Keeping Ants as pets hit the public eye, with the mass-marketed Uncle Milton's Ant Farm, achieving commercial success in the late 1950's.
Sadly much of the corporate represented side of the hobbyist's market has not moved on from this line of thought.
Before I get into what Ant Keeping is....
This is What, it isnt!
Gel ant farms, Ant World Ant Farms, Uncle Milton Ant Farms, or any of the various names or brands, they are now sold under.
None of these nests have been designed to care for the Ants they house, they will not bring you ultimately a cherished experience within the ant hobby, these nests have been designed to watch Ant workers dig some tunnels, until they die, the Gel farms, usually suffocate the workers, they liquify and drown them, or their waste builds up and it becomes a breeding ground for toxic mold.
The pressed sand & loam set ups are not any better, they suffer from tunnel collapses or again the Ants waste, ammonia, urea, uric acid, the sand becomes a breeding ground for toxic mold, the colony will die.
The welfare of the Ants has never been the goal of what I call Gimmick nests, these nests were designed with a mindset of, "Stick some Ants in, the kids enjoy some tunnels being dug for a few months and they die the kids will have moved on to other toys". its viewed as a toy, for the purpose of temporary entertainment. Not as caring for your pets, some species of Ant Queens, can live up to 30 years with colonies sizes in the thousands.
Hobbyist Ant Nests have been designed by keepers, who have the capability to create and experiment with materials, to create, nests that have been manufactured with the ants welfare, keeping in mind compromises for the enjoyment of the keeper.
Please do not support these corporate gimmick nests! if you have bought one, please return it, they need to be banned, our world has moved on from this archaic wasteful way of thinking.
We consider the impact of our choices on the world around us more, a conscious move to be more aware. These types of products do not represent the hobby of Ant keeping!
What is so great about, keeping Ants?
Across the globe nearly 14,000 species have been registered, an estimated further 20,000 possible species yet to be discovered, Ants have evolved so many different traits & adaptations to survive, once you scratch the surface you dive into an endless cavern of learning, Ants are such amazing, intricate, intelligent, creatures, some Ant colonies span across the European continent, the Argentine Ant holds a colony territory size spanning 3,700 miles, the facts surrounding these creatures and their evolutionary path, is endless.
They are quite simply one of the most interesting species on the planet, once you start keeping them it usually becomes a life time interest, the hobby is a rollercoaster of ups & downs, it takes patience, overcoming adversity & loss, commitment, achievements above all a curious mind, mastering the hobby, can bring you years of enjoyment & rewards from your colonies.
There is pretty much a species out there to suit everyone, everyone has different of objectives & enjoyment from the hobby, in this modern world for me, its my break from it all, my therapy, immersed in the world of Ants, learning so much, getting to know some incredible people through the community, its a Journey.
How to get started?
Traditionally to get started, each year most species of Ants have a nuptial flight, this is the mating flight of the virgin Queens & the male drones, these are called Alates, once mated the Queens will land, they chew off their wings, this is the best time to collect your Queens.
thanks to the modern world and the internet, these days you can order Ants, from reputable retailers or traders, getting them delivered to your door.
To find some retailers see the "Our Colony" section on the website.
I try to cater for links to suit people within the hobby world wide, mainly UK, EU, US & Canada.
What Ant species should I start with?
It's always best to start with a beginner species, that species may differ, depending on where in the world you are, in the UK the common species recommended is Lasius, either Niger or Flavus.
Those with more knowledge may start with Myrmica or Formica.
Across Europe, US & Canada, Camponotus, Lasius Neo Niger, etc.
Its really good to join the communities on social media, Facebook has lots of local groups for Ant keepers, some countries have strict laws surrounding the hobby, which effects the species you may be allowed to keep or even collect from the wild.
A beginner species is often a little slower growing, hardier, easy to manage and care for, giving you the experience you need to decide how you feel about the hobby, most people end up keeping more than one colony of Ants.
The Ant keeping hobby, is a slow, beautiful, enjoyable hobby, we tend and care for these social creatures, started from a single Queen, watching and helping them flourish into a colony of thousands or even millions of workers.