Wednesday, October 5, 2011

social insects - space age ant farm

I ordered Fascinations Antworks Illuminated Ant Farm. Rather than tunnel through sand, the ants tunnel through a gel that is based on technology from a 2003 shuttle mission that sent ants into space. The nice thing about this habitat is that the ants don't need to be fed because they can consume the gel.

I ordered the ants at the same time as I ordered the ant farm because I had heard that sometimes you wait forever. The ants came three days ahead. I put them in a jar with minimal sand and gave them some watermelon and sent K out to get a dead fly. They proceeded to bury their food with sand!

By the time I was able to transfer the ants to their gel habitat I had lost ten ants out of an order of twenty-five. The ants moved into the gel habitat on Monday. Today, they are fully established and have made great progress on their tunnels. These photos were taken around noon today. They progressed tremendously during the afternoon. When we returned from church this evening, the progress in the space of an hour and a half was visible.

The one drawback about this farm is that there are no breathing holes. The manual said ants don't use much oxygen and that I need only open it once every other day or so. However, we found that the ants seemed to get lethargic. On Monday and Tuesday, we lifted the lid periodically during the day to give them fresh air. The ants always perked up after we did that.

The problem is that the ants were piling their excavation material on the side of the glass which is allowing them to climb closer to the 'ceiling' of their farm. I was afraid that eventually we would not be able to lift the lid without escapees.

This morning I drilled to holes in the lid. I covered them with tape (because I really don't want these guys lose in the house). Now when I want to give them fresh air, I lift the tape and puff air into the holes with a nasal aspirator.

Next week we start our chapter on social insects.


Amanda said...

VERY cool!! We are going to have to do this!

no spring chicken said...

Fascinating! We had your old school ant farm years ago but this looks amazing. I don't love the idea of having to modify the habitat but it sounds like it was at least doable and will make things less worrisome. Have fun!!

Blessings, Debbie