What Are The Easiest Ants For Beginners?
Lasius niger and Lasius flavus are the easiest species to start with. If you’re looking for something a little more unusual you can also try Messor Harvester ants
What Are The Best Starter Sets for Beginners?
Hex-A-Nest and Ant Cube Combi are our entry level beginner sets which are affordable and easy to setup, but all the sets we offer are suitable for beginers to use. The set you choose will also depend ofn the ants you wish to keep
What Are The Best Starter Sets Which Include Everything I Need?
If you’re looking for a set for a beginner that includes everything then we recommend our ant bundles.
These include a full starter set, food and a choice of ants. The best ant species to pick for anyone starting out is Lasius niger, the black garden ant.
What Else Might I Need To Buy?
Some sets already include food, but you might wish to buy additional food, feeders, tweezers, escape proofing or books.
Ant Keeping Basics
Ant Care in 3 Easy Steps
The three most important factors to consider when keeping ants are Environment, Food and Water. We will focus on our most commonly available ants which are the Black Garden Ant (Lasius niger), the Yellow Meadow Ant (Lasius flavus) and the Red Ant (Myrmica rubra). All of these ants are found in the UK from Scotland right down to the South Coasts of England.
The Environment in which you keep your ants is very important to their survival. It is worth remembering that many of the ants we offer normally live wild in the UK. This means they can survive in conditions from below zero up to 30 degrees. When keeping ants you should try and replicate the natural conditions they live in. This means providing them with suitable amounts of food and water as well as ensuring the conditions are similar to outdoors.
When it comes to food ants need protein and sugars. In the wild ants get their protein from eating other insects but in captivity live insects are difficult to find so it is possible to use protein jelly mixtures and tinned insects. Protein is important if you want your colony to grow as the protein is used by the queen to produce eggs and to feed and rear the ant larvae up to adult ants. The sugars in the wild come from aphids and tree sap. Our sugar honey solutions are blended specifically for ants and are a perfect source of the sugars they need. Sugars are the main food eaten by ants for energy.
Some ant species have specific foods needs such as Harvester ants which collect seeds for food.
Ants need water just like all other living creatures. They primarily get their water from the soil in which they live, so it is crucial that the soil remains moist. The easiest way to identify if your ant nest is damp enough is to add a few small droplets of water to the surface of the nest with a pipette. If the soil becomes darker then the nest is too dry and if there is no change then the water content is just right.
So how do you add water to the nest without damaging the nest or drowning the ants? The key is to add water to an area of the habitat where there are no or few chambers below. Water should be added very slowly and gradually using a pipette. Add a few drops, let it soak in, then add a few more. It can take some time for the water to distribute throughout the entire habitat so after a short period of adding water it is best to leave the nest overnight before adding more. Misting the nest surface with a spray bottle or atomiser regularly also helps to keep the nest damp.
Water gel crystals are a very good way of providing additional water for your ants. You can provide these in a small feeding dish on the surface or mix them into the soil when setting up a new habitat to help with moisture retention.
Ant Care Sheet
Feeding your ants
Ants feed on a wide variety of foods. Sugar and nectars are required by the adult ants and protein is needed for the ant larvae to develop. A varied diet should be provided and old food should be removed before mould develops.
Sugar, Honey, Jam, Nectar, Protein Jelly, Worms, Shrimp, Flies, Caterpillars, Crickets, Snails, Meal Worms
Housing your ants
Native ants such as Black, Red and Meadow species do no need heated habitats and can be kept at room temperature. Habitats are usually made of plastic or glass and should be 2/3rds filled with a sand loam mixture. The sand should be regularly dampened to ensure the nest structure holds together. Nest tanks of 10cm x 20cm can house a colony for 2-3 years, additional tanks can be connected as the colony grows.
Hints and Tips
Keep your ants out of direct sunlight to avoid over-heating
Feed your ants every 2-3 days
Do Not mix ants from different colonies as the ants will fight
Do not tap the ant habitat as you could cause the nest to collapse
Be patient, colonies take time to grow and establish themselves
If the temperature becomes low during Autumn ant may enter hibernation until the spring.
Gel habitats are not suitable for UK and species
Do further reading and research on ants. This is only a guide to the basics.
Why not check out our ant care page here
Copyright Edu-Sci Ltd 2015 – Reproduction of any of this material is not permitted under any circumstances without written approval.
The First Year of an Ant Colony
Almost all ant colonies begin in summer when the annual mating flights take place. Winged queens fly, mate,
remove their wings, and search for a place to make their nest.
The lone queen digs or find a small hole to start her nest. For safety she seals herself in the small tunnel
(similar in size to a test tube) and lays her first batch of eggs where she cares for them. The eggs develop to
larvae, then pupae and eventually into adult worker ants.
The time taken for an egg to become and adult ant is 5 – 7 weeks, depending on temperature and time of year.
- Egg to larvae – 10 – 12 days
- Larvae to pupa – 10 – 15 days
- Pupae to adult ant – 10 – 25 days
These first workers are always much smaller, usually 1/3 or ¼ normal size. As the colony grows and is able to
collect food the workers produced are larger.
Food should be added, a small amount at a time and making sure there is variety. Sugars and honey are used
by ants for energy and proteins (from insects or protein jellies) for the development of the larvae. Colonies of
only 10 workers will only need a tiny dab of sugar honey or other food every 2 or so days.
Colonies develop slowly and steadily in their first few months and by Autumn the colony should have
increased to between 5 and 15 workers before preparing to enter their first hibernation.
Colonies should be hibernated over the winter just like they would experience in the wild. To hibernate the
colony move the tank to a cool place (around 5C) such as a garage, shed or outbuilding in late October. But it
must be somewhere they wont freeze.
The colony can then be brought back indoors in mid to late March the following spring. A small amount of
food should be put in the nest if there are warm winter days where the ants become active and they should be
well fed prior to hibernation.
Once the colonies leave hibernation they will also need to be well fed and should be in a position to grow
quickly. From March to June the colony should double in size from colonies of 5 to 15 workers increasing to
colonies of 10 – 30 workers.
Once they reach around 25 workers they are the perfect size to leave their tube and move into their starter
set. If the conditions in their tube are better than in the nest area they won’t leave the tube. You shouldn’t
force them to leave as this will cause them stress and disruption. It is better to slightly adjust the conditions of
the nest area until they are ready to move.
Once a colony has reached a year old it is much more likely to succeed in becoming a large colony and from
that point will grow at a fast rate. Queens usually live for around 10 years, but can live much longer than this.