A whole new appreciation for entomologists

The bullet ant (Paraponera clavata). Named because the pain from its bite feels like being shot. The pain can last over 24 hours.

Ants are not exactly my favorite animal but they are interesting creatures, nonetheless. When tackling this project of making my own antfarm from scratch I did not expect to learn as much as I did. I initially expected this to be a fairly simple process as the tutorials and other resources I had come upon were straightforward and seemingly not difficult. I actually had a lot of fun doing this, minus being terrified of being bitten by ants.

The basic process of building an antfarm is this: create a small space and put dirt and ants in it. How you make that small space is pretty much up to you. I thought about buying some small polycarbonate sheets and attaching them to a wooden base and sealing the edges but I could not find a non-toxic sealant. While it would have been cool, I did not want the ants to ingest this potentially hazardous material so I opted for the slightly more childlike option of using a couple bottles. Most of the sources I tracked down seemed to be written by random people for anyone to use. No one was a real expert on how to make an antfarm, all the sources on how to build the antfarm came from how to sites. One author is actually an elemantary teacher with an MA so that gave her a sense of credibility as far as possible educational opportunities for this project go. The real variation here was how the information was conveyed. Some were step by step processes that were written down, while the one I liked the best and used the most from was an instructional video. I found the video to be most helpful as it gave you a good idea of where to cut things and what the final product should at least look somewhat like. The video was also on many other pages which gave me an idea that it was probably a pretty good resource if so many other people are linking to it or embedding it on their own page. (Note the link “step by step” actually contains the video that is linked to on the link titled “video.”) While those videos were very instructional, I did find a source that gave a nice overview and seemed to give just a little more attention to ant care than the instructional sources.

Screenshot from the best source.

This process involved taking essentially two cylinders and placing one inside of the other and filling the space in between with sand/dirt. There were various methods of doing this but the one I went with was from an instructional video which used two plastic bottles. Getting everything cut correctly to get one bottle inside the other (one was a 1 L bottle and the other a 2 L bottle) was a pretty easy process. The biggest problem I encountered was getting the small bottle to stay in place inside the larger bottle. The video had used mounting tack but that didn’t work to well for me so I used a combination of tape and construction paper, which, while it was not the best, was far better than the tack.

Raw materials (minus dirt and ants)Combined materials (sans ants and dirt)

Combined materials viewed from above

After this was done, the next task was to acquire the ants. The only problem with this was I don’t want fire ants in this ant farm. So I ended up on the Terminix site and they had a rundown of the most common types of ants found in residential areas. It was here that I gained an appreciation for entomologists everywhere. These ants are so small its so hard to get a look at them really close to tell what they are without getting bitten. I was unable to determine what kind they were but they were not fire ants as far as I could tell. From previous experiences these ants were too small and too black to be fire ants.

The final product turned out pretty well. It was full of dirt and ants. Another problem I encountered was actually finding ants. It has been so hot and dry here that all the ant hills have been abandoned, as ants, like other living creatures, need water to survive. But I did find some unlucky ants and put them into the farm where they are now residing until I can release them at a later date.

The final product (I promise there are ants in there)

So if you want to make your own antfarm, any of the resources I have linked to on here are great and definitely should be checked out.


About andrewtcoe

College student at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX majoring in Communications.
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