glass jar or typical plastic storage which will be used to trap the ants in.Tthe shovel will be used for scooping up the prospect ants also.
2. Find an Existing Ant Colony within Your Area
Of course, if you are attempting to catch ants, you would need to find one! You can search your yard, a wooded area, surrounding the lakes, soil, rocks, or any location that may come to mind.
If you cannot find any, maybe it is not the best time to catch them. It is typically preferable in spring and summer period. These are the times when they are mostly active.
3. Collect the Ants and Observe Caution
In order to collect ants, simply dig for about 15 cm from the entrance of their habitat. After that, store them and make sure that the container is tightly sealed to prevent them from escaping. Once you are done, restore it unto the way it used to be, to allow the remaining ants to have their home still.
In addition, avoid any skin contact. Some are known as a stinger, and letting them sting you is not always the best choice.
4. Catch a Queen Ant in a Summer Weather
Not only you can catch a worker ant, it is also possible for you to obtain a queen ant! In order to do this, wait for rain in the midst of summer. It may seem less occurring, but this gives you your best chance.
It triggers their mating, which causes them to leave the colony within this period. It is best to observe within a few days after the rain beneath the surface of their colony. For some regions, it can be after a winter rain or somewhere in late springtime.
5. Catching the Queen
If you are lucky enough, you can spot the queen at the entrance which gives you a direct point to dig. If not, you would need to dig further. They are typically about 30.5 cm deep, but be careful not to injure the ants, especially the queen.
Accordingly, catch the eggs that is already produced as it would most likely hatch in the farm. You can only use a test tube within this process since the queen will only be your primary target.
The Ant Queen Appearance
If you are attempting to obtain a queen ant in your farm, it is crucial to know how it looks like. To know more, here are the following characteristics that differ from other ant workers.
Their Size is Big!
It can be noticeable or not depending on the type of species. For leaf cutter ants, the size tends to be larger than the rest of them. Meanwhile, for species such as fire ants, it may be challenging to differentiate the size since they are only slightly bigger.
It has Wings!
The queen is typically born with wings. This is because they need to travel to find and build a colony that is suitable for the reproduction process. Even with this, do not be fooled! Some males also have wings. They are not that much noticeable compared to a queen though.
If It does not have Any Wings, Look for a Sign Where It Was Once Located
The ant queens tend to shed their wings at a certain point in time. If you observe their built and notice that the central portion has bumps on either side where the wings once stood, there is a high chance that it is the queen!
Know the Location Where It is Most Likely Found
The ant queen tends to be at the center of the anthill, or on moist areas. With this said, summer rain is a perfect time to catch them when they go out of their hill. In addition, if you have found an ant in a damp area of wood or your home, it can be the ant queen.
Observe the Thorax
The thorax part of the ant is the one that is between the neck and its abdomen. For ant queens, they tend to be more muscular since they used to carry a pair of wings. In fact, it can take up more than what appears to be half of the total body size.
Why Can’t I Buy Queen Ant in Certain States
When attempting to buy ants at your local pet store or online, you may find out that some areas do not allow the purchase of queen ants. This may lead you to wonder “Why is it the case?” “Are they harmful in my area?”
In order to have peace of mind, you should know that the answer does not depend on it being dangerous, but the habitat itself.
Specifically, it is not allowed since the unexpected escape may lead to a striving ecosystem to be damaged. That may give rise to unwanted effects, or worse, the extinction of a certain species. USA is the most common state that does not allow its probability, but Europe on the other hand, still allows it as of today’s time.
Basic Sustenance of an Ant Farm
As a basic startup, you need to know how to maintain them typically. This gives you an idea unto how an ant farm works and what you would need to do to ensure the well-being of your ants. In order to have an insight, the movements are as follows:
Fun Fact About Ants
Those who are not into entomology tend to hate ants as they can be pests that take away your food, chew on your clothes, or sting you unexpectedly. Despite the saying, the possibility does not erase the fact that they can be fascinating at times.
Especially with their abilities that you have not known before! In order to know this, here are some trivia that you may not know about.
They Do Not Have Lungs!
Since their body frame is small, they tend not to have any complex organs, and in this case, no lungs! Instead, they breathe oxygen using the holes known as spiracles in the body located on each side.
It is connected to a series of tubes that distribute it throughout their body. The carbon dioxide is also secreted using the tubes.
They Do Not Have Ears!
The ants do not have ears, but they can still hear. It may seem like sorcery, but it is possible. They hear using vibration waves used for food or alarm signaling. Furthermore, they pick up vibration from the ground using a subgenual organ at their knees.
They Have Two Stomachs!
They have two stomachs not to consume food however they like, but in fact, in order to share! One of their stomach is for their own well-being, while the other is for the masses as it is only used to store foods, then later be shared.
Their Existence is as Old as Dinosaurs!
As much as we are intrigued by the appearance of a live dinosaur, we did not live long enough to witness it. Instead, the little creatures that we see everywhere we go have already seen them.
It dates back to the Cretaceous period unto when the ants first declared its civilization. In line with this, they are survivors which have strived despite the extinction that killed the dinosaurs.
They Have a Strong Physical Built in Terms of Strength!
The creatures, tiny as they may be, can associate their incredible strength to superheroes! Specifically, they can carry up to fifty times of their weight on average. Although it still depends on their type of species, some can even carry up to 100 times!
They are strong because of their size, believe it or not. Due to this, they have greater proportion of cross-sectional area, which makes them excrete more force whenever needed. Now, you do not need to be curious when you see them carrying food that looks like more than triple their size!
Some of them Can Swim!
Now, I am not talking about the crucial acrobatic stunts in the water, but they can sure float whenever they want to. Keep in mind that not all ants can swim, but when they do, its either they float, or they paddle.
With this said, they can hold their own most of the time. They can hold their breath underwater whenever needed, or build a boat-like structure in times of flood. Not only are they smart but they are also practical!
Conclusion: Turn Your Tiny Insect Imagination into Big Possibilities
If you obtained a fascination and is curious about the works of ant life, this hobby is for you! At first, it may seem scary, especially as you are starting in the process.
Since they are living creatures, it may seem hard to sustain them, but fear not! It is actually quite easy. All you need is an ant farm, ants to sustain, and information for maintenance; then you are good to go!
Have you decided about the type of ant that you need? Buy or catch it now!