How to set up an ant farm

Hello, fellow myrmecologists! Are you ready to study ants?

Ants are fascinating to observe, but there’s only so much of an ant’s life you can see on the ground. To take you to the underground life of an ant, try an ant farm.

We tried out the Giant Ant Farm. It’s so large, making it perfect for more than one child to observe ants, whether at home or in a classroom.

This is what came in the box:

The farm, an ant order form, ant food for a year, a water dropper, a straw, and sand.

Step 1: Fill the farm

There are cotton puffs blocking the holes so the sand won’t fall into the top area.

Pouring in sand

Next, add water to the farm:

pouring in water

The farm is nearly ready! The harvester ants, feeling air coming through the sponge, are futilely trying to escape.

Finally, push down the cotton puffs to allow access to the sand and to give the ants some tunnel starters.

Step 2: Bring the ants home

Before opening your package of ants, put them in the fridge for 15 minutes. (NOT the freezer!) This slows them down so you don’t have a stampede.

To put the ants in the farm, nudge one gently with the straw. It will grab onto the straw.

grabbing an ant

And put it into the farm. You may need to encourage it to grab onto the plastic shapes in the farm.

When the ants are in, close up the lid and let loose your mini myrmecologists.

Other ant farms and formicariums to try:

Classic Ant Farm

Illuminated Gel Ant Farm

Ant Hill

Ant series

For more on ants, see the rest of our articles in this series or follow us on Twitter and Pinterest.

Ants: the basics

ant on flower

Ants are wholly fascinating creatures. But before we dive into the details, let’s look at a few important facts about ants: ant genders and roles, species, and social behaviors.

Ant genders and roles

There are 3 types of ants: males, fertile females, and sterile females.

Fertile females are queens and have wings. Their job is to lay eggs. Queen ants are not dictators. They lay eggs but do not manage or direct the work of the colony. In fact, there is no one ant or one type of ant centrally controlling the colony. Individual ants make decisions on what to do.

Sterile females are workers or soldiers. Most of the ants you see out and about are sterile females.

Males mate with queens, then die.

Species

There are over 12,000 species of ants that have been classified. Ants show an incredible diversity in species, from tiny ordinary ants out on your sidewalk to army ants marching across Africa.

Social Behaviors

All ants live in colonies, which range from a few dozen ants to millions.

Watching ants work together is fascinating for children and adults. People who study ants are called myrmecologists.

More on Ants

This is the introductory post in a series on ants. If you’re itching to get started with some hands-on learning about ants, try an ant farm!

Ant series

Did you know that ants are the only creatures, besides humans, to herd other creatures? Ants are fascinating! Join us as we explore more of their miniature world:

Explore more on ants with us on Twitter and Pinterest.

Ants and sugar

Teaching the butterfly life cycle

This roundup of resources may help you teach the butterfly life cycle, whether you’re in a classroom, in a homeschool, or encouraging your child’s interests.

Butterfly Student Kit. Hands-on is the best way to learn and this particular activity is absolutely fascinating.

Butterfly life cycle model.

Our own articles on butterflies.

Monarch Butterfly Manual, with lesson plans and activities for K-12 students.

Butterfly anatomy worksheet.

Butterfly life cycle mini-book.

Basic butterfly life cycle printable.

Can butterflies hear? Do they make sound?

Most butterflies are quiet. But some, surprisingly can hear and “speak.”

A butterfly’s ear

A few species of butterflies have an “ear” on their wings called Vogel’s organ. It’s a sac filled with liquid that vibrates with sound.

Some butterflies can tell the difference between high and low pitched sounds.

Making sound

Some butterflies, like the Hamadryas feronia in the picture, make a clicking sound with their wing when following another butterfly around. The Hamadryas butterfly’s sound is loud enough for humans to hear and gives the butterfly its nickname of “cracker” butterfly.

Related products

Butterfly student kit

Butterfly life cycle model

More information

A picture of Vogel’s organ

Sound production and hearing in the blue cracker butterfly

Wing-click sounds of Helioconius cydno alithea butterflies