Ant Keeping Guide by LC Ants
So, you are new to ant keeping and want to learn how to become a successful ant keeper?
You are in the right place! Our getting started guide is designed to help teach all about ant keeping and how to get started in our wonderful hobby.
Introduction to Ant Keeping
Ant Keeping is a very niche, yet rewarding hobby. You are able to watch a colony of ants grow from a single Queen into their thousands, right in the comfort of your own home! The ants can be kept in an artificial nest, also known as a formicarium which provides them with chambers to live in, mimicking their wild environment. The term myrmecology is used to describe the study of ants. After watching ants forage around for food outside in your garden, you will be wondering how to start your own colony of ants. A Queen ant caught from a nuptial flight is the best way to start your colony, but don’t worry if it isn’t the right season, there are many places where you can purchase a Queen ant of your own online. If you choose to purchase a Queen ant, she will arrive to you in what we refer to as a test tube set-up. This consists of a simple plastic or glass test tube which is 1/3 filled with water and blocked off by cotton and the end of the tube blocked off by cotton. The Queen ant resides in the intermediate space where she can drink water from the cotton without being flooded, and have a safe environment to lay her eggs and care for them.
Life Cycle of Ants
Ants go through a 3 step process from an egg to grow into a fully formed worker. The Queen ant lays eggs which are white/yellow in colour and are shaped like kidneys. They are extremely small and you can often see the Queen cleaning batches of eggs stuck together in a pile. The eggs have a sticky surface which enables them to be carried more easily by the ants. After a few weeks, the eggs will grow into maggot-like larvae. The appearance of the larvae is much different to that of an egg. The larvae have the ability to move their heads in order to eat food, however they still do not resemble a fully formed at. As the larvae grow, they begin to form a ‘hairy’ appearance. This is thought to enable clusters of larvae to be carried by the workers more easily than carrying them individually. The larvae go through several stages of moulting (shedding of skin) as they eat food supplied by the worker ants. At each stage they grow larger until they reach the final moult after a few more weeks. This is where the larvae transform into the pupae stage, which resembles a folded up ant, which is white in colour. Note that not all species will form ‘naked pupae’. Some species of ants form cocoons, in which they grow before eclosing into a worker ant. The common UK Black Garden Ant Lasius niger forms cocoons. The larvae spin themselves a cocoon by anchoring onto a rough surface. The cocoons protect the ant whilst undergoing metamorphosis and are usually light brown in colour with a small black spot on one end which is where any waste is excreted. After a couple more weeks, the cocooned pupae will cut themselves out of the cocoon and emerge as a nanitic worker ant. The worker ant is usually very light in colour and will over the next few hours begin to darken to form the exoskeleton.