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Ants in the house!

Building an Ant Colony

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Now you can not do this project with leaf cutter ants, but there are about 407 other species of ants around here that you can study. The rainforests rich soil is normally only inches thick and for much of the local area the soil is only clay which plants do not grow well. So when big trees are cut down for their wood and large areas are left barren and either wash away with rain or compact down and can become deserts. Because of the density of clay, worms can not even penetrate the soil to rebuild it after the trees and plants have been cut or cleared. Ants on the other hand have the strength to tunnel or carry weights many times more than their size. Their tunneling mixes the food they carry under ground and turn into nutrients for the soil as well as aerates the soil, in some places replacing the activity of earthworms.

This is an easy project for kids of any age. Watch as the ants build an underground city. This ant farm has no openings, so you don’t have to worry about the ants escaping into your home. You can open the jar outside to feed the ants, and then close it back up and bring it inside to observe.

Materials needed:

2 Jars – One Big, One Smaller
Loose, fine soil like the soil around where you find your ants. Not big chunks.
Ants (preferably large black ants from your yard as smaller species are hard to see.

Directions: Place smaller jar inside of the bigger one like photo on the left. Make sure there is no lid on the smaller jar. Now fill the outside area between both jars, with the sandy-soil. Make sure that the entire area is filled, but don’t pack it tightly or the ants will not be able to dig their way through it.

Now you must find the ants for your ant farm jar. You won't have to look very far around here, but you do need to be careful of fire ants and those that sting. Many times it is better if you build an ant trap. Ants love sugar, so what you should do is put some sugar, mixed with a tiny bit of water, into a jar or can. Put it on its side and keep an eye on it…when you have about 20 ants. Don’t get more than 20 ants…crowding too many ants in the jar will make them less active and less fun to watch. You can close the jar and put them in your ant farm jar.

Once you have the ants in place, put the lid on the container. Make a paper sleeve, covering the container from the bottom to the top of the soil. This darkens the ant farm and recreates an underground environment. Your ants will begin working immediately.

To watch them, remove the paper sleeve. Make notes about the ants progress each day. This shows you how ants carry some of the things we don't eat into the ground and how they aerate soil to make it healthier. This would make a neat science project if you are studying entomology, nature, or ecosystems.


Important : Make sure that these ants are from the same colony or they will land up fighting and killing each other.

Do the feeding of your ants outside to keep them from escaping into your house (or you and I will get in a lot of trouble.)

Once a week (no more than this) ants appreciate a drop of honey, sugar, or bread dipped in sugar water, and tiny bits of fruit or vegetables. Very, very small amounts will do; you don't want the food going mouldy in the bottle. Ants get water mainly from their food; however, every couple of days you can add a cottonball soaked in water to supplement the supply. Be careful not to knock the bottle over or shake it up; this will destroy the new ant farm.


Keep Your Ants Safe

Keep your ant colony at normal room temperature.

Keep them out of the direct glare of sunlight.

Now just watch and observe your ants build their own littler underground city. They can build them most amazing, intricate mazes. I hope you enjoyed this project.

Make sure to close that jar tight. Don’t worry about the ants getting enough air because you will be opening it to put food in there. Believe it or not, that is plenty of air for your ants.