Ant Farm Question: Big Scale Ant Farm


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.


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.)

One Reply to “Ant Farm Question: Big Scale Ant Farm”

  1. Carpenter ants would be the best choice. Also, you cannot create a self-sufficient ant farm without one or more queens. The big problem, ants can’t be shipped like regular “cast” ants (i.e. workers, nursery tenders, etc.). You will need to dig around to find a queen Carpenter ant.

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