Question for the Consult-Ant about Ant farms

There’s a question for the Consult-Ant this week. (The “Consult-Ant” started on the Leaping from the Box website, where I answered 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.)


1. How many ants would be comfortable and happy in an ant farm with sand? 

The answer depends on what kind of ant and how big the ant farm is. One of the small commercial ant farms will hold a dozen or so big ants like harvester ants to roughly 50 tiny ants of the smallest species.

Note about sand: Some commercial ant farms come with sand because it is easier to fill the farm. However, sand has two distinct disadvantages. First of all, it dries out very quickly. Because ants need at least a little moisture to survive, it will need to be watered regularly. Another problem is that it is easy to over water. And finally, tunnels in sand, particularly dry sand, collapse easily, trapping the ants.

In the past people used plaster for ant nests, but it grows mold quickly. Nowadays it is more common to see grout or clay to form chambers for the ants to live in.

2. Also can a queen be put in a farm like this to make the experience last longer then a few weeks to a couple of months?

As for your second question, treated properly, queen ants should live for a number of years, perhaps even decade or more. However, it is important to provide the best care for the specific kind you have.

If you are interested in raising ants, I strongly suggest you explore on of ant-keeping forums, such as or the other forums listed here.

Happy anting!

A system for raising small ants

Clonal Raider Ants Ooceraea biroi

Clonal Raider Ants, Ooceraea biroi (formerly Cerapachys biroi), are tiny, cryptic ants with a number of features that make them stand out in the ant world.

April Nobile / © AntWeb.orgCC-BY-SA-3.0 from Wikimedia.

First of all, they don’t have a separate queen and instead the workers can reproduce asexually, laying eggs that become more workers (hence the name “clonal.”)

Like other army ants, they have a distinct foraging phase (nomadic) and a reproductive phase (statary). They also lack eyes.

The raider part of their names comes from the fact they enter nests of other ant species and steal brood as their primary source of food.

Dr. Daniel Kronauer at the Rockefeller University sees the potential usefulness of this species. He is exploiting genetics and neurobiology to tease apart ant social behavior. You can see more about his work in the video.


(This video is a share and is larger at Scientific American.)

Sounds like a fascinating system to study.