How to Start an Ant Farm? Explained in Plain!
Although we can buy almost everything these days, building something is still fascinating to some people. An ant farm is one of those things that you always crave to see the beauty of the nature and feel that you created something.
To start an ant farm, we will first need a queen; otherwise, we won’t have enough ants to start a colony. In case you’re looking for a short term project, you might opt for worker ants only.
Queen ants will provide a better layout to your ant farm, and you will get a farm within no time. However,, are you in for a fantastic ride of starting your own ant farm? Hold your breath because here we go.
The First Step
Before starting any project, it is necessary to point out the things you will be doing and the requirements needed to do them properly. Likewise, whether you are building an ant farm for your kid or students or for yourself, you must figure out how much longer it will be useful for you.
If you’re willing to spend a lot of time on your farm and willing to invest in a project which will provide you with a lot of ants starting from a few, you will definitely need a queen ant and a plan to complete a one-year project.
Instead, if you think your project should be done quickly, you must look for a wild colony with a few workers so that upon completion of the project, you will be able to leave them in the wilderness.
Capturing Queen Ant
Now, let’s talk long term. In case you are willing to spend your time in starting an ant colony, then the main job will be to capture the queen ant first. Here, you can follow a trick. Usually, queen ants mate with the male ones during the mating season.
Mostly, a lot of queen ants make babies with them while the male ones die after serving their purpose, but most of the newly pregnant ants aren’t welcomed at a new colony. Hence, this is your chance to get your hands on an ant which is looking for a colony.
Getting an ant which is already out there waiting to start a farm is easier than getting an ant from a wild colony.
Thus, you will have to target the period named Nupital Fights to get your hands on a queen ant. You can distinguish a queen ant from a barren ant by noticing the wings on the queen ants which are called alates. Look for ants with wings which you can see if they are flying or mating during nuptial fights.
During this period only, you will be able to capture these ants because, upon the completion of their purpose they will go back to the underground. In case an ant has already started looking for a nest to start a family, you will be able to notice them due to their larger size.
If you don’t have the time to go out and look for queen ants, you can always look for an adopted ant colony.
Procedures to Follow
Now that you’ve captured your queen ant, you’re ready for this ride of starting a colony as you like. What you can do at the very first step is to ensure that you put your queen ant in a test-tube and start the procedures of the test-tube nesting method.
This procedure will eventually be followed by raising your queen ant and the workers of your ant and eventually to a formicarium.
Usually, ants dig a hole and lay their eggs in that hole until they hatch. As we will be starting our own ant farm, we will use a test-tube for nesting instead.
The materials we will need to complete this procedure are test-tube, Q-tip, cotton balls, and dirt. Before the real action begins, it is recommended that you rinse your hands and the test-tube with fresh water so that the ants don’t get sick.
In the beginning, you will need to fill the test-tube with water and fill it to a point where three-quarters of the test-tube is covered with water. Then you will need to put a cotton ball inside the test-tube until it blocks down the water reservoir. A Q-tip can also be used to absorb the excess water.
It will ensure that the queen ant is getting enough water from this reservoir and also the cotton ball system will allow queen ants to keep themselves humid and feel the moisture. Make sure your cotton ball can be put into the test-tube without force. If it’s too big, cut it down to small pieces. Soil can be added.
This will make the environment comfortable for the queen ant to be in and will feel like a nest which she basically would have used if not brought into an artificial one.
Raising the Queen Ant
Here is the most important step of starting an ant farm by ensuring that your queen ant gets enough privacy to lay eggs. Ideally, after ensuring a nesting solution for the ant, she should start laying eggs within a week. What you must do is to put a cover on the test-tube or better put the test-tube in a closed bookshelf or closet.
You must not hamper the privacy of the queen ant and must check on only once or twice a week at most. Your queen ant won’t need food until after this stage. However, if you have a semi-claustral ant, it will need food before this process.
Semi-claustral ants can be identified through the small thoraxes due to their inability to contain the fat reservoir. These ants will require sugary and protein type foods.
If you ensure that the temperature is moderate enough and consistent when the test-tube is not put into an AC room and kept in a warm room instead, you should see eggs within no time.
However, what you must avoid is putting different queen ants in the same test-tube as it might result in a conflict among the queen ants.
Raising the Worker Ants
If you’ve followed us this far, you now have a lot of mouths to feed after your queen ant has just given birth to a lot of worker ants. Now, these mouths will be hungry and will require constant care on your part. Thus, buckle up and get ready for some parenting skills.
Before going to put food into the test-tube, you must also think about what will happen if the food is left uneaten. Therefore, to maintain cleanliness, you can manage tinfoil first and put the food there, so it gets convenient for you to clean up later.
Sugary foods are the first ones you can give to your ants. A drop of honey will work wonderfully in this case. It will also get them energized. Then you will need to provide protein to your ants, and for that, you will need to get spiders, crickets, etc. You may pre-kill them before feeding and boil them to get rid of the germs.
After feeding the ants, you will need constant care and attention for these wonderful creatures. After a while, you will notice that they have grown enough and are now 20-50 in number. Then you will need to connect them to nature.
You might attach vinyl tubing to your test-tube and the outer world. You can make drills on your own to create your specific outer world or instead, you can purchase a formicarium rather than putting drills on it.
Once the workers are grown, you will need to ensure enough preventive measures are taken so that these creatures can’t run away. In that regard, you might use fluon and apply a thin layer of it around the edges of the formicarium. It will make the formicarium slippery and will demotivate the ants from leaving.
You should also use vinegar mixture around the table the ants are in because it will work as an ant repellant and will also protect your ant farm from being attacked by any wild creatures.
Ensuring Consistent Growth in the Formicarium
Now you’re a proud owner of an ant farm, and you’ve already started your own ant colony. However, just like any good project, this one also requires you to be careful and consistent in the work you do.
After getting your ants in a good position to eat, live, and survive, you will need to ensure they are growing consistently.
First, you will need to elevate your formicarium and put it above the floor so that more airflow can reach it. If you can keep it near a window, it will be even better for them as they will get the natural air. In the winter, you will also need to hibernate your ants.
Ants will not be able to tell you if they feel hot or cold. What you can do in this instance is to install a reptile heater which you can get from a pet store and tape it into the side of your nesting farm. This way, the ants will judge the temperature they want to be in for themselves.
Usually, it is noticed that the ant farm which has the temperature set according to the requirement of the ants, performs better than the one which isn’t thermos-regulated. At the same time, after installing the heater, you will need to keep a regular check on your water reservoir as it will dry up sooner this time.
Last but not least, probably the most important point is to keep clean your formicarium. Attach your old nest to a new-nest with vinyl-tubing. You will have to put a towel over the new formicarium. It will create a dark layer which will entice the ants to move to their new home.
Thus, you can bring out the old formicarium and clean it with cotton balls and vinegar. Then wash it properly so that cleanliness is maintained. Similarly, you may rinse the vinegar with fresh water and put your ants back in the old one if you prefer.
Starting an ant farm isn’t the easiest job in the world, but it isn’t a difficult job either. You might not succeed with your ant farm at the first try, but you will have to be persistent just like the creatures you’re working with.