Kids Educational Activities: Keeping An Ant Farm

Tips on how to buid and maintaing an ant farm yourslef. With proper care, ants can live long and producitve lives in their colonies, providing your children a great learning opportunity and experience.

Like many other insects, ants live, work, and eat together in groups. These groups are called colonies. Making or purchasing an ant farm is a great way for you and your children to observe ants in their habitat. If this sounds like fun to you or the kids, the first thing you will need to do is find a place for your ants to call home.

While ant farms can be in all shapes and sizes, most people prefer using a small fish tank to house their ants. Fish tanks can be found at any pet or toy store and come in a variety of sizes and prices. You can get fish tanks in either glass or plastic (note: glass tanks are typically more expensive than plastic tanks).

If you want to save money, you can even make your ant farm yourself with a few household items. Smaller ant colonies can be housed inside old jars and ice cream containers.

Your next step will then be to put sand in the tank. In order to have a better view of the ants, you should use sand for dark colored ants and compost peat for lighter ones. To prevent the tunnels made by the ants from collapsing, make sure you dampen the soil or sand once you have placed it in your tank. Once you have set up your ant farm, you can start actually collecting ants to start your colony.

Most people who are looking for ants don't have to go any further than their own backyard. You can acquire ants simply by capturing them from a large nest, digging up a colony hill or even by placing bait (usually sugar water or soda) in the dirt outside. If you are looking for a queen for your colony, you may have to wait a little while. Queen ants only appear during their mating flights, which take place during the summer. You can also purchase ant colonies (complete with a queen in some cases) at pet stores and on the Internet. You can temporarily house the ants in a small jar until it is time for them to move to their permanent home.

Once you have gathered your ants, the next thing you will need to do is start to put them in the observatory you set up for them. To transport the ants into their new home, roll a piece of construction paper into a funnel shape and pour them into the observatory. The ants will then crawl down the funnel and into the sand. It is very important that you refrigerate the ants for 5-10 minutes BEFORE dumping them into the colony. The cold temperature helps slow the ants down, preventing them from climbing over top of one another. To prevent the ants from escaping, make sure you place a lid on top of your colony. The lid should fit tightly enough to keep the ants from crawling out. You will need to take the lid off for a few minutes every 2-3 days to make sure your ants get enough air.

It is very important that ants stay properly nourished and get enough food. The best food for ants typically consists of small pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables, dead insects, breadcrumbs and dry pet food. If you have harvester ants they will need to be fed seeds. Leaf-cutter ants feed on the fungi that grow on plants.

When feeding the ants, place a few small scraps of food on top of the dirt of the ant farm every 2-3 days. Leaving excess food in the farm can cause mold to grow, potentially harming the ants. Make sure you take time to observe what kind of foods your ants like to eat. Make sure you put a few drops of water in your ant farm every day to keep your ants properly hydrated. It is very important that you do not put too much water in the tank because the ants will drown. You should also make sure that there are no pools of water forming when you put water in the farm.

Temperature is also an important factor in how long your ants live. Ants need temperatures between 60-70 degrees in order to survive. To prevent overheating, make sure you place your ants in a cool place away from direct sunlight.

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