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

Reader Question About Harvester Ants Eating Ant Farm Gel

We have a question for the Consult-Ant today:


I wanted to ask you if wild Harvester ants, will learn to eat the gel in a antworks gel farm.

I have an empty one and put about 30 wild, I’m pretty sure they are harvester ants, same size same color, but I am guessing of course. But my main concern is if they will learn to eat the gel or will I have to feed them. Its real nice of you to answer ? from us newbies.
Thank you very much.


Dear Ron,

I am glad to hear about your interest in ants. You are correct to be concerned about whether your harvester ants will eat the gel supplied with your ant farm.

The blue gel used in ant farms was originally put together for a short science experiment designed by students. The students were sending ants up on the Space Shuttle for a few days and they needed something that they could see the ants through and that would stay in place with no gravity. Obviously, sand would not work.  They came up with the blue gel and it worked well for their experiment.

The problem is, it was never meant to be used to keep ants for a long time. Although it will keep the ants alive and they will tunnel in it, it isn’t the best food for them. However, if you put a bunch of food into the gel habitat, there is a good chance you will get mold and bacteria growth, which will harm the ants.

In the video below, you can see how the person places the food on a small bit of aluminum foil. That would be a helpful way to feed your ants in the gel ant farm. Try to keep the food on the foil and replace it once a day.

Also, your harvester ants can eat the same sorts of things as shown in the video. They will accept a bit of dead insect, such as a small cricket and/or a few drops of honey and water mixed together. You can soak the honey and water into a bit of cotton or paper towel so it won’t drip as much.

Here’s an excellent video that shows some basic information about how to feed and keep ants:

I know it isn’t as cool to look at as the gel, but people who are serious about raising ants use a test tube nest (the link shows you how to make one).

This link has a lot information about how to build/make several different kinds of ant farms, in case you want to try another kind.

It’s great that you have decided to find out more about keeping ants. It can be a very interesting hobby. Let me know if you have any other questions.

(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.)

Reader Question: Ants for Ant Farms in Australia

Just had a question come in from a young ant enthusiast (edited):

If you have heard of an Ant-O-Sphere(eight pods) I’m trying to make a colony in there but so far the bulldog ants are too big and the Argentine ants are too small.

I don’t know what other ants I can find in Australia (where I live) Victoria Mornington.

I wonder is there an ant shop in Victoria?

I’m not familar with Australian ants at all, so I’m going to put this out to you the reader. Do you have any helpful suggestions?

It is easy to imagine that neither bull ants nor Argentine ants would be really the best choices for an ant farm. It also seems likely the Argentine ants are probably chasing out the local species of ants (see reference below), like they have done in California.

Does anyone out there have any ideas of suitable Australian ants that might be available and good for use in an ant farm?


Argentine ants give weeds a boost at ABC Science

Ants of Australia

Ant Farm Art

Check this out:

No one besides Uncle Milton makes ant farms?

One piece of oatmeal?

Am I the only one who thinks this is so wrong?