Ant colony

It’s Elizabeth’s 13th birthday this week so we’ll officially have two teenagers in the house soon. She’s been asking for an ant colony for months and months now so we finally caved and that’s what she’s getting for her birthday. Expecting delays with the postal strikes and public holidays I ordered it last week but it arrived very quickly before Christmas and I’ve had to hide it away, ants and all.

Unfortunately the housing I chose is broken and the ants can’t get from the test tube they arrived in up to the outworld where food is so before Christmas I put the test tube in a tupperware container and ordered replacement housing and have been feeding and caring for these blasted ants in secret for over a week now. I can’t wait for her birthday so I can hand it all over to her.

When Elizabeth first mentioned wanting an ant farm I had nightmares of ants colonising our house, nesting in our beds, eating food in the pantry but I needn’t have worried. These are native British ants and like all animals, the British version is much less menacing than anything in Australia where I grew up. Australian ants are like the British version on methamphetamines and testosterone. Elizabeth’s ants are Lasius Niger, or common black ants. Incidentally you can’t type “Lasius Niger” the Latin name for black ants on Facebook without it being moderated away. The trick is to type “Lasius N” instead. We got native ants because they’re supposed to be easy to care for and when she gets sick of having them she can release them outside.

When we first got hamsters we didn’t know very much about them. I joined a hamster Facebook group to learn more and most of the posts are one of two types: they’re either people with experienced hamsters showing off their magnificent cages; or they’re newbies showing off their dreadful pet-shop recommended cage which is far too small and the hamster police on Facebook descend to set them straight. They then realise they’ve wasted their money and have to upgrade.

I decided to join an ant Facebook group early to avoid making this mistake and to learn more but it’s the opposite with ants. The smaller and darker the nest the better as they like tiny cracks and enclosed spaces. The first potential nest I shared with the group I was told was too big and too expensive.

Right now the ants are in a kitchen tupperware container that isn’t sealed very well but they’re still stressed from having gone through the post and haven’t left the test tube, not that I’ve seen anyway. Last night I killed an insect and put it just outside the opening to the test tube. This morning it is gone so perhaps they’ve been wandering around at night?

We got Elizabeth one Queen ant and around 10 workers. Ant colonies are quite fascinating. The Queen does nothing except lay eggs. The workers clean and feed her. All the workers are female so the entire colony is female. Male ants are pretty useless and die shortly after mating with a queen. Once the Queen’s eggs have been fertilised she never needs a male again.

Hopefully a working formicarium, as they’re called, will arrive today and I can move the test tube to a properly sealed space then have it all ready for Elizabeth’s birthday on Saturday.

9 thoughts on “Ant colony”

  1. That is a wonderful idea for a present, your children are so enthusiastic about things they can do in life. You are a very committed mum to be keeping ants in secret.
    I did not realise there were hamster Facebook groups, I have just spent half an hour exploring them and finding out about torpor – that will be useful to know if it ever happens to us.
    What sort of food do you use? I used to feed our cat IAMS rather than Whiskas and I am reading that there are different grades of hamster food too.

    1. He was being fed Harry Hamster by the SPCA so I bought that when we got him to make the transition less stressful. I then bought something I thought was better but he didn’t like it so I’ve just stuck with the Harry Hamster. I also give him fresh food like broccoli, kale, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds and various other things. He loves broccoli.

      1. That’s OK then, we have Harry Hamster too. She prefers that to the muesli, which I think isn’t so great for dwarf hamsters anyway. Marge loves sunflower seeds, she eats those first and can smell them a mile off. Both Rob and my hamsters seem to love any tough, chewy leaf greens too.

  2. Well, I’d have to say that an ant colony is not something I’ve ever heard anyone else request for a birthday present. Good on Elizabeth for being unique ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. OMG I laughed so hard about you having to hide the ants and feed them for a week! This is all utterly fascinating and I hope we get ant colony updates.

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