Uncle Milton's Ant Farm

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Uncle Milton's Ant Farm was one of Samuel's Christmas presents, but by the time I got around to ordering the ants, it was already late February, and then there was a big delay as the ants cannot be shipped until the weather is warm enough. But this week, the ants arrived in a small vial, and over the weekend, Samuel and I assembled the ant farm. Once all the sand and water was in place, we opened up the vial and watched as the ants entered their new home (or prison, however you want to look at it). I was surprised to find the ants came with instructions to place them in the refrigerator for fifteen minutes to calm them down before adding them to the farm. Now that I think about it, calming them down makes sense. I'd be pretty angry, too, if I'd been taken from my colony and stuffed into a vial with twenty other ants, placed into an envelope, then jostled through the routes of the US Postal Service.

The ants marched into their new home, and did not seem to be phased by their fifteen minute cool-off session in our refrigerator.

And within an hour or so, cooperative efforts were already underway to build their first tunnel. Skip ahead to a few days later, they have a cemetery, food storage rooms, break rooms, and "restrooms." It's fascinating to watch. I only wish we had a queen so the colony could reproduce. It's illegal to sell or send queen ants through the mail, so if we want one, we'll have to find one ourselves. We'd actually have to put together a much larger farm than this if we were to introduce a queen. This farm is good for 20 to 30 ants. For more information, or to order your own ant farm, go to Uncle Milton's website.

Progress ants have made a week later:

We were gone overnight last week, and when I came back, I noticed one of the caps on the side had come loose, and unfortunately, it looks like we lost some ants in the house. We've found some here and there in the living room, and have put them back in the ant farm, but I don't expect our ants will last the expected one to three months now. I also learned it's better to keep the ant farm in a cool, dark place. The sun will heat up the ant farm, creating condensation on the walls. We may have lost a few ants in the beginning due to some morning sun they were getting. All in all, this has been a good experiment. Truthfully, Samuel is only minimally interested, but I've actually enjoyed it quite a bit myself. We're in the process of waiting for caterpillars to arrive, which we'll release once they're butterflies, and I expect Samuel will enjoy this experiment a little more than the ants. There are many other insect kits you can get through Insect Lore. This could get addicting. They have everything from tadpoles to ladybugs--check out their site for more details.


Claudia said...

How very fun!!! I love to watch things like that! Ants are so interesting.
I bet Samuel is getting a lot of enjoyment out of it.

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